Although SMS services are usually associated with retail marketing campaigns, you can also use these communication tools across many other industries. SMS text messaging can be used to provide a perfect veterinary patient/clinic communication tool, and because of this it is becoming increasingly popular within the specialist animal care sector.
SMS messaging can be used to improve the internal business communication processes within your veterinary clinic, as well as to enhance the care that you provide to your patients and clients.
These days, pretty much everyone on the planet owns a mobile phone of some description, meaning that SMS messaging is probably the quickest and most efficient way of modern communication.
Here are some of the ways in which an SMS service can be utilised within your veterinary practice:
1. Consultation appointment reminders
One problem than many veterinary practices encounter is a high no-show ratio, especially for non-emergency treatments and procedures, such as vaccinations, health checks, worming, and dental examinations.
This problem is particularly evident when it comes to your patients owners remembering to book appointments for their pets annual vaccination booster injections or to call in to the clinic each month or so to buy worming and flea treatments.
The traditional method of issuing reminders to clients is to write or telephone, but this can be expensive and time-consuming for your practice, especially if you have a large client base. Often, the job of issuing reminders falls to reception staff or veterinary nurses, meaning that key members of your team are tied-up away from their primary duties.
Most veterinary practice management software systems can now be set up to issue automatic SMS reminders to clients when routine matters, such as vaccinations become due.
2. Outstanding invoice reminders
One job that can be very time-consuming for your practice manager is the chasing up of outstanding invoices. This time-consuming task is generally carried out via letter or phone call, making it an expensive endeavour.
Your practice invoicing software system can be integrated with an SMS mechanism so that when a client’s invoice becomes overdue, a message is automatically sent to them to provide a gentle reminder. Although some clients may require more proactive action through phone calls or letters, the initial chase-up can often effectively be carried out via SMS message.
3. Test results
In large practices, much of the veterinary surgeon’s time is taken up phoning clients in order to give their pet’s test results. This can lead to frustration as clients are forced to wait for the results until the busy vet has time to make the call.
SMS text messaging can be used to communicate the results instantly to anxious clients, together with an instruction for the client to make an appointment to bring their pet in for a consultation if necessary.
4. News & practice updates
SMS messaging provides a perfect tool for notifying your clients about changes within your practice, rather than relying on newsletters that people might not read. For example, if a vet is temporarily leaving to go on maternity leave or if the clinic is going to close on a certain date for staff training, you can send this information to your clients via SMS message. Keeping people informed is a good way of maintaining client engagement too.
5. Pet care tips for clients
Your veterinary clinic can also use an SMS text message service to send out pet care tips to your clients. These messages can be tailored according to the breed of the pet and can be used to bring in sales. For example, you could send a message advising all rabbit owners of the need to have their pet’s claws and teeth trimmed regularly, which could lead to some of your clients booking an appointment for their pet to have the recommended procedure.
You can also send general messages, for example advising of the dangers of pets becoming obese and recommending that clients bring their pet to an upcoming weight clinic to have its weight assessed.
6. Promote upcoming events
If your practice holds events such as puppy training clinics, practice open days and fundraisers, SMS text messaging is the perfect way to promote such events to your whole client base.
You could also use an SMS message announcement to inform clients about events, such as ‘ask the expert’ evenings and any current special offers that you have on treatments, such as neutering and microchipping.
7. Improve staff communication
In a busy, mixed veterinary practice where you have staff members who spend much of their working time out of the clinic on field visits and emergency calls, efficient internal communication can be challenging.
You can use SMS text messages to quickly advise all your staff of all the practice relevant news, especially vital, time-sensitive announcements, such as emergency meetings or short notice evening cover requirements. This means that rather than having to phone around all your staff, you simply send out one group SMS and the job is done.
Much of the work your vets and nurses do entails working with clients and their pets in potentially sensitive and emotive situations. Using SMS messaging is a much less invasive way of communicating important information than making a telephone call. Of course, your staff should always keep their business mobile phone on a ‘silent’ setting while at work.
8. Staff recruitment
When it comes to recruiting temporary veterinary nurses and locum surgical staff to cover holidays and sickness, you can use SMS text messaging to reach everyone that you have on your books who has provided cover for you in the past.
Simply send out a message detailing the vacancy that needs to be filled, together with the dates and canvass those already on your files for their availability. SMS can save your practice manager a lot of valuable time that would be spent just phoning around everyone suitable that you have on your books. Ask the text recipients to contact the practice with their availability, and then fill the vacancies accordingly.
The integration of SMS text messaging into your veterinary practice communication strategy can benefit your business in many different ways, as outlined above.