Have You Ever Wondered What Your Clients and Team Members Really Think and Feel?
If You Have Me Ask Them, You’ll Be Surprised at How Much I’ll Find Out!
With thoughtful questioning, clients and team members can provide a wealth of data to help us make better-informed marketing decisions and help you better manage your practice. Using online forms and telephone interviews, I collect opinions and attitudes expressed by survey respondents, compile, interpret and report the results and recommend appropriate action steps to consider.
Client and Team Surveys
In conducting surveys on behalf of my veterinary clients, I have always been pleasantly surprised at how forthcoming most respondents are. Clearly, clients and employees appreciate being asked about important aspects of their relationships with the veterinary practice, and they want to be heard and understood. They may also expect to be heeded.
The most useful surveys are relatively limited in scope, with carefully-crafted questions sharply focused on uncovering specific insights from targeted respondents. I have learned from experience, too many questions covering too many areas can easily produce too much information. If multiple concerns need to be addressed, I recommend conducting a series of smaller surveys rather than one overly-comprehensive one.
As part of the survey planning process, I work with my practice-owner clients to articulate clearly the purpose of the survey, draft compelling questions to achieve the purpose and plan incentives to encourage participation.
Targeted respondents for surveys I’ve conducted for veterinary practices have included—
- “Best” clients chosen by the practice owner
- Top-spending clients
- Former clients
- All staff members
- Relief veterinarians
Once we’ve agreed on the purpose of the survey, the targeted respondents and the questions to be asked, the practice owner contacts respondents to let them know to expect to hear from me. I then contact respondents directly, following up as necessary to complete surveys by phone or receive them from password-protected, confidential online forms.
Because sample sizes are usually small and respondents are often well-known to the practice owner, I make it clear to all respondents that their identities may be easy to guess. I also advise respondents up-front, if a completed survey is seriously concerning, I will share it with the practice owner intact, with the respondent identified.
Once I’ve collected all responses, I compile a document sorting the raw data in random order by question. In a separate report, I summarize and interpret results and recommend possible action steps for the practice owner to consider.
Responding to Survey Results
Before conducting a survey, it’s a good idea to contemplate what issues you expect will be raised, which ones you are prepared to address immediately and which ones you will most likely prefer to defer or ignore.
Bear in mind—once you’ve asked them for feedback and they have shared their concerns and complaints, survey respondents know you are now aware of their issues. Given that you’ve asked, they expect you to fix problems they’ve brought to your attention and implement their suggestions, whether you consider them feasible or not.
Realistically, you can expect to hear complaints you are not prepared to resolve right now and suggestions you consider wildly impractical. Ideally, you will be prepared to acknowledge and express genuine gratitude for all issues raised, noticeably act on at least some of them and, if possible, explain why you have elected not to address certain other issues at this time.
Reporting Survey Results to Respondents
As a follow-up to completed client surveys, I recommend sending survey participants an emailed thank-you message I ghost-write for the practice owner including a brief summary of survey findings. If plans are already in the works to take action based on survey results, those plans should be summarized as a way of affirming the value of the client’s participation and your commitment to better service based on their input.
For team surveys, I recommend reporting a summary of results and proposed action plans, ideally in a staff meeting where you can receive further input from the group as a whole and encourage their buy-in to proposed solutions.
Your team members have probably already discussed the survey among their peers and are aware of who said what. By summarizing all survey feedback in a group setting, you provide a complete overview of responses from all constituents and let everyone know you heard what they had to say.
The slide deck I prepare for your staff meeting will include:
- A thank-you to all for being so forthcoming with their survey responses
- A summary of responses and the issues raised
- A list of proposed solutions, policy changes and “special projects” to address selected issues
- A summary of issues that will, for now, remain unaddressed for reasons you share with the team (if possible)
- A call for additional ideas for planning and implementing solutions
- Assigned leadership roles and tasks to get the solutions underway
- A proposed timeline for completing the solutions