Socially Acceptable columnist Caitlin DeWilde, DVM, is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm helping veterinary professionals learn to manage and grow their social media, online reputation and marketing strategies. She earned her DVM from the University of Illinois and is a recipient of its Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Before stepping back to focus on her marketing passion, she served as medical director for a large hospital in St. Louis. Today, she divides her time between practice, consulting and writing. She is the author of the “Social Media and Marketing for Veterinary Professionals” textbook.Read Articles Written by Caitlin DeWilde
Remember those old-school client registration forms? You know, the ones on a clipboard that we gave to clients, but only until the pandemic emerged, at which point we either created digital versions or disinfected the clipboards after use?
Even before curbside care became normal, our client registration forms needed an overhaul. When COVID-19 hit, many of us (my hospital included) shortened our forms to the bare essentials to speed the process. The Band-Aid approach left many practices without key information, metrics and important client-connection opportunities.
In addition to providing basic information about clients and patients, registration forms can help us to better connect with clients, improve communication between them and our team members, and calculate our marketing return on investment.
Here are a few ways to make your client registration form work harder.
Fomite concerns aside, digital forms are the way to go. Not only are they contactless and more eco-friendly, but they also offer the convenience of being emailed or texted before an appointment or embedded on your practice’s website. Your practice gets the “win” of showing off your tech savviness, collecting the information you want and saving precious time during check-in. Clients can complete the form online at their convenience before they arrive so that your team is ready to admit the patient and no one has to decipher Mr. Smith’s illegible handwriting.
Work with your website designer to create a custom form. Alternatively, Google Forms and JotForm offer free online templates, the latter allowing you to upload a PDF of your current document. When created, the form generates a hyperlink that you can share with clients. Notifications of completed submissions appear in your front desk’s email inbox. Also, download the completed PDF and upload it to your practice management software as an attachment.
Revamp “How Did You Hear About Us?”
The default for the “How did you hear about us?” survey on many forms is the question followed by a long blank line. Clients love to write the most non-specific answer: “Online.” Or the form might have checkboxes for “Word of mouth,” “Online” or “Other.” Making a simple change will give you quantifiable, usable data.
While differentiating clients who found your practice through online searches versus word of mouth might be helpful, the information does not help quantify your return on marketing dollars spent on social media, review platforms and digital advertising. If all your advertising dollars are going to Facebook but the expense hasn’t brought new clients, then it’s time to spend the money elsewhere.
Add checkboxes for each of the social media and review sites that your practice utilizes. Because new platforms pop up — who knows, maybe TikTok will start to drive more business — including a blank line could be valuable. You might be surprised by what you find. For instance, I never knew about Nextdoor until I noticed repeated entries on our forms. Depending on your area and demographics, add checkboxes for Google, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, Nextdoor, “Client Referral” and “Other.”
But don’t stop there. The responses won’t do much good if you don’t track them. With client referrals, leave space for a name and consider offering a reward — “Whom can we thank with a $25 credit for you both?” Make sure your practice management system is set up for referral tracking and that your staff understands the importance of documenting how new clients found you.
An additional benefit is that clients will be better aware of the social media platforms you use and might choose to follow your practice or leave a review.
The simple question “How do you prefer to receive communications about your pet?” can lead to a happier, more compliant client and save you time and money. Most people prefer phone, text, email or snail mail. For instance, if you left me a voicemail, I likely would never listen to it, but I would respond to an email within minutes.
Whatever the client’s preference, practices that comply with it will be able to efficiently book appointments, share test results, and save staff time. Why repeatedly call clients with test results if they can’t answer their phones at work? Why email results to clients who never check the inbox? Also, list the contact options in the order of your preference. Finally, be sure to use your practice management software to make note of client responses. Some have the feature built in or in devised workarounds.
Get Personal With Pets
What better way to connect with clients than to follow their pets’ social media accounts? Even if your patients aren’t Instagram celebrities like Doug the Pug, Nala_Cat or TunaMeltsMyHeart, they might have a fair number of local pet-loving followers and, better yet, a devoted pet owner who loves using social media.
The first year I asked clients to list their pets’ social handles, I expected to get a handful of responses. I was surprised by a few dozen, and the number has grown over the past four years. These users are, for the most part, ideal clients. They not only love their pets, but they’re also putting time and energy into a dedicated account (usually on Instagram) to show off their pets. They also love to tag locations and other users, so the opportunity is a win-win for the clinic when they come in for a visit.
Back end: Notify your social media team when a new account can be followed. We share the accounts in our team’s closed Facebook group so that everyone can keep up with our adorable patients. Doing this teaches team members even more about their patients and helps them bond with the owner over favorite photos.
The client registration form is a great place to get permission to share pets’ photos on your social media platforms. Build the request into where you already ask for a signature and date. For example, include the line “We’re guessing your pet is pretty cute. If they happen to pose for a picture while they’re here, may we share it on our social media channels?” (Include yes/no checkboxes.)
Now, you have written authorization for future posts, plus a pet owner who is tuned in to your social channels. Be sure to have a way to designate approvals in your practice management system, and update yearly.
By making changes to your client registration form, your practice can save time and money (not to mention printer toner) and have a better understanding of your clients — how they found you, how they want to communicate with you, and how and where you can connect with them long after they leave the exam room.
SHARE THE LINK
A client registration link can be emailed or texted to pet owners after they make an appointment. The invitation can be worded like this: “Thanks for making your pet’s appointment. Save time at check-in by completing our short client registration form so that we can add you to the system and give you and your pet the best service. [Website link].” Other ways to do it include:
- If you have an online booking system, embed the link on the confirmation page and in emailed appointment confirmations.
- Post the link on your practice’s website under the resources tab, in the new client center or on the “Update Your Info” tab.
- Use a QR code on your front door and curbside signs.