Keeping in Touch: Texting Pet Owners
Whether it’s at home or in the office, we know that communication can make or break important relationships. Solid communication leads to both trust and transparency, allowing you to enhance your connections and grow a network of strong, confident relationships.
With over 90% of adults in America utilizing cell phones (a statistic that is also rising), I think it’s a perfect time to address the benefits of text message communication when it comes to contacting pet owners. Leveraging this technology now puts you a step ahead of the curve, allowing you to send friendly updates and messages to a pet owner that may be curious about how their pet is doing, or may have simply forgotten about an appointment. The beauty of the text-message feature is that you can customize and control your messages at all times and communicate with any pet owner in mere seconds.
I recommend utilizing one-way text messages with pet owners, because this approach has some distinct advantages over two-way texting that is more commonly used when engaging with friends and casual colleagues. There are a variety of reasons that go into this recommendation, but the predominant reason is because two-way text messages open you up to non-stop communication, a whole host of follow-up expectations and perhaps most importantly, potential legal repercussions. Instead, one-way text messages allow you to dictate the content and tone of communication, insulating you from additional liability while still giving you the benefits of instantaneous communication.
If you’re interested in getting started with a text message service for your veterinary practice, I recommend using free tools such as textport.com, or purchasing a cell phone line (which typically will run you less than $12 per month), effectively skipping out on the extra phone but using the extra number. Once using the extra line, you can download the texting app for that specific carrier that work specifically with your mobile device (whether it’s iOS, Android or other) and program effective auto-reply statements such as the following:
This is an unmonitored number; Please call our practice directly at (xxx) xxx-xxxx
This allows you to send a particular pet owner in the right direction, without assuming the liability of the two-way text message. You can also easily set auto-reply messages and keep track of any messages that you’ve sent out.
I recommend sending pet owners simple and concisely constructed text messages whenever a pet is dropped off for surgery, a procedure or appointment, as well as boarding or grooming services. Even just a simple text message can help you to alleviate any potential worry from a pet owner, and demonstrates your accountability and care in one fell swoop. Something simple, yet compassionate will do:
Hi Mr. Garcia! Elvis is doing great and is recovering from his procedure. We will call you shortly!
Thanks to rapidly accelerating forms of technology, text messages can be sent to any type of mobile device, and even the new Apple Watch (or any wearable technology)!
Even a brief text message can go a surprisingly long way when it comes to building a steadfast bond with a pet owner. Not only are you adapting to new technology, but you are going above and beyond to stay in touch and alleviate any possible concerns that could crop up along the way. This is a significant way to differentiate yourself from competitors, cut down on extra calls from pet owners wanting updates, and show that you’re truly committed to every step of the client experience at your practice.
Yes, new technology does open up new avenues of liability, most of which are covered by opting into the one-way text message feature instead of the two-way. Still, you will need a consent form from your clients before sending them text messages. You can easily capture this consent by adding a brief, additional section to any new client registration form, or a drop off procedure/authorization form. While the adjustments are simple, they’re important steps of creating a technologically equipped infrastructure for your veterinary practice.
The resources at your disposal don’t stop there. There are also third-party companies such as Vetstreet, Petly or ePetHealth that allow you to send pet owners text messages regarding due and upcoming appointments. These services seamlessly integrate with your existing practice management software, and will send text messages to clients automatically. Automation is absolutely imperative for this level of communication, and some services like Vetstreet and Petly will offer two-way texting for confirmations. A simple, “Y” or “N”, will allow clients to confirm or dissolve appointments, and a list will automatically generate to display who has confirmed their appointments and who has yet to do so. You can then make follow-ups as necessary, leveraging the convenience and quick communication that these services have to offer.
The bottom line for your veterinary practice? These features are an outstanding way to increase compliance and reduce missed appointments that cost your veterinary practice a significant amount of money over time. It’s proven that pet owners are more likely to respond to a text than a phone call, and by adapting to text-message technology off the bat, you’ll be quick to notice increased compliance and efficiency within your veterinary practice. Still, it’s important to remember that this form of technology isn’t meant to replace more traditional methods of communication such as routine phone calls, but is instead meant to supplement traditional communication. Calling your clients regularly remains important, but is in fact complimented by the extra effort of text-message communication.
It’s never too late to get started. In fact, the sooner you adapt to these recommended features, the sooner you’ll start to notice results.
Tips to Get Started Sending One-on-One Text Messages
- Find the platform that works best for you and your veterinary practice. Is it TextPort, or perhaps adding an additional cell-phone line? Depending on your existing structure, you may find that some approaches work better than others. Find the platform that’s best for you, and sign up!
- Find a champion (or two) and try out the service! Assign these team members to begin sending out test text-messages before rolling out the service to pet owners in real-time. This extra measure will allow you to work out any bugs, and ensure that by the time it’s ready for public use, the service is completely ready for primetime.
- Gear up and get going; start rolling out your new text message service and have fun!
I know that your practice will benefit tremendously from the increased communication and accountability that come with text messaging and confirmations. You’ll gain an advantage over the competition and let pet owners know that you’re thinking of them with a single gesture. The best of tech and contented pet owners; now what could be better than that?