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Practice Management

Client Satisfaction—Measure It Right

by Sheila Grosdidier, BS, RVT, MCP
    Customer survey

    As competition continues to grow, client service expectations are at an all-time high, and with the diversity of services that practices can make available to their clients, it is imperative for practice owners to carefully and accurately capture and analyze client feedback to ensure satisfaction and continued visits. Practices are expanding and responding to competition by providing better, faster, and more cost-effective services in their efforts to increase growth and build equity. While this type of planning is essential to practice success, it is possible to get client perceptions with cost-effective and meaningful survey methods. Surveys are an excellent way to ensure that your clients are well served, satisfied with your services, and more likely to recommend other pet owners to your clinic. This is good news, as surveys don't need a PhD in marketing to take advantage of the information gathered.

    Types of Surveys

    Questionnaires do not need to be expensive, time-consuming, or cumbersome to integrate into a clinic’s routine. Even the simplest survey can get you useful information from your clients. However, to get the most accurate picture of client expectations, it is essential to use a variety of methods. These methods include:

    • Direct-mail questionnaires. These questionnaires, sent to a targeted group of clients, are usually used to explore adding additional services, ensure satisfaction, or evaluate reasons why clients have not been to the clinic in a period of time.
    • Telephone interviews. Telephone calls can be an inexpensive way to obtain small quantities of impersonal information from clients. Questions must be simple, brief, and clearly worded—most people do not like to spend a lot of time answering questions, even from a business that they frequent.
    • E-mail questionnaires. Many of the same clients who might be candidates for direct-mail questionnaires can be used for e-mailed surveys. It is essential to give clear instructions and be appreciative in advance for the data you get back.
    • Targeted follow-up questionnaires. After a particular service has been completed, a follow-up survey is sent to assess satisfaction and future use of additional services. As an example, after a new dental procedure has been completed, clients could be surveyed to assess their perceived value of the service, likelihood of recommending the service, and level of satisfaction.
    • New-client questionnaires. These questionnaires can be a good method for following up with new clients to ensure satisfaction, determine the perceived value of services, and assess the probability that they will recommend other people to the practice.
    • Focus surveys or “scorecards.” Used to spotlight a particular part of the client experience such as the checkout process, wait time, or new veterinarian interaction, these are typically 5-question postcards that clients fill out in less than 30 seconds while they are invoicing out after an appointment.

    Click here for a sample new-client questionnaire!

    Click here for sample scorecards!

    Regardless of which method you decide on, follow these guidelines to ensure a useful result:

    • Set specific objectives and a reasonable budget to keep yourself on target.
    • Determine if you want to do the work yourself or hire a professional.
    • Ask for relevant information.
    • Periodically repeat surveys to track results over time.
    • Consider using a variety of methods for best results.
    • Ensure that the team participates in the process of development and implementation; your data collection will be higher.
    • Look at all ways of administering surveys, such as online options, telephone calls, and focus groups.

    Survey Costs

    The costs of performing a survey depend on a number of factors, including who designs the survey, what communication channel you use to send the survey, and how you want the results analyzed. Another factor that affects costs is the incidence rate (number of surveys sent or calls to be made) in order to get a response. As an example, if you have to send 1000 surveys to get 100 responses, the incidence rate is 10%.

    Typically, the most cost-effective method of conducting a survey is to have a professional set up the process so that tracking and analysis can be repeated by the practice. While this can be more expensive initially, it is far more cost-effective when information will be tracked over time.

    How to Get Started

    Consider the most important information that you need at this time. Do you have an issue with generating new clients or keeping clients over time, or are you interested in evaluating how a new procedure (e.g., laser surgery) is being accepted? You can start simply, with a scorecard that asks five brief questions that can be completed as clients invoice out. Track the information you gather over a 90-day period with a basic spreadsheet. Share the information with the team, and establish goals around desired results. Then measure your progress and celebrate your success or evaluate what steps you will take to improve results.


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