Curbside Care: What Did New Clients Miss Out On?
Jesi Peck, VetSupport Specialist
When I adopted my first dog in March 2021, most veterinary practices were still utilizing curbside care. I have a cat as well, however I take her to a feline-only practice – so I had to find a new clinic for my new puppy. This means that all of my interactions with this new practice over the course of my pup’s first year of life, occurred via phone or through my car window. Most of the clinics in my area have returned to in-person care or a hybrid with curbside care. Knowing what an in-person appointment with my dog is like now, I want to touch on some things that clients missed out on during curbside care (especially new clients!) and ways you can circle back to these clients to ensure you are providing them an exceptional client experience.
Looking back, the main feeling I had about curbside care was that it felt very transactional as a new client. I had a different experience with the feline-only clinic I take my cat to, and I believe my status as having been a loyal client for many years prior to curbside care at this feline-only clinic is the main reason for the difference in my experiences. When I took my new puppy in for his appointments, I was repeating myself a lot, I never got to see the veterinarian in person or via video chat, and I never really got a sense of how my puppy was doing during his visits (in terms of any stress signals he was showing, etc). I also don’t feel as though I was given a lot of information that new puppy owners should get (such as the importance of heartworm and flea/tick prevention, the importance of socializing him, etc.). I get the sense that this may have to do with curbside care and that I would have been given more of this information had all of my initial puppy appointments been in person, since in person visits are more likely to evolve into natural conversation.
Since curbside visits could have been seen as impersonal or transactional to both new and existing clients, below are some tips for enhancing the client experience, whether you are continuing curbside or have transitioned to in-person appointments.
- Send a card or personalized email to clients letting them know you are doing in-person appointments again. Especially for new clients that you have never been able to see in-person. You can include a message like “We can’t wait to finally see you and [insert pet name] in person soon!”
- If you are continuing curbside care as an option to clients or still operating under local COVID restrictions, it is important to be very intentional with personalizing each and every appointment. Be sure to use the client and pet names throughout the appointment – when you are going out to the car to take the pet inside, when the doctor is speaking to the client on the phone, when the pet is returned to the car, and during the checkout process.
- Try to be intentional about not making a client repeat themselves throughout an appointment – whether still utilizing curbside care as an option, or in-person. Since curbside care can feel very impersonal, having to repeat oneself makes it even more impersonal. It’s a great opportunity to make sure that every client has a truly personalized experience, in case this fell by the wayside a bit during the uncertain times at the height of the COVID pandemic.
- If you have transitioned to in-person appointments, express how excited you are to see clients in person again! When I brought my cat in for an in-person appointment recently, her veterinarian caught herself rambling a little bit, and then said, “So sorry – I am just so excited to see and talk to clients in person again! It makes me happy.” This comment made me feel good, like the veterinarian was excited to see me and my cat. Comments like this can greatly improve the experience in the eyes of the client!
The transition to curbside care was challenging for both veterinary practice teams and their clients. And it is likely exciting for both to be transitioning back to in-person appointments. Be sure to express this excitement to clients and put in some extra effort to provide an exceptional client experience to each and every client, because curbside care may have been challenging for them, too.