VetLinkSQL's new Online Booking system: Almost 100 Practices sign up within 5 weeks of launch! See why this was so successful.
This article discusses why having an online booking system is a must for all Veterinary Practices, and what you can do to attract new clients as well as attain high success rates for reminders. A case study will be published in coming months with some real data.
If you start with the premise that Online Booking has less to do with a prospect or client being able to book a suitable time online, than a client simply making a commitment, you are half way there to understanding why you need such a facility.
First a recap and some nostalgia. VetLinkSQL first introduced 2-way SMS text messaging some 13 years ago and tried to convince Vets to use it for appointment confirmation, and to message surgery updates and outcomes. VetLinkSQL was probably the very first in the world to introduce this within the Veterinary industry! There was great resistance at the time with comments like, "we like a phone conversation, and clients like to receive a call". Once a few pioneering practices trialed it, feedback from clients was so positive that it quickly dawned on practices that clients in their busy work lifestyle would rather communicate via text than receive calls at inconvenient times during the day. Allowing clients to make appointments online is no different. If the workflow is designed correctly, you can still have that conversation if required.
When pet owners search for clinics nearby, especially after-hours with their family, they are doing so in most cases because they want to make an appointment. Searching online will result in a few choices in your area. It is most likely to happen after work when you are closed. If you are unable to provide instant gratification in terms of choosing a day and time suitable to the family as they discuss their availability, they will simply move on to your competitor who does provide that service. Remember, the fact that you may need to shift that appointment the following morning for any reason is irrelevant, because by clicking on that link you have already fulfilled your purpose - acquired a new client! Within the very first month of introduction, this is what one user sent us via email:
"A bit of feedback on the online booking - I am loving it. We are getting over 100 bookings a month online, and I feel that we are scoring a lot of new clients because of this facility. As we are the only local clinic offering online booking at the moment it is proving to be a great product"
Control & Conversation
Of course you can talk to your clients. If the workflow in your Practice management Software is in tune with your online booking system, then there is full opportunity to call the client back to adjust the date and time. A simple vaccination or general consult may be pretty much slam dunk, but if one sees a "nose bleed" on a dog with a booking "next week", then of course you could call them and get them to come sooner - the point here is that you are able to call them when you are free rather than a call for an appointment when your reception is busy with a disappointing message "please hold..." from your phone system! This "trapping" of each appointment depends on the workflow design in your Practice Management Software and how well it has been thought through.
Ease of Use
It is important that an online booking system is not too intrusive or overly complicated. Basic details are enough to let the client or prospect book an appointment. There will be enough time to update their details and / or link them to an existing client within your database. For the client, the experience has to be seamless.
Logins & Passwords
For existing clients it would be ideal to match exact details in the practice management system on a live basis so there is no data for the client to enter. But to expect them to remember user names and passwords will not work. This can be resolved in two ways and for two scenarios - email correspondences (reminders) and Ad-Hoc appointments. These are discussed below.
Reminders & Newsletters
There is no doubt people will shy away from booking online if you ask them for login and password details. For that reason, your practice management system and your online booking system needs to work hand in hand with matching security and encryption technology. What this means is that each client's login and password from the practice management system where all data is kept, needs to be passed on to the client. This can be achieved by creating a mail-merge variable so email and SMS Text messages are dynamically personalised as they are sent out. A link or button such as "Click Here to Book" is dynamically created with a hidden encrypted link. Once a client clicks that link, the system is then able to safely log the client in and present them with all their personal and pet details ready to book with just a few clicks! Another advantage of course is that overdue reminders and upcoming appointments for all pets can also be presented to the client for consideration.
Ad-Hoc Appointments - An App is the answer
When new clients book online we do not have a lot of control over their data except what they provide us with. But for existing clients the aim is not ask them to remember their user names and passwords, or enter their personal details. Noting that more and more people use their phones, the solution is to introduce a smart Mobile App which is able to store that encrypted link - one click of the App on their phone and they can call, book, or drive to you. This link provides further information on this App technology - https://www.vetlinksql.com/Features/Apps/Book-My-Vet
Education & Promotion
When a client is making an appointment online, you have their undivided attention - something advertisers dream of! Once an appointment has been made, a splash screen is not only able to show upcoming, and possibly forgotten reminders for other household pets (or horses), but is able to splash an "educational" or "promotional" image - this is priceless in terms of, for a lack of a better term, "advertising" your additional services.
Using Data to Maximize Future Results
It is important to collect smart statistics so you can learn your clients' behaviour thereby adjusting your services to maximize results. Every demographic is going to behave differently and you need to how yours behave. Knowing what days and what times of the day your clients are booking could make you decide which days you should send out your email, and what time is ideal. Knowing if people are booking from the App or a computer may make you think about how you configure your final splash screen and so on.
Preliminary statistical data shows very positive results. We hope to put together a case study involving a few practices using this data so please do stay tuned and place a "Like" on our Facebook & LinkedIn pages so you don't miss out. For further information please follow the following links:
Devendra Patel [BE(Elec), ME(E&E), MemIEEE, MemNZSA
CEO, Computer Fanatics Limited