The following probably sound familiar to you; “I did some googling myself, and I think…” or “I found this on the internet”. It’s common for many pet owners to turn to the internet to diagnose before they contact you. It’s never with bad intentions or because a visit to the practice will be expensive. Still, owners turn to the internet as they think it’s the most efficient way. Admit it – you’ve done the same for yourself – googling your symptoms before going to a doctor.
Searching for answers
But what does that search for answers yield? Simple – nothing at all! It’s a terrible idea. Yet everyone is guilty of it. As another example, you may also have searched for what the light on your car’s dashboard is trying to tell you to see if you could solve the problem yourself. Or maybe you’ve attempted to self-diagnose an issue with your house’s boiler, smoke detectors, or espresso machine via the internet. Sometimes you get lucky, but you will not find the right answers most of the time – usually, you just find the results with the best marketing.
The problem is that searching for symptoms only tells you which diseases (or specifically webpages) have the best “Search Engine Optimisation” (SEO). You will quickly find marketing-curated results, where correct solutions are often secondary to marketing-rich content designed to lead you to purchase a service or product. The problem is that this does not always represent the right solution – just a commercial match.
Of course, sometimes this is fine – if your espresso machine needs to be cleaned, a quick search, and a how-to later, and you’re sorted (see here, if you’re wondering). But if your smoke detector keeps beeping or your car has a complex engine failure, the wrong advice can have very negative consequences.
Our tips to discourage self-diagnosis
Tip 1. Make sure you are easy to reach
It still pays to look at your own practice from a customer point of view, and an excellent place to start is to see how easy it is to find practice details. This may be as simple as updating your Facebook page with a contact button, adding an automatic reply to messages, and updating your phone and business hours. You should also check (or claim) your business profile on Google Maps – again, checking contact details and opening hours. You can also look to your software to help you – ensuring you offer customers online appointment booking and sending out SMS text messages for reminders or additional services. With each of these, you are ensuring your practice is kept at the front of the mind of your customers.
Tip 2. Communicate ahead of time
You know better than anyone which themes are essential for pet owners and the right time to share them. For example, February is often seen among practices as ‘dental month’; in spring, it’s all about flea treatment and de-worming, and in December, pet owners consult you about firework anxiety. When you know that a particular theme is coming, start to prepare the appropriate materials and use them to communicate. By staying ahead of customers concerns, they will remember your timely advice when the theme is really in the spotlight. In the best-case scenario, you have already started the treatment processes!
Tip 3. Position yourself as a partner in healthcare
As a veterinarian or nurse, you’re a ‘health advocate’ to your customers — the person who can give a pet a voice when it is most needed. However, on average, you only see the pet once or twice a year. Supporting and informing pet owners is one of the most important things you can do to help. After all, prevention is better than cure.
By proactively sharing information with pet owners, you can ensure that they remain informed and alert. There are several ways that this can be done, for example, a regular newsletter (based on the monthly themes), or using SMS text messages and automated reminders. By communicating proactively, you increase trust and remain in the customers’ mind, and most importantly – keep pets healthy.
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