Talk the Talk columnist Dr. Amanda L. Donnelly is a speaker, business consultant and second-generation veterinarian. She combines her practice experience and business expertise to help veterinarians communicate better with their teams and clients. She is the author of “Leading and Managing Veterinary Teams: The Definitive Guide to Veterinary Practice Management.” Learn more at amandadonnellydvm.comRead Articles Written by Amanda Donnelly
Not only are millennials the largest pet-owning demographic in the United States, but they recently surpassed baby boomers in veterinary spending. As you probably know, Millennials were born from 1981 to 1996, so they are now 25 to 40 years old. The generation is more educated than any other, and among bachelor’s degree holders, women outnumber men. As a group, millennials get married or start a family later than earlier generations.
The characteristics of any generation tend to influence their spending habits and what they want from a business. So, understanding what millennials value and the services they want puts veterinary practices in a great position to build strong client loyalty.
Now, a few words of caution before I continue. Numerous surveys and statistics reveal what millennials want when they visit your practice. But remember that surveys have limitations. It wouldn’t be wise to make significant changes to your protocols simply based on statistics. Likewise, avoid generalizations about millennials or any generation. You might, for example, assume someone older doesn’t use technology. Yet my 86-year-old father uses an Apple Watch, smartphone, iPad and laptop. He texts all the time and does Zoom calls. The best approach to building loyalty is to see each client as a unique pet owner and strive to provide the desired service.
With that disclaimer in mind, let’s look at specific actions that veterinary teams can take to build loyalty with millennial pet owners.
Create a Personalized Experience
Millennials want friendly, personalized service. But wait, isn’t that what all clients desire? Yes, but the difference is millennials want to feel connected to a business and be at the center of the service experience more than older generations do. More specifically, millennials seek customized services based on their wants and needs. Surveys show that millennials pamper their pets and value relationships with team members who also pamper a pet. They want to visit a clinic where everyone shows a sincere interest in them and their pets.
To deliver a personalized experience, use engaging comments and questions focused on a millennial’s pet. Here are examples:
- “What a handsome boy. His hair coat is so shiny.”
- “I love Luna’s collar. That bow is so cute.”
- “Oh, I can see Indie is nervous. Let’s get her in our cat room.”
- “Have you had a Frenchie before?”
- “How did you decide to get a goldendoodle?”
- “How did you decide to name him Osiris?”
Providing personalized service includes making sure the environment is comfortable and welcoming for both owner and pet. Millennials make up a very diverse generation, so be sure to accommodate people of all backgrounds with respect to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, education and marital status. Millennials care about who gets their money. They want to do business with companies that embrace diversity and inclusion. Millennials also appreciate veterinary practices that use cat-friendly and fear-reducing animal-handling techniques.
Focus on the Human-Pet Bond
Pet health is a major priority for millennials. They might not always have the financial means, but surveys show the generation is open to spending thousands of dollars on a pet’s veterinary care. The expertise of the veterinary team is essential to millennials. They are likely to appreciate certifications and advanced training of team members. They welcome the best treatment options, including specialist referrals.
Millennials also want veterinary care that enhances the bond with their pet. The generation spends considerable time with pets and sees them as children. The age group understands preventive care and the need to make sure their pets are happy and comfortable. Millennials routinely purchase pet supplements such as cannabidiol (CBD) and pay for expensive pet food.
Surveys show that millennials typically do more internet research into pet health than other generations do. Therefore, to respect a pet owner’s dedication to preventive care, veterinary teams can ask what they know, inform them about the latest research and suggest credible websites providing more information.
Here are other ways to communicate with millennial clients:
- Ask how the client spends time with the pet. You can say, “I want to understand your relationship and bond with Bentley, so tell me what activities you enjoy doing together.” And don’t forget to ask cat owners similar questions, such as “How do you spend time with Oliver?”
- Have pet owners fill out an online history form before an appointment. Millennials appreciate that doing so saves time. Be sure to review the history and discuss topics of interest, such as pet food and supplements.
- Focus on preventive care. Ask pet owners what they value by posing questions such as “What is most important to you about Winnie’s preventive care?” Recommend the best care based on the pet’s breed, risk factors and lifestyle.
- Acknowledge a pet’s multiple owners. Talking to everyone shows respect and honors the human-animal bond. Bring clients into the decision-making about a pet’s health care by asking open-ended questions such as “What do you know about the prevalence of leptospirosis in our area?” and “What questions do you have about your treatment options?”
Provide Convenient Service
Millennials crave convenience. Long wait times, a lack of accessibility or an inability to get a suitable appointment time are three reasons they might switch veterinary practices. Recall that millennials want tailored service, so convenient solutions should save time but not lose the personal touch.
Here are ideal ways to provide the efficient service that millennials want.
- Allow clients to request appointments 24/7.
- Text reminders about preventive care, medication refills and appointments.
- Use two-way texting to connect with
- clients easily.
- Offer text-to-pay options.
- Provide after-hours support through telehealth options.
You now have this call to action: Decide how to modify or enhance communications so that you bond with millennial pet owners, giving more pets the care they deserve.