Some veterinarians and practice managers mistakenly believe that if clients aren’t complaining, they must be happy. Although every practice has its chronic complainers, most unhappy clients never communicate their concerns or tell you why they’re unhappy.
Clients often don’t have the time, energy, or heart to tell you that you’re no longer meeting their needs. Therefore, don’t assume that no communication means you’re doing a great job of meeting your clients’ needs. Don’t wait until you start losing clients to find out how you could improve. Ask a few good questions and you’ll be surprised what you learn about how to meet or exceed your clients’ expectations. Checking in with client satisfaction also communicates that you really care that clients aren’t just moderately happy with your products or services, but are delighted with them!
Here are nine questions you should be asking your clients on a regular basis:
1. What did you like BEST about your experience with us today?
The answer to this question lets you know what you’ve done well and what you should continue doing. It also lets you know what your client prioritizes in his or her experience with your practice. For some, it might be the short wait to see the doctor, for others, it might be the time spent in the exam room to thoroughly assess a pet’s condition.
2. How can we make your next visit even better?
Many practices make the mistake of asking about what clients found unsatisfactory. Asking how you can make their experience even better, rather than asking how your service fell short, is an easier question for clients to feel comfortable answering. When you ask the customer to help you be even better, you’re asking for something positive. You’ve helped their pet and they’re probably more than willing to help you in return. When you ask the customer to identify your shortcomings, you’re asking for them to voice criticism, which many of them will be unwilling to do.
3. Which of our services (or products) do you like best?
When you have a long list of services you’re trying to provide and your product display space is small, it’s great to know which of them your clients truly come to you for. This information will help you focus on what your clients feel you do best and allow you to do it even better. It can also help you eliminate products or services your clients may not need or want.
4. What services would you like us to provide (or products to carry) in the future?
Just because your clients like your existing services and products doesn’t mean additional products or services couldn’t enhance their experience. If there are things that they need that they’re getting elsewhere, find out what they are and decide if it’s a “right fit” for your organization to provide them. If not, find a great resource or provider you can refer clients to.
I can hear what you’re thinking right now, “Refer clients to someone else? GASP!” However, when you provide a referral to a reputable source, you’re telling your customer you care about them more than you do about making money. You’re communicating that your goal is to truly SERVE. When you do, they’ll continue to come back to you for the products and services you do best!
5. What keeps you coming back to us?
It could be your exceptional customer service, ease of getting an appointment, the skill of your staff and doctors, or something intangible. However, it’s important to know what keeps clients coming back so:
A. You can keep doing what makes them happy.
B. You can capitalize on it in your marketing and advertising through testimonials, statistics, and more.
For example, if the ease of your online appointment system is a recurring theme for repeat business, then capitalizing on the fact that you’re the only practice in the area with 24–hour appointment scheduling might give you an additional edge in the market.
6. Do you refer your friends/family/colleagues to us?
Don’t assume happy clients are actively promoting your business—they’re busy too! If the answer to this question is “no”, or “I’m not sure how”, you need to help your clients refer you by providing them information they can easily share with others, such as referral cards, a forwardable newsletter, or “bring a friend” offers to educational or special events. The bottom line: you need to convert your best clients to customer-advocates and champions.
7. Who do you know who could also benefit from our products/services?
This advice is tied to #6 above. Clients are busy and for all they know, you don’t need any more business. Sometimes you just have to ask for the referral! I’ve run into many people who hesitate to do this because they don’t want to seem desperate or lacking for business. That’s fine. If you have more business or more clients than you know what to do with, great. However, take note of how the question is phrased. It doesn’t say, “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to pay for the portable ultrasound machine I want, can you help me out by finding me more business?” The question is confident and focused on the customer. All you’re saying by asking is, “We love serving your family and your pets and would like to be of service to others you know who might need us.”
8. What can I do to make this situation right for you?
When something goes wrong, your instinct is probably to jump in and “fix it.” However, what you see as a great solution, might leave your client feeling shortchanged. Rather than assuming you know what solution will satisfy a client, just ask.
Many people are afraid to ask this question because they don’t want to hear the answer. For example, let’s say that a customer wants to return a half–finished bag of prescription cat food. Your practice’s policy is to only offer a partial credit toward a future product or service. You might be afraid to ask, “What can I do to make this right for you?” because you’re worried the client will say, “Give me a full refund.” However, avoiding asking the question doesn’t change the fact that the customer wants a refund. When you offer your partial credit, they’re not going to be happy. At least if you ask, the answer is out in the open and you can address it.
9. Why did you leave us?
As much as people hate to ask this question, when you lose a customer, it’s important to find out why. Don’t delude yourself by thinking, “I didn’t like her anyway,” or “Maybe they moved,” to explain away lost customers. You’ll have no idea why someone has stopped coming in or asked for their records to be transferred until you ask. Keep it simple, though. Don’t interrogate the customer or try to “hard–sell” or beg the customer to come back. Doing so is just going to be awkward for both of you. A simple question or two asking why they chose a different practice or if there was something you could have done better to make them stay could possibly help you improve your service in the future. +