Loyalty. The one thing you can’t buy, but you can build.
The Oxford Dictionary defines loyalty as
‘The quality of being faithful in your support of someone or something’.
This might sound a little formal HOWEVER when assessing loyalty to your practice, it really is simple.
In the context of running a successful veterinary practice, what it really means is – your clients will return to you for clinical expertise because they have faith in your service and enjoyed their past experience enough to maintain their custom and even tell their friends about you.
Having loyal clients is important to your business and is one reason that keeps them from going to your competition or avoiding the vets completely.
The art of building client loyalty comes over time and many reasons affect your ability to gain it, because every client has a different barometer of what is important to them.
In this article, we’re going to take you through some of the ways you can build loyalty and ultimately build your business.
In no particular order they are:
1. The power of one client
This may sound like a cliché but the easiest way to build loyalty is to deal with the client you have in front of you to your maximum capability.
You might see 50 clients in a day, but each one feels as important as the next.
From their initial encounter with front of house to their consultation, it pays to have all staff being attentive and remembering things about your clients and their pet. Take the time to think about how all of you are presenting yourselves; what your body language is like and how you handle the many distractions that occur daily, in practice.
Building a lasting and genuine relationship with pet owners leads to happy returning clients, with research suggesting:
‘Happy customers give your business longevity. They have a lifetime value up to 10x that of a one-time customer.’ 
Giving your client a sense of being part of something special helps to create a VIP feel, and you can do this easily with a preventative health plan and by providing WOW moments such as delivering timely updates on pet health when in surgery or discounts on their invoice, through your health plan.
To provide value, you need to understand what it means. The difficult thing is, it changes per client, as the perception of what they receive for the money they pay varies.
There are seven ways to measure value and you can use each of these to ascertain whether you are providing it, which will be a helpful exercise to, in turn, build loyalty.
Economic Value – Money. This is the word most associated with value, but you don’t have to instantly rush to the conclusion that this needs to be cheap, as this is a common failing. Reinforcing the value of the service you provide in practice or via the content of a health plan is a good way to show worth, rather than focusing on cost and savings.
Emotional Value – The feeling your client gets by interacting with you and/or your practice, such as good outcomes, happiness, hope, and satisfaction. A health check is a key interaction to develop this value.
Individual Value – Having covered the emotional value, individual value looks at ways where the clients feel you understand them, their challenges and their routines. The value comes with helping them with health benefits. Improved pet health is the most obvious point to look at. Similar to emotional value, this dwindles if you fail to recognise clients who have taken the time to change their buying behaviour by joining a health plan for example.
Knowledge Value – The value of self-development, increasing the owner’s knowledge on their beloved pet. This is where you prove why they should come to you instead of another vet or non-veterinary supplier. This is what makes you different to pet retailers or pharmacies.
Belongingness Value – Being part of something or a togetherness such as a joint belief on best care for their pet. Being part of your practice membership or a health plan can boost this.
Convenience Value – Make it easy to book appointments, receive product and access consults. Definitely consider the ease in which your client can pay their bill and remove any unnecessary barriers. It all adds up.
Performance Value – Efficiency benefits, like quality of products and service such as outstanding communication. It goes without saying that you will be priding yourself on the standard of your clinical work and your clients will notice this. But have you thought about what else you can add in to improve performance? Actions such as inpatient updates and follow up calls mean a lot and services such as home delivery set to stand you apart for seamless user experiences. What are you doing to reinforce these?
How do you communicate with your clients, and do they respond?
Whether in person at reception, on the phone, on social media or via a two-way message service (available on our app), every interaction makes a difference and increasing the amount you engage gives you more chance of building long-lasting loyalty.
Some clients will only come into practice when their pet is ill but changing the experience from a version of A&E to a place that they engage with more frequently for preventative and ongoing healthcare is vital to your business growth.
A healthcare plan with home delivery is an easy way to boost engagement opportunity and create a natural way to communicate more regularly through routine health checks. Clients also receive regular reminders of your health plan and clinic’s value through receiving regular deliveries of products they’ve paid for.
Sharing regular news and updates through email marketing or running regular content on social platforms also helps them to see more about your practice and feel more connected to you.
It’s worth noting that 59% of new pet owners are under the age of 35 , so bear this in mind when you are selecting your communication channels.
Take the time to experience your customer journey at all touch points by pretending to be a client using your website, calling your reception to book an appointment, or visiting the practice. Assess what works well and which parts were convenient to you and what was difficult to find an answer or gain a timely response from.
Think about all the small things, as well as the obvious.
Consider questions such as how easy is it to park the car and get the pet out? Collect a prescription? Does your waiting area have enough space to sit comfortably without stressing out the pets? All these things matter to your client and contribute to how frequently they visit.
Naturally, some aspects are out of your control, and you cannot create an extra five parking spaces, but you could look at your existing car park (if you have one) and how it is split between staff and visitors? Does one fill up quicker? What’s the layout look like? Can you open up more/different consult times to spread the traffic?
Looking at ways you can provide a digital solution often increases convenience and by using available tools such as our digital sign up or home delivery, can speed up the process by which your clients obtain their goods or chosen service.
It’s clear to see there is no one size fits all approach to loyalty but there are many ways you can contribute to building it!
 Sharpen Customer Service – https://sharpencx.com/blog/customer-happiness-customer-service-statistics/
 Global pet industry – https://globalpetindustry.com/article/32-million-uk-homes-new-pet-start-pandemic