We all know that technology is accelerating, but do we also know how to take advantage of these breakneck speeds?
While our veterinary practices may have already learned to leverage the digital sphere with a stunning website loaded with compelling veterinary information, alongside a Facebook Page with great client engagement, the next frontier of technology has already arrived – actually, it’s been here for a long time.
Mobile Apps, in my opinion, are no longer merely an option for veterinary practices. This is now a requirement. Through a multitude of case studies across multiple demographics, mobile apps have proven themselves to be the most effective way of creating meaningful engagements with pet owners in-between their routinely scheduled visits.
A great mobile app allows you to centralize the services and offerings of your veterinary practice into a single location. This means that with a single download to their mobile device, a pet owner can now request an appointment or a prescription refill, check-up on an upcoming appointment, services due, submit a question or simply look up pet care advice from a trusted source. These services aren’t just convenient, they’re becoming prerequisites for pet owners who are deeply dedicated to the overall health of their pet.
In fact, a recent 2016 survey conducted by Colorado State University (in Partnership with Vet2Pet App Builders), found that 86% of pet owners would like instant access to their pet’s medical records through a mobile app.
This isn’t a simple majority, it’s an overwhelming one. As people of all ages and backgrounds begin to use their smartphones with increasing dependency, they also look for businesses they trust to provide solutions that fit within their lifestyle. While you might initially think that yet “another” app will simply get lost in the mix, statistics are showing us otherwise.
Since the app is tied into vitally important information about an individual’s pet, this dramatically increases the chances that pet owners will take an active interest in the app and begin to integrate it into their daily routine. While many mobile applications only provide a temporary usefulness, a good veterinary app is rich with information that connects to pet owners and their pets while providing personal benefit.
“Having a brand isn’t just for Nike anymore. The average American spends 4+ hours on their mobile device daily, so your marketing dollar goes a long way on this platform.” – Stacee Santi, DVM and CEO of Vet2Pet App Builders
Bill Schroeder, Senior Vice President of InTouch Practice Communications explains it this way: “I look at the app game much like real estate. Consider the space on a pet owner’s device as being one that you would like to claim for your practice’s brand. It’s there, it’s free, and the only question I have is, why you would allow a competitor to occupy the space?”
According to Bill, this real estate is there for the taking! And he’s right. When you have an app that’s downloaded to a pet owner’s smartphone, you have secured a position right in their pocket! Your app, and consequently your veterinary practice, is now poised and ready to take appointment requests, questions or anything else that a pet owner might require. Keep in mind that an appointment request is not an actual booking, and you’ll receive a notification allowing you to confirm or move the appointment to an alternate time if needed.
In general, these apps provide an alternative to calling in to book an appointment (which millennials increasingly shy away from) and often lead to increased client engagement and appointment bookings. If keeping up with new appointment or prescription refill requests becomes your greatest difficulty, I think we’re in a pretty good position!
Not to mention, your open business hours now expand, since you’re not requiring pet owners to simply call and schedule an appointment during a finite window of time. An app also serves as an extension of existing reminder delivery systems that are likely already in place, such as postcards. While these methods of communication are still somewhat handy, they’re quickly becoming supplanted by new techniques like emails, text messages and perhaps most importantly, push notifications.
Dr. Stacee Santi sheds light on how push notifications are changing the way veterinary practices engage with pet owners when she tells us, “until now, veterinarians were only able to share education content via postcards, emails, social media, and at the annual exam. Push notifications are changing all of that by providing a simple and affordable interface for the veterinarian to communicate relevant educational content to their clients.”
Since recent findings have shown that communications sent via mobile app are four times more likely to be read by clients than by email, the importance of push notifications when it comes to client engagement is something that has the power to shape our industry for years to come.
Clients, of course, can turn notifications on or off, which falls in line with my steadfast belief that clients should have total control of how they wish to receive communication in the first place. Some clients may prefer the postcard, while some might transition solely to the app based on preference.
If the client is anything like me, they may opt into every choice available! I’m known to tape the postcard to my monitor, mark the email as important and screenshot the incoming text to make sure that Elvis and Penny don’t miss their check-ups! The point here is that the way that pet owners choose to engage is entirely up to them.
Alright, so you’re starting to see the power of the mobile app. This seems to be a progressive and incredible move for veterinary practices to enhance their offerings, connect with pet owners, drive more business and lead the industry on the cutting-edge.
If you’re ready to get started on an app for your veterinary practice, here are the features you should be looking for:
An app needs to be branded to your individual practice. Pet owners should be able to search your practice by name within the app store and find your practice with your logo as the icon. While an app that’s not personally branded isn’t a deal breaker, clear instructions need to be provided to pet owners so that they’ll successfully download the app and be aware of its associated features and your practice without confusion.
Pet Specific Information:
Some central information needs to be included in your app to make it truly useful. These core items include information on services pets are due for and when, details on upcoming appointments, an internal pet health library with quality content to help pet owners provide care, the ability to schedule an appointment or request a prescription refill directly within the app and push notification capability. If your app includes all of those functionalities, you’re in great shape.
A Little Extra:
While an app should be informational and functional, it should also be fun! Let’s reward pet owners for downloading the app and for taking an active interest in the health of their pet. Clients should be able to share pictures of their pets doing fun or silly things. Veterinary practices can share these pictures in a digital frame at the front desk or print them to be on display – and share on Facebook of course! Let’s engage with pet owners in meaningful ways and share in those experiences that make pet ownership such a wonderful thing in the first place.
Mobile apps are powerful tools that can enhance the client experience and provide boosted engagement, retention and business. A great app should help pet owners learn how to best care for their pet and to engage their veterinary practice for appointments, prescriptions, questions and the everyday things that they need most.
A mobile app is no longer simply a luxury, it’s a must have for your growing veterinary practice.
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