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Vetting your new vet

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What can help your approach

  • Choosing a new veterinary practice can be a very stressful experience for clients, particularly if their pet has a long-term health issue.

  • Your client may worry about the logistics of transferring practice, for example, whether the new practice will have access to their notes. Communicating with the client about the process could help to alleviate some of their concerns.

  • Consider adding more information to your website – perhaps including a ‘new clients: what you need to know’ section – to improve the customer experience.

  • Clients may not know about the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS), or what it means to have a certificate. Make sure you use suitable lay terms to explain the terminology on which clients may be basing their decisions. The RCVS has produced a useful page to explain the PSS to clients https://animalowners.rcvs.org.uk/accredited-practices/about-the-practice-standards-scheme/

Moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do in life, even before you factor in how your pet might react. However, this summer, a new job meant we needed to move from one end of the UK to the other with our six-year-old Bedlington whippet, Skye.

We adopted Skye four years ago, and she has always been a very anxious dog. She is also a very itchy dog, suffering from numerous allergies. To compound matters, she was neglected by her previous owner. The stress of the neglect she experienced means she also licks and chews as a coping mechanism – she can do herself some serious damage if left unchecked.

It has taken several years, working with our excellent local vet, to completely get on top of her condition. Having been through such a long, and at times difficult, process to manage her symptoms, the impact that moving house and vet might have on her health and happiness was, naturally, at the forefront of our minds.

We started our search for a new vet by looking online, resulting in a shortlist of three practices. Our main criteria were proximity to our new home, the availability of appointments and how experienced the vets were with itchy dogs. We also looked at the online reviews, but we were keenly aware that we were only likely to see samples of the very best or the very worst experiences. Typically, we found the negative reviews on Google and the positive ones on the practice’s social media pages. Because of this, we didn’t find the online reviews to be particularly helpful in making our decision.

Thankfully, our old vet agreed to take a look at the shortlisted practices and helped us to understand in a little more detail what to expect from each of them.

It would have been helpful if there were an industry-recognised scheme for rating vet practices

Having recently chosen a new GP for the human members of our family, I remarked that it would have been helpful if there were an industry-recognised scheme for rating vet practices – an aggregated ‘likelihood to recommend’ score would ultimately be far more useful to prospective clients than reading through edge-case customer reviews. I would also love the option to leave my details on the website and arrange for a call back from a member of the practice team who would answer my questions and complete the registration.

When I contacted the three shortlisted vet practices, I made sure to mention Skye’s medical history and enquired whether they could provide the medications she currently receives. After establishing which practices could provide Skye with the care she needs, I made my choice and called up to book her first appointment.

The main factor that led me to settle on our new practice was how friendly and helpful the receptionist was on the phone – they answered all of my questions, and I was particularly impressed that they got one of the clinical team to call me to discuss Skye’s specific needs when I informed them about her ongoing condition.

Having now visited the practice, I can confirm that they are as friendly in person as they were on the phone, and I’m confident that they will offer us excellent care for many years to come.

Do you want to get involved?

If you know a client who might be interested in writing for us, please contact us at vet.clientview{at}bmj.com. Any contributions will be assessed by the column’s veterinary coordinator, Zoe Belshaw.

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