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What makes a good consultation?

What makes a good consultation?

Louise Corah presents feedback from owners at CX Congress

“An extension of the consult is the experience you get in reception as well”.

That was one of the key messages presented by PhD student Louise Corah at Cx Congress (16 June) on what makes a good veterinary consultation. During her presentation, Louise presented feedback from owners, explained why that feedback matters, and offered her ‘top tips for a top consult’.

Louise’s research shows that the veterinary practice is no longer the only place clients can get information about their pet. Family and friends, ‘Dr Google’, books, social media, personal experience and research articles all play a part in shaping our client’s knowledge. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t care about what the vet has to say. It just means that the vet’s opinion is part of a much wider circle.

What matters most?

So what matters to the veterinary client? Louise explained that clients like to be made to feel welcome. So, even if your customer care team are on the phone when they arrive, a smile and an acknowledgement of the client's presence can make a world of difference.

Clients also want to feel like you know or care about them, she said. So if it is the first time the client is visiting the practice, be enthusiastic and try to build up some rapport. If they are a regular client, they value people making a fuss over their pet and acknowledging they might be feeling unwell.

Cleanliness also matters to clients. If your practice looks shabby, it looks dirty or it smells, people will pick up on that, said Louise. Veterinary staff that smell like cigarettes or have scrubs covered in stains do not appear very professional.

When in the waiting room, it’s the little things that make a big difference. If the vet is running behind, communicate with the waiting client about why there is a delay and offer them a cup of tea or the opportunity to re-schedule. You don’t need to include the gory details, said Louise, but an acknowledgement that you value their time makes all the difference.

During the consultation, listen to the client and hear what they are saying. It is vital to remember that you are not the only expert and your client might be very knowledgeable about their pet’s condition.

Louise’s top tips for a top consult

    •    listen
    •    be open minded
    •    show that you care
    •    remember that you’re not the only expert
    •    be human
    •    you’re all on the same team.

Seven ways to welcome your new receptionists

Seven ways to welcome your new receptionists

Penelope Fox shared her tips at CX Congress

Receptionists are often the first point of contact people have with your practice, so it is vital they are prepared to represent your organisation. Speaking at CX Congress on Saturday (16 June), Penelope Fox from Blacks Vets shared her tips on how to welcome and train new receptionists.

Penelope joined Blacks Vets in 2016 following a varied career in sales, management and business development. As head of client and employee experience, she is responsible for helping Blacks Vets to exceed both employee and client expectations.

1) Trial half day

Penelope began the session by highlighting the importance of a trial half day. She said that she would normally welcome the potential new recruit to the building, but then leave them to spend time with the team. In Penelope’s experience, people are more likely to ask questions when she is not around and the team members get to see more of the candidate’s personality. Allowing team members to take part in the selection process also helps to make them feel more valued, she said.

2) Before they start

Before your new receptionist starts, email a biography and photograph of the person to the whole team. That way everyone will know who they are when they walk into the building. Penelope also suggests having a welcome get together, or inviting the individual to upcoming staff events.

Another good idea is to send your new team member their uniform so that they can wash it and check that it fits. Having a uniform from day one also helps to make that team member feel more part of the team.

3) Day one

If your new receptionist comes from a veterinary background, give them simple tasks such as checking in clients and making routine appointments. This will help them to feel valued and eliminate feelings of uselessness. You might also want to consider getting them a trainee badge so they don't have to explain why they can't answer questions from clients.

4) Identify strengths

Penelope next advised identifying strengths and weaknesses in your new recruit and matching them up with a lead role. At Blacks Vets, each receptionist has a lead role in a specific area - e.g a computing specialist, an exotics expert and somebody who specialises in end-of-life care. The lead person becomes the individual other receptionists can refer to before they go to senior management. It also lets them show their skills and makes them feel like a valued member of the team.

5) Create a plan

Put together a bespoke six to eight-week plan for your new recruit that includes activities to complete during each week and objectives that you expect them to meet. The plan should keep in mind the receptionists’ background. For example, if they come from a veterinary practice their plan will look very different from someone from another environment. Penelope advises using your existing team to support this learning and keeping the person off-rota until they are capable of working independently.

6) Make sure they spend time in different functions

Ensure that all new team members - be they receptionists, vets or nurses - spend time in different functions to see what it’s like ‘on the other side’.
Ask your new receptionist to observe procedures and consultations so they are better equipped to advise clients.

7) Utilise supplier material

Use your suppliers’ material to help your receptionists understand the reasons behind what you’re asking them to do - e.g. GDPR. Penelope also encourages her team members to familiarise themselves with The Webinar Vet.

7) Reflect and review

Concluding the session, Penelope stressed that however you train up your receptionists, it is important to constantly reflect on those practices and ask for feedback. At Blacks Vets, this is carried out through annual reviews, or when staff progress into new roles.

"Learn from complaints, look at reviews and ask staff for ideas," said Penelope. "Don’t let you new receptionists feel out of their depth and question their ability."

 

New data protection rules set to come into force

New data protection rules set to come into force

Special online supplement helps practices comply with GDPR

Businesses must soon be compliant with new EU rules on data protection, as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force tomorrow (25 May).

The regulation applies to those with a day-to-day responsibility for data protection.

GDPR aims to minimise the risk of security breaches, which have increased dramatically since rapid advances in technology have allowed public and private companies to make use of personal data.

Since the new rules were announced last year, veterinary practices and other businesses will have had to review the way they collect personal data and update their terms and conditions to inform clients about their data processing activities. Privacy impact assessments (PIAs) should also have been carried out on products and systems to ensure they protect data adequately.

Key changes include:
  • organisations must disclose any data breaches within 72 hours
  • individuals must give explicit consent for their personal data to be processed - implied consent is no longer acceptable
  • individuals have the right to retract consent and request that data be erased
  • individuals have the right to request data in a readable format.

Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face fines of up to €20 million, or four per cent of global turnover, depending on which is greater. This will apply for serious ‘tier one’ breaches. For lesser, ‘tier two’ breaches, businesses could be fined up to €10 million or two per cent of global turnover.

To help veterinary practices ensure they are compliant with GDPR, now and in the future, a special supplement has been published online by the journal Veterinary Practice Today, in conjunction with leading IT provider, AT Veterinary Systems: //vetpracticetoday.com/vpt-en/index_gdpr.html.

VDS launches new initiatives for the profession

VDS launches new initiatives for the profession

Vetsafe and VDS Training aim to enhance veterinary care 

The Veterinary Defence Society (VDS) has announced the launch of new initiatives to help understand why mistakes happen and provide solutions to improve veterinary care.

Vetsafe is a confidential service for significant event reporting and risk management.

A website and accompanying app capture information about incidents in practice that result in patient harm or other losses. Data gathered will help the VDS and its members to understand these mistakes, provide feedback and develop solutions.

The society also launched VDS Training, which will use data gathered from Vetsafe to create and deliver multi-model training, tools and strategies to improve care, reduce risk and develop individuals, teams and businesses.

VDS chief executive Norman Macfarlane, said: “I am very pleased to announce the launch of Vetsafe and extension of the Society’s training provision through VDS Training.

"These important initiatives will enable the VDS to use our unique knowledge and experience to support and empower veterinary professionals, teams and businesses to achieve their personal and collective aspirations.

“They also go straight to the heart of our mutuality by helping to reduce veterinary risk and, in turn, we anticipate lower the frequency of claims or the severity of claims when they do happen. This benefits the members of the Society and helps the VDS to continue its support of the profession.”

Marketing a new practice

Marketing a new practice

The vital role of values

Vicky Scutt, from Whitstable Bay Vets, took delegates at the BSAVA Congress (5-8 April) through her personal journey to opening a new practice with her husband, Adam. "Our values and doing things our way were key to its success," she said.

The first bit of advice from Vicky was that, with the benefit of hindsight, it would probably have been better to have employed a project manager to oversee the building of the new practice.

A prominent sign was erected on the roadside during the construction period announcing that a new veterinary practice would be opening soon. A logo was carefully selected and a Facebook page established, describing the preparatory phases and involving the local community. There was also an A5 leaflet 'mail drop' and an opening event.

Sustainability was a key value and attention was paid to the environment – both inside and out. There is a very large, lofty and welcoming waiting area and natural light abounds. "Clients mostly comment on the car park and the wildflower meadow and hedgerow!" said Vicky.

Planning of the business was based on a 'balanced score card' cyclical approach. So the first thing to do was to make the phone ring, then convert the call, consult, charge for the work done, get recommended ... and begin the cycle again.

Customers are predictable in their behaviour. The primary driver for clients is that the practice must be local and accessible and then its reputation backed up by personal recommendation by other people and sources.

One of the first questions to be answered is 'Where will customers come from?' and this needs a mapping exercise on the locality, so that you can plan for the folk who will identify with the practice values. The next thing to tackle is the pricing strategy for customer service – to include a Happy Pets Club healthcare scheme – plus the team to deliver it.

It is important to communicate the practice in a specific and targeted way to attract people with pets – many from other practices – and to be "so great" that they tell their friends. Underpinning all of this is the delivery of great medicine, surgery and customer experience.

Vicky said the values of the new practice could be summarised as happiness, sustainability, community, integrity and friendliness – all of which are reflected in the logo and other practice promotional materials.

The practice worked on the basis of drawing clients who were a 10-minute 'drive time' away and carried out an analysis of all the households and other veterinary practices within that catchment area. Note that drive times are never circular, but rather usually follow principal roads.

Almost 15 per cent of the practice clients have already joined the Happy Pets Club (monthly fee of £35) which ensures a steady income and regular informal visits from local people. It also makes good medical sense for the treatment of chronic clinical conditions. "And it is vital to have awesome RVNs to make this work," concluded Vicky.

There are some things that Vicky admitted should have been done sooner. These included the building of a dental suite and a second theatre, and recognising that success is tiring and brings its own challenges, such as the need for help with administration and for adequate space and facilities for staff. 

How to manage and resolve conflict

How to manage and resolve conflict

Performance coach Katherine Eitel advises delegates at BSAVA Congress 

No one likes conflict, but it is the leader's role to manage and resolve it. Performance coach Katherine Eitel gave some excellent advice on how to do this in her lecture at BSAVA Congress in Birmingham (5-8 April).

She said before the leader/manager steps into a conflict conversation, they need to have decided what their role in the conflict has been and take on responsibility for this. They need to challenge their belief systems so that they behave in a truly neutral manner and handle the conversation from a positive place without negative thoughts.

When handling conflict conversations it is helpful to consider these four important words:

Gift - see conflict as a gift. Do not shy away from it, but see it as an opportunity to sort out a problem

Expectation - expect the conversation to go well and that at the very least you will learn from it

Choice - remember that everyone has a choice, but your standards are set in stone. If someone does choose not to follow them, perhaps they should choose a different job or role

Open - always remain open to the thought that your ideas are not necessarily the only right ones.

Katherine said there are a number of rules of engagement for conflict conversations.
There should be no 'talking backwards' - always move forward with issues.

No two people see the past equally, they will have their own versions of what might have occurred. It is important to accept this and move on to solutions rather than arguing.

Katherine also suggested using the following ARCH acronym:

A - agree to acknowledge any issues and find mutual goals
R - request a new agreement
C - clarify what has been agreed people do not always hear or understand what you think they do
H- always leave people with hope.

 

Becoming a Sunday Times Best Company

Becoming a Sunday Times Best Company

Kristie Faulkner speaks at BSAVA Congress

The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies scheme is designed to measure the success of team engagement within companies and is based on eight key workplace factors. Kristie Faulkner of Whitecross Vets spoke at BSAVA Congress (5-8 May) about her experience of the scheme.

The scheme looks at how well a company achieves in the following areas:
  • leadership
  • culture
  • management
  • the Company ethos
  • personal growth
  • the team ethos
  • wellbeing
  • a fair deal
Personal questionnaires on all these topics are given to all staff and are not seen by anyone else in the company.

Kristie spoke about the benefits of the scheme, saying that you really find out how your teams feel about so many issues. You learn about yourselves as managers, teamwork improves, new talent is attracted to the practice and it is good for PR, she said.

From the scheme, Whitecross Vets learned they were working the right way because of the high scores they achieved. However, they discovered that their front of house teams felt they did not receive a fair deal and their nurses wished for more training and development. Buying into the scheme provides a good opportunity for feedback and listening in numerous areas and it inspires improvement.

The group has been in the scheme for six years and has grown from eight to 18 practices over that time. Whitecross has built on what they have learnt from the scheme each year with improvements in communication, such as their in-house magazine and their weekly catch up email to all team members.

Their aim is to create a culture of fun and hard work. They have their own annual congress, provide CPD trips abroad, days off for birthdays and PETernity days for those who acquire new pets. Improved CPD allowances have also been introduced with learning for all the team. Team spirit is seen as very important, so team activities are greatly encouraged.

They have addressed team wellbeing, providing counselling, better working rotas and longer holidays and improved pensions and other benefits for their staff. They also encourage team members to 'give something back' by allowing them five 'donation' days a year when they can carry out voluntary work.

Kristie told the delegates that taking part in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies scheme has really helped Whitecross Vets to see not just where they were doing well, but where they needed to improve. As long as the need for improvement is taken on board, Kristie said she would recommend taking part in the scheme to all medium to large practices.

New graduates are worth the energy

New graduates are worth the energy

Onswitch director suggests why a new graduate could be a safe bet for your practice

"It's not just veterinary business that has a recruitment problem, recruitment is an issue across the whole business sector," said OnSwitch managing director Alison Lambert, speaking at BSAVA Congress on Thursday (5 April).

Alison made an important point that, empirically, we don't have a shortage of vets. Currently, we have more vets registering than ever before, she said. The real issue for recruitment is the number of veterinary premises which have risen from 2000 in the year 2000 to the current number of 5089.

She suggested that a new graduate could be a safe bet for your practice as long as you have planned the appointment. It is important to look at your business, analyse your data (work done and revenue) and see what a new graduate could do.

Graduates will be able to hit revenue targets if they are given the appropriate tasks. For most practices, their greatest income is generated by consults and vaccinations and this is an area that new graduates could easily be moved into. Indeed, most graduates' diagnostic workups will create a high revenue, possibly more than existing vets.

It is also important to be aware of what a new graduate wants from their first job. Alison listed some of the requirements, including the support of a veterinary team with experience, a good work-life balance, a CPD plan (this is far more important to new graduates than most practices think), a good social structure, reasonable working hours with a lunch break and a salary that will build up in time to £40k.

It is important to have information about graduate programmes and graduate recruitment in your practice and to actively encourage their applications.

Alison's final points were that recruitment, particularly for new graduates, is business critical and that the employer brand matters. Practices need to design a revenue model into which a new graduate can fit and make sure that it is a team based business.

"Nurture new graduates," she said. "They can do a good job and will be part of your employer brand".

Blaming, excuses and mindset

Blaming, excuses and mindset

How changing the way you think and speak can help change practice culture

At the BSAVA Congress in Birmingham today (5 April), Anne-Marie Svendsen Aylott looked at mindset theories to help explain blame culture within the veterinary practice.

She explained that research has identified two mindset theories - the entity theory and the incremental theory. Those who have an entity mindset will consider that everyone is the same and that no-one can change, including themselves. Incremental mindset individuals, on the other hand, have a more open attitude, believing that things and people can change.

Those with an incremental mindset believe that people can change and develop and that success is driven by effort, discipline, strategic approaches and learning new things. Essentially they believe that everyone is born equal and that all people have the possibility to grow change and develop.

Entity mindset behaviours are characterised by a lack of confidence, lower than expected performance, low levels of resilience, blaming and making excuses, poor coping mechanisms, being judgemental, having a defensive reaction to feedback and negative emotions.

Leaders and managers with an entity mindset will clearly influence their teams and colleagues in a negative direction. Employees will concentrate on mistakes, be resistant to new systems and protocols, make excuses and have an increased anxiety at the prospect of making a mistake. Even a few people within the price with such mindsets can eventually affect the attitudes of the whole practice.

So, asked Anne- Marie, how can blame culture and entity mindsets be changed?
She explained that first, you have to identify the practice culture that you want and then set in place systems and processes and the protocols to support them. You then set the example by embracing the incremental mindset attitude.

Adopting this mindset embraces resilience and optimism, encourages performance, team spirit and learning. Slowly, over time, attitudes will begin to change the practice, she said.

The costs of not being a 'good boss and employer'

The costs of not being a 'good boss and employer'

Kristie Faulkner speaks at BSAVA Congress

"Your workforce is a really high cost for your business," said Kristie Faulkner from White Cross Vets, speaking at the BSAVA Congress on the challenges of recruitment and retention in veterinary practice.

Being a good employer is more than just paying a salary. It is about providing work-life balance, an attractive package, and resources for personal growth and development. It should also go beyond the expected, bearing in mind that it is often "little things that make a difference".

"Remember, until the basic personal necessities of life are covered, the motivation to achieve, develop and give more to the practice will not be there," Kristie explained.

She said that the management title of 'boss' should be avoided because of its negative connotations. A good leader empowers decision making, gives clear instruction, is respected by the team and is willing to 'muck in'. Leaders who project warmth are more likely to be trusted and successful than those who are simply 'tough'.

The UK average for employee 'churn' is 15 per cent – compared with up to 28 per cent in some large veterinary groups. Some churn is good but an excessive level is very costly, especially in terms of recruitment and training; as well as the negative impact on the remainder of the team,  locum costs, client dissatisfaction and the 'hangover' effect when the new person starts work.

The right team member must be competent, fit with your values, be 'smiley', have a positive attitude, be helpful, friendly and team players.

It is a valuable exercise to analyse why people stay. Is it that they feel part of the practice 'family', aligned with company values, feel valued, can see progression and development in the future? Is there scope for you to fill their 'emotional bank account' and offer some 'give and take'?

When somebody does leave, it is well worth carrying out an 'exit interview'. It can be revealing! 

 

Why bother with EMS students?

Why bother with EMS students?

Alison Lambert on the importance of employer reputation 

"Attracting and retaining team members is a business priority," said Alison Lambert from Onswitch, speaking at the BSAVA Congress in Birmingham on why EMS students matter.

She explained how word of mouth and key opinion leaders are very important. They are the people who candidates respect and believe.

"EMS students are practice ambassadors," said Alison. They are a ready supply of walking adverts and have, on average, a minimum of 200 social media 'friends'. They have a network of other student vets who will be looking for a job within the next few years.

EMS students are assessing your practice even when they are not looking for a job at the time. They are absorbing the culture of your practice all the time.

Recruitment challenges are not a problem specific to the veterinary profession. It is an issue across all industries and requires attention to 'employer branding' – which should be distinctive, promise a particular employment experience and an appealing culture.

Your practice's reputation as a place to work is the single most important driver to attracting good candidates. Having a 'social bridge' is important to new graduates too – having a life and contacts outside practice life.

It is vital to apply all the principles that you as a practice routinely use to attract and retain clients. "So, is there anything on your website specifically for potential EMS students?" said Alison. "Have a special procedure when they first contact your practice and a personalised introductory process that involves all the team members."

She suggested that it was maybe a good idea to offer a modest EMS travel bursary to students working in your practice. "Always remember that the EMS student with you now may not end up working for you, but they will know someone who might," she concluded.

Reviewing your organisational culture

Reviewing your organisational culture

What makes your practice stand out from the crowd?

Your organisational culture is what makes you stand out from the crowd. It helps to promote your business and makes you a place where people want to work and to stay.

Speaking at the SPVS/VMG Congress in January, business support manager Fiona Nichol described culture as the day to day interactions and values within a group. She explained how culture encompasses behaviour, tradition, practice history, values and rituals.

Culture impacts on veterinary practice in almost all areas, affecting training and development, teamwork, fairness, relationship skills and the way employees are recognised and rewarded. A good culture in a practice will help to retain employees, increase productivity and definitely improves staff/client engagement.

Cultures of course vary. In the case of the Apple brand, Steve Jobs maintained a culture of secrecy because he did not want information about his new products to be leaked. His employees adhere to this culture and his business is highly successful. Compare this with the recent Uber failure, where there were no defined rules of engagement and no set culture for the organisation.

Fiona talked about two culture models - those of Charles Handy, an Irish author and philosopher specialising in organisational behaviour management, and Ed Schein, an influential writer on organisational culture.

Handy looked at four different kinds of culture that can exist within organisations: power culture, where few have the power to make decisions; task culture, where individuals have specialist skills and responsibilities based on their tasks; role culture, which is based on roles and responsibilities, and person culture, where individuals see themselves as greater than the organisation and play by their own rules.

The Schein model describes three levels of culture: artefacts (for example, a visual culture where uniform and brands play an important part), espoused values - where the business plan and the goals are paramount, and thirdly assumptions and benefits - which concentrates on behaviours attitudes and unconscious beliefs.

Fiona quoted Peter Drucker, who is known as the 'father of management thinking'. She said that 'organisational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner' to illustrate that no matter what your strategy may be, the culture of your organisation will override it.

She described cultural types such as 'flexible overstable' (ie. adaptive and dynamic versus orderly and controlled), and 'internal over external' (ie. inward and inclusive versus external and outgoing).

Fiona stressed the importance of reviewing your practice culture. This can be achieved by using internal focus groups and by creating a vision for the future with short-term wins. Her recipe for creating and maintaining a good practice culture was to define it, teach it, live it, measure it and reward it.

Is your practice right for new graduates?

Is your practice right for new graduates?

How to recruit, support and retain millennials

There has been a lot of discussion about millennials and how different they are from other generations. If this is the case, how do we attract, recruit and retain these new graduates in veterinary practice?

Currently the UK workforce is made up of 40 per cent millennials (aged 20-40); 30 per cent ‘generation X’ (aged 35-49); and 30 per cent ‘baby boomers’ (aged 50-70). By 2020, millennials are expected to make up 50 per cent of the workforce.

Speaking at SPVS/VMG Congress in Newport, vet Catriona Curtis looked at the positive aspects of these new millennial graduates - they are tech savvy, knowledgable, enthusiastic, flexible and inclusive. She also explored the more challenging aspects, such as fear of litigation, less settled lives, impatience and reduced loyalty.

A panel of recently qualified veterinary surgeons shared their experiences of their first year in practice, and what they each felt they brought to their respective workplaces.

Their definition of a ‘good practice’ for new graduates was one that gave support, encouraged new vets to ask questions, provided clinical support and open communication and only gave new graduates responsibility when they were ready.

Delegates also shared their views on what a new graduate should be like. Valued qualities included a positive attitude, confidence, drive to succeed, willingness to embrace practice culture, commercial awareness and an understanding that colleagues are there to help.

Catriona talked about the process of employing a new graduate in terms of attracting, recruiting, ‘on boarding’, supporting and retaining.

Attracting
It is important to consider how your practice appears to others and to proactively attract new vets by going to careers days, being involved with extra-mural studies and having an attractive, up-to-date website. New graduates often do not want to do out of hours and are looking for flexibility, mentoring and career development from their prospective practices.

Recruiting
Cat's advice was to use recruiting websites as well as veterinary journals, and to really explain the practice and the job in the advert. The interview should be planned carefully and the ideal type of person required should be understood, with selection criteria listed. It is also important to explain the package offers in full - e.g. holidays, benefits, CPD allowance etc.

On boarding (induction)
This varies tremendously between practices, but it should be planned and carried out to the full if it is to really have any benefit.

Support and retention
Cat stressed the importance of regular reviews and feedback and the need for new graduates to be mentored.

She concluded by explaining: “Their ‘day’ is different from your day” and you must embrace this if recruiting the new graduate is to be a success for both you and them.

Defining and building a loyal client base

Defining and building a loyal client base

Why does a loyal client have more value than a new one? 

There are many definitions of loyalty, but business consultant Nick Steele, speaking at the SPVS/VMG conference, defined it as, 'A profitable, valuable relationship that will withstand change'.

He pointed out that a loyal, existing client has more value than a new one because they are tolerant, usually not focussed on price, they help to recruit new clients by being advocates and often spend more. It is also true to say that our clients do not actually shop around as much as we may think and that once loyal they tend to stick with us.

It is possible to measure a client's loyalty by looking at their time with the practice, how active they are, their frequency of visits, average transaction value, if their pets are vaccinated and what their status is with flea treatment.

Nick took us through the classic client journey from initial contact with the practice website to the end of the first visit and emphasised how important that first journey is in terms of retaining the client. He pointed out the need for protocols for such things as reminders, social media analytics and client KPIs.

Improving loyalty first involves assessing your own definition of loyalty and how you measure it. You should then look at what changes you need to make, implement them and measure the results.

Nick talked delegates through various loyalty strategies which could be implemented. Giving rewards is one strategy that can be employed where reward cards, discounts and loyalty rewards can all help to increase sales as well as allowing cross-selling and up-selling.

Bundling is another strategy where products for sale can be combined. This is good for increasing the uptake of new products and services and also helps compliance. But beware of too much discounting - do the sums first, said Nick.

A third strategy is that of the continuous relationship where communication with the client is continually maintained. This may be by social media, SMS, emailing and/or your website. The client will value this and footfall has been shown to increase using this strategy.

Consider also a strategy of 'anticipation' – what new services can you provide for clients and what new unique selling points you can create, such as building new services around pet life stages or adopting new forms of technology. This will help manage client expectations of the practice.

A strategy of customisation whereby you tailor services specifically to the individual e.g., personalised communication or whole life pet plans can be very effective. But these are services you must get absolutely right all the time if you are not to disappoint the client.

Finally, Nick talked about the strategy of creating client communities and networks, for example, groups of clients who have animals with specific problems. Doing this allows the sharing of experiences and the ability to ask questions of the practice. However such communities need to be monitored very regularly and thus require a serious time input from the practice.

VPMA becomes VMG

VPMA becomes VMG

Rebrand reflects the association’s diverse membership

The Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA), announced its change of name to the Veterinary Management Group (VMG) at the joint SPVS/VMG conference in Newport last weekend (25-27 January).

Outgoing president, Renay Rickard, and incoming president Julie Beacham, explained that the change had been driven by the association’s increasingly diverse membership.

Their aim is to be inclusive and cater for the needs of anyone with an interest in management, through development and support.  

The group’s new identity includes a logo, incorporating the strap-line, Learn, Share, Grow.

More information about the VMG can be found on their new website www.vetmg.com

New guide to enhance veterinary wellbeing

New guide to enhance veterinary wellbeing

Guide provides advice on how to manage work-related stress

A guide to enhancing wellbeing in the veterinary workplace has been published by the RCVS’ Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) in association with the Alliance Manchester Business School.

‘A Guide to Enhancing Wellbeing and Managing Work Stress in the Veterinary Workplace’, was launched at the SPVS/VMG Congress in Newport (25-27 January). It outlines the root cause of work-related stress and describes a range of approaches for
managing stress at work.

“Addressing stress in veterinary work not only has benefits for the health and wellbeing of each person in the veterinary team, but the business case for reducing work-related stress is clear; stress is associated with poorer performance, increased absenteeism and higher employee turnover,” said Dr Elinor O’Connor, senior lecturer in occupational psychology at Alliance Manchester Business School.

“The wellbeing guide provides information about proven techniques for reducing stress at work combined with suggestions for how they might be applied in veterinary workplaces.”

Lizzie Lockett, CEO of the RCVS and director of the MMI, added: “Stress at work is an important issue right across the veterinary team. It is sometimes considered just an acceptable part of working in an environment that can be difficult to control, but things can change.

“By making wellbeing a priority practices can support individuals and help their team work better together, and thus provide the best treatment for the animals under their care. This leaflet unpacks some of the root causes of work-related stress and may be of particular interest to practice managers, line managers or health and safety officers.”