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The mission of the HSAH Veterinary Solutions Workshops was to elicit expert advice and actionable business solutions to increase the practice success of the veterinary customers we serve while reinforcing the veterinarian to the pet owner as the best source of healthcare andproduct choices for longer healthier lives of the pet family member.

Each month we discuss the insightful viewpoints of four of the most respected and well-known financial experts in the veterinary business today. These insights were a result of a day-long workshop conducted by Henry Schein Animal Health, Elanco, Ceva, Merial and Zoetis.

Panelists:

  • Dr. Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA, PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting
  • Gary I. Glassman, CPA, Burzenski & Company, P.C.
  • Dr. Marsha L. Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc.
  • Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP, HF Wood Consulting

Home Delivery Options Retain Clients; Good Data Retains Employees - 10th in Series

September 6, 2016

Editor’s note: This is the 10th in a series of monthly articles that discusses the insightful viewpoints of four of the most respected and well-known financial experts in the veterinary business today, who came together in late 2014 and 2015 at the invitation of Henry Schein Animal Health, Ceva, Elanco, Merck, Merial, Purina, and Virbac to share their expertise and informed opinions in the areas of pharmacy, nutrition and data.

They are: Dr. Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA of PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting; Gary I. Glassman, CPA of Burzenski & Company, P.C.; Dr. Marsha L. Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM of Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc.; and Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP, HF of Wood Consulting. The mission of the “Veterinary Pharmacy Diets and Data Solutions Workshop” is bringing expert advice and actionable business solutions to increase the practice success of the veterinary customers we serve while reinforcing the veterinarian to the pet owner as the best source of healthcare and product choices for longer healthier lives of the pet family member. Be sure to visit henryscheinvet.com/betterbusiness to watch live video clips excerpted from the workshop that accompany each monthly article.

Home delivery: your pharmacy’s ace in the hole?

Consider the following scenario. You client purchased flea and heartworm medication from your hospital pharmacy on their last visit and now they need a refill.

What are their options? Could they call you and then make another trip back to the hospital to pick it up? Could they just go online and order it from another business? Could they call you for a prescription and choose to fax it to a competitor? Or what if while they were in on their last visit you set them up for an automatic refill and it was delivered right to their doorstep right when they needed it and at a competitive price…and all from your practice which is the trusted source for their pet’s healthcare?

Chances are very good that final option is going to be effective nearly every time. Why? Convenience and value. You’ve spent considerable time and resources building a trusting relationship with your client, and she would most likely rather get it from you than anyone else as long as it’s convenient and competitively priced.

Home delivery is a valued service that’s expected today for most businesses and it can supercharge your pharmacy sales and even capture transactions you didn’t even know you were missing. Moreover, studies have shown that home delivery with auto-refill actually improves compliance.

Another benefit of having a webstore that offers home delivery: It could actually help expand your medication offerings. Doctors are known to have certain medication preferences but limited space may prevent your practice from carrying all choices in-house. Online webstores obviate that, and allow the clients a broader choice as well.

Consumers today expect the convenience of home delivery. And if you are not providing it for your clients then someone else will.. It is not just for the products you don’t wish to carry in your practice pharmacy but it is for all products your clients need especially those that would require extra trips back to the practice to obtain. It is all about bringing more value to your clients and one way is adding convenience to the products they need to keep their pet healthy and happy. Simple staff process changes can have can have a significant positive impact on the success of the practice online store. This includes staff passion and promotion of the service. It should become part of the exam room conversations and checkout protocols. And you can even link your online storefront to your practice website and social media.

Other considerations:
• Keep close tabs on trends in your in-house vs. home delivered pharmacy sales. You may need to adjust inventory levels if your Web store sales begin to increase significantly.
• Be mindful that home delivery services may affect your margins on some products; however, a planned and targeted increase in volume should make up for lower margins.
• Using a tablet computer in the exam room, demonstrate to clients the convenience of your online store.
• Create an account for your client before they leave and use auto ship for recurring medication needs.
• Designate a staff member to be your webstore specialist that will promote the service and help sign up clients.
• Your online pharmacy products should be priced no higher than your in-hospital pharmacy. Consumers today expect the same value for home delivery.

Convenience: The core of home delivery for nutrition

Nutrition presents a similar scenario to the pharmacy opportunity. You have just finished an annual preventive healthcare exam with your patient and you’ve recommended a therapeutic diet to lower her weight and improve her overall health.

Do you send your hurried client to the front desk to lug a 30 pound bag into her car and even worse to have to make this trip every month which adds to her growing errand list? Or, do you offer a small bag to start with the 30 pound home delivered as needed with auto refill? If so, you’ve just made your client’s decision much easier not only for today’s first bag, but with an auto-refill service of many more bags to follow.

Home delivery provides a level of convenience your clients expect now. Online stores provide consumers this kind of service, so why would you risk letting your diet business walk out the door? It’s a well-known fact that if consumers see no discernible value in buying food from you, price automatically becomes the lowest common denominator and the product becomes a commodity in their minds.

Knowing that your practice is able to home-deliver the highest quality diets, many of which aren’t even available in big box stores, is that value proposition. If you have a Web store, the convenience factor is multiplied.

And if your practice is able to offer more value and convenience at a competitive price, your diet business more than likely is going to soar. Remember – if you’ve established a relationship of professionalism, expertise, caring and trust, you’ve earned that business already.

Diets can be bulky and gobble precious real estate inside your practice or hospital. Selling them through a Web store with home delivery could be a viable way to keep that business while generating good returns with increased volume.

Ensure you communicate your home delivery services effectively through every means available, including:
• Exam room and front desk communications
• Signage (paper and digital)
• Reminders (email, text messages, phone)
• Social media

Some practices fear that the more often transactions are handled online, the less opportunity they have to build personal relationships with clients. Some even feel in-practice diet sales lead to ancillary buys. But the reality is that stopping in the practice to pick up a bag of food is inconvenient for the client and inconvenient means they are less likely to do it. We already see that most often the second bag of a recommended diet is never purchased and this is even less likely for a third or fourth bag.

Focus on bringing your clients back for more services and let home delivery take care of the diets. Done properly, home delivery can build on that goodwill you’ve already invested in with your clients, and generate significantly higher sales volumes.

Good information can stem turnover, boost employee satisfaction

Your employees are by far your most important asset. One of the best ways to retain good employees is mining and monitoring performance and job history data.

There is data at your disposal that can help you spot employee performance issues early on to help boost morale and ward off turnover issues down the road.

Ways to gather key performance indicators of employee satisfaction include:
• Pay. You must routinely determine whether your pay scales are competitive. Evaluate yearly if possible. If they fall out of line with pay scales in your community or region and you haven’t noticed, you may be looking at increased turnover issues. You also need to determine if you are paying the highest salaries to tenured people whose performance or productivity have slipped, or are noticeably less than lower-paid staff. They will notice, and it will fuel resentment and departure. The staff perception of pay that is too low can also lead to inventory shrinkage.
• Turnover rates. Staff turnover is high in many veterinary practices. Know your numbers. How many employees leave annually? If your rates are high, it’s time to find out why.
• Hours your employees spend on training. A balance is required here. To much training time for new employees can contribute to lost production which can have a negative impact on the practice financials and client service. Too little does the same. Most practices don’t spend enough time on training.
• Performance reviews. Annual reviews with quarterly progress reports are key to maximizing your practice talent and reducing turnover. Reviews should reinforce the positive behaviors balanced with areas of development. And follow up is key to ensure your employee continues to grow and bring value to the business which also creates more employee satisfaction. Good employees really do want to be good at what they do and bring value to the business.
• Employee satisfaction surveys. Conduct them anonymously using a service such as Survey Monkey, and have the results tabulated by an objective thirdparty like a practice management consultant. Perhaps two of the most important questions to ask on these surveys: “Would you recommend our practice as a place for your friends to work?” and “How likely are you to enjoy working here a year and half from now?”

About the Author
Dawn Burdette, Executive Director, Sales Leadership and Development has served HSAH for over 25 years. Dawn has served in a variety of positions in sales and management. This includes training our sales force on the business of veterinary medicine and bringing business solutions to our customers that increase financial success for veterinary practices. Dawn currently serves on the AVMA’s Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee.
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