What interior design efforts are best for retaining clients?

Essentially, clients are looking for comfort and function. Because visiting the veterinarian can be stressful for the pet owner as well as for the pet, do whatever you can to create an environment that minimizes anxiety and creates a sense of well-being. Accomplishing this does not need to be expensive. Careful attention should be paid to interior design; enlisting the assistance of a color specialist or space planner can be helpful. Remember, what you are really trying to do is appeal to how clients feel in your practice.

Depending on your practice's goals and vision, you may select colors and art to evoke a particular sentiment, such as calm and tranquility, modern with bright colors, or homey and cottage-like. Much depends on your geographic location, the building itself, and your personal style. If you are so inclined, music can add a lot to ambiance without being distracting. Give special thought to the materials you display, making sure everything is neat and tidy. Clutter can provoke a sense of claustrophobia regardless of the actual square footage. Complimentary refreshments are always a nice touch, and clean restrooms are a must!

In terms of function, seating should be comfortable yet easy to clean. Be sure to provide a reasonable semblance of privacy for discussing invoices and making payments. If space allows, consider separate waiting areas for cats and dogs.

The best design elements, no matter how subtle, will make clients feel as though you have rolled out the welcome mat in anticipation of their arrival and your focus is on serving their needs. But most of all, have friendly team members welcome each client and pet by name.

What should I do when internal marketing training, discussion, and incentives do not work to stimulate staff to buy in to elevating practice income?

If any of your team members do not share your vision for the practice and are not committed to delivering the kind of service and medical care that is important to you, then perhaps it's time to reevaluate your hiring, selection, training, and review process.

Having a mission-driven practice doesn't happen overnight and always involves ongoing training, but it begins with hiring the right people. In evaluating your hiring process, be sure your job descriptions include the behaviors and soft skills necessary for a team member to carry out your vision for the practice. Share the job description during the interview and consider including important attitudinal characteristics in recruitment ads, if you place them. Letting potential candidates know at the beginning what type of person you are looking for and what is required to perform satisfactorily will help some individuals self-select.

In interviews, ask candidates hypothetical or situational questions to gauge their understanding of your mission and core values. For instance, ask open-ended questions that require candidates to think on their feet, such as "Describe a time when you had a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it with little to no disruption," or "Tell me about an experience with a dissatisfied client for which you remedied the situation and how you turned things around." How well the candidates answer will give you a good benchmark to judge their desire and capability to act in accordance with your values.

Once individuals are hired, it's important that they undergo a thorough orientation and training process so they can actually see how the mission, vision, and core values for the practice are carried out. This process also clarifies what is expected of them with reference to the behaviors they need to exhibit in the course of their jobs. Having a training manual with sample scripts will give employees a good launching point to develop their own styles while being certain to communicate a defined message of the practice.

Motivating the team to perform in accordance with your vision takes time, training, and commitment. Periodically review the mission with your team and have them contribute to the development of systems and processes that align with your vision. Anyone who is not on board at this point may be best suited to work elsewhere.

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