Don't Pause for COVID-19: PIVOT! 5 Steps to Keep Moving Forward in Crisis
Psychologists will tell you that there are 3 responses to stress: fight, flight or freeze. And in the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, veterinary hospitals are far from immune:
Fight: “This COVID-19 stuff is all hype. I don’t care what the CDC says. Just do some extra cleaning and wash your hands. We need to stay open and take care of our patients.”
Flight: “I am NOT taking any chances. There are germs everywhere here. I need to stay home with my kids and self-quarantine.”
Freeze: “So….what do we do now??”
Any of these sound familiar? Undoubtedly, you have probably seen at least one of the above responses from your team, or maybe you have even experienced them yourself. But we would like to offer a new response that all the F.R.I.E.N.D.S fans will appreciate: PIVOT!
There IS a way to continue moving forward during this crisis without putting a complete halt to your operations, client service, and marketing. Here are 5 ways to adjust your practice's trajectory and find ways to not just survive, but thrive.
This is an uncharted situation, which will call for brand new solutions. Get creative with new ways to meet service demands while keeping everyone safe. Focus on the most important goals you have for your practice and determine the ways you can still accomplish them.
- Offer curbside visits & use FaceTime to maintain personal interaction during the appointment.
- Use a texting service like ZipWhip or Google Voice so clients can text their arrival rather than hemorrhaging the phones.
- Limit the number of people in the building at all times (including staff).
- Adjust hospital hours to complete essential tasks only.
- Introduce telemedicine appointments.
- Reschedule any elective procedures to conserve personal protective equipment.
These are scary times, not just for your clients, but your staff as well. And to implement these changes, you’re going to need everyone on board. The best way to get buy-in is to help people feel like they are involved and their voice matters, especially since any changes you make will affect them as well. Communication and collaboration go a long way, and who knows what brilliant ideas they might think of!
- Hold a virtual team brainstorming session using Zoom.
- Put up a suggestion/solution board in the treatment area.
- Check in every week to see what’s working and what’s not working.
- Empower people to take the lead with certain areas (cleaning, client experience, curbside process).
Any given day, there are thousands of news articles and announcements swirling around the internet, and it can be overwhelming for anyone to navigate. Fortunately, you've already built a relationship with your clients, and they will look to you for accurate information on how to care for their pets. Now is the perfect time to utilize your communication platforms to be proactive and educate your clients on what is truly relevant.
- Send email blasts with important information, such as facts about COVID-19 and any new policies that you'll be implementing (not just using more Lysol wipes, but the changes that really matter and will impact your clients).
- Have your web developer create a dedicated COVID-19 page on your website that can serve as an easy-to-access information center.
- Provide a list of reputable resources and websites they can explore instead of leaving it up to Dr. Google.
- Hold a Q & A on your Instagram story or Facebook Live.
- Remind clients of your online pharmacy and home delivery services.
- Send push notifications from your hospital app with announcements.
Don’t just tell people what your new policies are--show them! This is where you can capitalize on your marketing outlets and really connect with pet owners. Just because you have to limit your in-person contact with people doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to interact with your clients and strengthen the face and brand of the practice.
- Take a picture of your curbside parking flag or doorbell if you have started using one.
- Create a start-to-finish time-lapse video of a curbside visit so clients can understand the process.
- Show behind-the-scenes pictures and videos of your team getting involved and completing your extra cleaning protocols.
- Have your veterinarian record a short video discussing the Coronavirus or answering common questions.
Even though these are heavy times, that doesn’t mean you have to completely halt your social media posting. You can tastefully include posts and communications that provide some joy and comfort during these challenging circumstances. Brainstorm things that are relevant, engaging and still respectful of what’s happening. Some examples include:
- Hold a “Co-worker” selfie contest on social media asking clients to post pictures of their pets “working hard.”
- Ask for pictures of pets who are (or are not) adhering to the social distancing guidelines.
- Make a post asking owners to refer to their pet as their “coworker” and describe something their “coworker” does. You can start this off with a picture and example about your clinic cat.
- Post about the scientific ways pets help us be happier.
- Strengthen your community ties by supporting fellow local businesses.
- Encourage people to foster animals for a local rescue.
- Give examples of things you can still do with your pet that aren’t banned (i.e. teach your dog a new trick, go for a walk, use interactive toys that are mentally stimulating for pets, how to check your pet for lumps and bumps, how to brush your pet’s teeth, etc.).
This virus is catapulting veterinary medicine into a whole new era, but it can also be a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the relationship you have with your clients and create a stronger brand. By pivoting your focus using the tools above, you can stay relevant, meet the needs of your patients, and possibly even discover solutions you want to continue long term.
Want to hear more marketing tips? Check out our blog, “Marketing Your Vet Practice: 5 Easy Strategies.”
This blog was written in partnership with Vet2Pet, a client engagement platform helping practices connect with clients through technology.