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Issue: 62 - Feb 14, 2014
How to Create a Top Notch Practice in 2014
By: Dr. Phil Zeltzman
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

If you believe everything you hear in "on hold" phone messages, every practice claims to offer the best medicine and state of the art everything. Yet we all know that it's not exactly true in real life.

So what does it take to create a top notch practice in 2014?

Here are 8 suggestions provided by business journalist Emma Johnson.(*)

1. Build the premium idea into your core values.

The staff at one practice promises to be "ethical, respectful, enthusiastic, professional, honest, compassionate, reliable, progressive, consistent and clean."  All fantastic and laudable core values that we should all embrace. But clients cannot be fooled. They will ultimately decide if they are treated respectfully, greeted enthusiastically and handled professionally.

One colleague explains: “Our employees feel that we are the best clinic in the area. It starts with our mission statement and with a feeling of pride that we practice nothing but the best medicine.” (**)

2. Focus on customer service.

Everybody claims to offer excellent customer service.  Yet we all encounter, in person or over the phone, customer service people who are grumpy, rude or condescending.

I remember a practice consultant telling the story of a practice which gross increased by 20 or 25% over the course of a year. What had they done? How do you accomplish such a miracle in a few months?  They fired their head receptionist!

Our receptionists are the faces and voices of our practices.  They are the first and the last people our clients meet or hear.  These seemingly obvious facts are sadly often forgotten.

3. Measure metrics for success.

It's hard to improve what you don't track. Years ago, a colleague from Indianapolis made me realize that even a receptionist's job can be quantified. And that she doesn't only deliver a service, but a product. How so?

Her product is a happy client, or a client who drops off a fecal sample, or a client who sets up an appointment for Kiki's next checkup, or a client who orders 6 month worth of parasicitide.

This is perfectly quantifiable if you give a survey to clients.  Your humble goal? Starts with 80%, then shoot for 90, then 100%.

4. Narrow your marketing and sales focus.

As they say, “think globally, act locally.” Our colleague does just that.  “We only advertise in our local market with local radio, we collect email addresses and we send out quarterly newsletters as well as email promotions.” (**)

5. Communicate your difference.

Sure, you can sit back and hope that word-of-mouth does the work for you. Or you can use technology and social media to accelerate your success. Brag about what you do well. Practice excellent medicine.  Offer seriously great customer service.  Broadcast happy testimonials.  Share your success stories.

6. Cultivate hardcore fans by going above and beyond.

Interestingly, Emma Johnson quotes two examples vets should be able to rely to.

"One premium pet store competes against big-box mammoths by giving away whole pies during the holidays. A tire store owns its local market on the promise of driving anywhere in the region to fix a flat."

Here is a perfect application.  Ms. Johnson, the owner of Montana, a 150 pound Mastiff, calls to have her euthanized at home. Her main concern? Carrying her sick and weak dog into her car to the clinic. Her vet, who does not normally provide at-home euthanasia services, made an exception. He went to her house, along with a technician to ensure that everything would go smoothly. 

Going the extra step will for sure pay dividends. If this vet hadn't gone out of his way to cater to this (excellent and faithful) client's need, guess where she would have brought her next dog to for vet care?

Our colleague explains: “We cater to great clients by giving Doctors’ email addresses and sometimes personal phone numbers. Once, an associate drove a client and pet to the dermatologist who was 45 minutes away.”  (**)

Think that client will be thankful?  And faithful?

7. Charge the right price.

This is a touchy subject, but generally speaking, premium prices typically go along with premium service.  So make sure your prices are adequate and well worth it.  This should correlate with enough time to perform a thorough physical exam, write detailed notes, and answer all of clients’ questions.

8. Easy on the discounts.

Premium businesses don't offer discounts. As far as we know, Apple never offers discounts. Tiffany's never offer coupons.  Chanel doesn't offer rebates. Rolex doesn't try to charge less than competitors.  Ferrari doesn't have Tuesday specials.  Being Walmart is OK, but it sends a different message. In addition, offering discounts may convey the idea that your prices were too high to begin with.

Deeply understanding these 8 concepts is the first step.  The next step is to deliver on your promise.  Emma Johnson quotes Mark Stevens, author of "Your Marketing Sucks."  “Premium services rely on their people and processes, while premium products differentiate themselves with materials and craftsmanship,” Stevens explains.  Offering premium people and processes requires hiring right and training consistently.

Having a premium practice doesn't necessarily mean offering the highest prices in town, or increasing all your fees by 10% every year, or tripling your Average Transaction Fee. Rather, it has to do with offering truly premium service, truly top notch medicine and truly ultimate pet care.

These fairly simple concepts are critical if you want to achieve premium status in your niche. You may want to discuss them with the key people in your practice and see how you can implement them to become the uncontested leader in your area.

Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (www.WalkaHound.com).

* Emma Johnson. "Build a Premium Brand." Success Magazine, October 2013

** Acknowledgement: Many thanks to our colleague, who owns a Premium Practice in Pennsylvania and is an Impromed user, for sharing some of his pearls of wisdom.