Adjusting to new regulations and a new day-to-day worklife within our practices was, well, an adjustment. While not every change we had to make will (fortunately) be required as we emerge from the pandemic into an altered world, we did start doing three things differently during COVID-19 that we are keeping around.
1 We’ll come to the curb.
Unlike businesses in some other industries, we were fortunate to be in a situation where we could offer curbside service. We were quick to implement cloud-based software, make sure credit card information was on file and ready to go, and give our staff remote headsets. (Yes, we looked a bit like a Sonic Drive-In at first, but the business continuity gains were well worth it.) Cloud-based software was an important variable here since we could access information from any device (in our case, staff at curb with iPads and headsets). Staff was able to access client data and get that information back to our inside staff. They, in turn, could quickly execute whatever reason that client was seeing us for (e.g., dropping off a pet, picking one up, or restocking food or medicine).
Curbside service was definitely not something we were planning on implementing prior to COVID-19, but it has (surprisingly) proved mutually beneficial for us and our clients. I expect that even in a post-pandemic world, we’ll perhaps do around half of our business through curbside service.
2 We’ll see clients virtually.
Perhaps it was inevitable that telehealth made its way more deeply into the veterinary industry, but COVID-19 certainly expedited it—at least at our practice. We put cameras in a couple of our examination rooms and clients can log in via Zoom for virtual appointments.
Technology also made this process easier than we anticipated. Our vets were able to quickly identify these virtual examinations via our shared and color-coded calendaring software, pre-payments were handled with cards on file, and customer emails were used for approving payment and obtaining e-signatures. Since payment was added to the invoice following the appointments, this actually worked particularly efficiently—there was no need for the client to touch base again with a receptionist to close out their appointment.
While it’s hard to say how many of our appointments will be virtual in 2021 and beyond, but with the right processes in place to make it seamless, we’ve found we’re far more comfortable with how well they can work than we envisioned.
3 We’ll provide zero touch payments.
We’re all bound to be a bit (or a lot) more aware of what we’re touching and how often we then touch our faces. As that hit its zenith in the early days of the virus, we were quick to make sure our payment practices weren’t going to be a deterrent to business. For us that meant implementing contactless payments, getting rid of signatures and receipts, and ensuring payment terminals were sanitized after every use. Especially in those early days, demonstrating we were taking all precautions was crucial. But even as things return to normal, zero-touch payments will be here to stay for us.
A recent survey found that 45 seconds can be taken off every customer payment transaction when using a payment terminal and getting rid of physical signatures and paper receipts.1 Average 40 transactions a day, and that’s almost 13 hours saved every month—not a negligible amount. Integrated payment software also helps reduce manual mistakes, per the research, with 76% reporting the elimination of key errors. +