“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford
When the doors of your veterinary practice swing open in the morning, you want pet owners of all types to come inside to welcome arms. Regardless of their age, background, location, vocation or any other type of classification, pet owners want personalized and attentive care that won’t break the bank, no matter who they are.
We now see that two generations consist of a large volume of pet owners and foot traffic at your veterinary practice. As of 2016, Millennials (those whose age range between 18 – 34) have surpassed the Baby Boomer generation (whose age range between 51 – 69) for the very first time. With approximately 75.4 million Millennials and 74.9 million Baby Boomers, these two demographics make up a huge swath of America’s current population.
However, these two demographics can differ greatly with the way that they operate on a daily basis and what they consider to be effective methods of both conducting business and going about daily communication.
This makes it all that much more important to understand and respect both demographics, while learning to run your veterinary practice in a way that will benefit them both!
This approach is truly the only way to ensure you won’t alienate one demographic over the other, and that your business won’t suffer as a result. I’ve combed through Forbes, Business Insider, and The Wall Street Journal to learn more about ways that these two demographics relate and ways that they differ. I’ve also spoken to dozens of veterinary practices about what they experience on a daily basis, and have come away with a few primary takeaways that you can integrate to ensure your veterinary practice remains a destination of choice for both demographics, and of course, for those in-between.
First, let’s take a look at some of our overarching themes. Baby Boomers typically have a more traditional approach and tend to be later adopters of technology. The Internet revolution simply came along later in their lives, so this wasn’t an integral part of doing business or communicating for the majority of their careers. As a result, Baby Boomers tend to enjoy in-person communication, reviewing paperwork with hard copies and other nuances that align more with their habits, traditions and background.
Millennials, on the other hand, have been raised with the advent of the Internet and typically use technology as an absolutely integral part of their lives. They do research online, they Skype with friends, and they may be much more comfortable with online bookings and open to remote consults instead of in-office ones.
However, this certainly doesn’t make any particular preference more valid than any other. This only shows us that different demographics may view the same procedure or offering in a very different way. For example, if you offer appointment bookings through an app, this may absolutely delight a young millennial who uses their iPhone for everything. After all, they book hotels with their Expedia app and they sign paperwork with DocuSign, all without printing a single piece of paper! This same app however, might not thrill a Baby Boomer who uses an iPhone, but mainly for calls, and otherwise prefers hard copies of appointment reminders and telephone calls.
So, let’s take a look at different techniques your veterinary practice can take to ensure that you delight both populations, without making anybody feel left out!
“Communicate with each client in a way that honors the individual and their specific preference!”
- Technology is an incredible tool. But it still doesn’t provide the peace of mind that a solid handshake can, especially to a more traditional demographic. If your next pet owner is a Baby Boomer, you may want to consider designating a bit of extra time to in-person communication and offering to answer any questions while they’re with you during a visit.
- If you’re going to enhance your veterinary practice with new offerings like an app or online portal for prescription refills or online bookings through your practice website, make sure everything is presented in a clear and methodical way.
- Don’t assume that pet owners already know how to use the technology at hand, but instead, make sure that everything that’s integrated is clear and easy to use for everyone.
- Don’t assume that Millennials don’t want to chat with you in-person about their pet. They may have booked their appointment through the app, and they may be flipping through Instagram in the waiting room, but the feedback you can get from them during their visit is still invaluable, and they crave information about the care of their pet. In fact, in a recent DVM360 study called “Pet Owner 2.0”, it was reported that “63% of millennials say staying current on pet health topics is important, compared with 54% of boomers.”. It’s easy to argue more than half of both generations want information on how to best care for their pet(s).
- Remember, every pet owner and every person is different! By training your team staff to listen well, accommodate feedback and respond directly to client reviews, you’ll be taking steps to get ahead of the curve and honor every client relationship in a meaningful way.
You can take notes in a client’s file about their preferred methods of communication and provide tips to make their next appointment even smoother than the one before!
Demographics will always shift and it will always be up to veterinarians, staff and practice owners to adapt to the change at hand. Still, adapting is much easier with an open mind, open heart and open ears!
Stay tuned to the trends and do your best to offer new technology and convenient solutions to pet owners. But be sure to also offer more traditional methods of client engagement which are tried and true, and are likely to remain important fixtures of the industry long into the future. This includes in-office visits, hard copies of paperwork and other established methods of doing business.
When you customize your approach to benefit each client individually, you make sure that everyone feels welcome at your veterinary practice and avoid the pitfalls that can come when you make an assumption about preferences.
No one particular demographic is more important than the other. Valuing them both in the ways that you choose to communicate and conduct business is the only surefire way to make sure that every pet owner who comes to your veterinary practice leaves delighted…and comes back again.