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Online Appointment Booking

Have you seen the latest appointment booking at your car dealer, your dentist, your GP, your hotel, your everything?

You have, hmm. So, why do you not have an online booking system for your veterinary services. Could it be inertia, lack of knowledge, fear of the unknown, negative employee feedback, change resistance or many other reasons.

First, I would suggest you identify really why you don’t want an online booking system – there may well be a very good reason why you would not want such a system. But, I suspect that very few veterinary practices would argue that none of their clients would use it. The reality is that every woman, dog and man is using such a systemt and they really don’t understand why they have to ring up, go through the menu, eventually get a receptionist and then debate when the booking should be. They just want to book it now and know it won’t take more than a minute.

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Is Your Website Fast Enough?

Web pages take time to open in the browser. How fast depends on many factors. Is your web page loading fast enough?

We have all experienced pages loading slowly or not at all and sometimes with various error codes such as 403, 404, 500 etc.
Before answering the question ‘is it fast enough?’ we really need to define what the context is and what the likely user behaviour is going to be.
Sites that provide for supermarket product purchase need a fast interface to let you go from product to product and place your total order quickly and accurately. A site that allows you to configure your next car can afford to take longer since the user hasa already bought into the ‘car’ concept and wants to get more detail.

A Veterinary website, you might call it a ‘shop front’, sits somewhere between. It does not need to be lightning fast, but it ought to be as good as or better than local competitors.
So, for me, this means betwen 0.5s and 2.0s

Is your page load time between 0.5s and 2.0s?

If not (or you don’t know), read on to find out what you can do to check/improve this speed.

How to make your page load faster?

a) Reduce the size of the page – text is not the issue here. This is mainly about image size and quantity and maybe the technology that is included in the page. Aim to get images to below 250kb and perhaps not mre than 4 on your home page.
b) Make sure your logos are optimised for loading speed.
c) Talk to your web host and website developer about other factors like server performance, caching, minifying and combining files, aynchronous loading for CSS and JS, deferred JS loading, and others.

How do I check my site is available?

If your site is not available then page load speed is irrelevant. To be sure your site is up you need a monitoring service such as Hot Mon.

How do I know my page load time?

You can use developer tools to measure this and a whole lot more. But one simple action is to use a monitoging service like Hot Mon. This monitors website availability and also provides a page load time for your home page.

Website Monitoring

You have commissioned Build My Website Ltd to build your new site. They have done a great job, aesthetically pleasing, technically accurate, with lots of useful client information and widgets for booking appointments, chat and more.

You are very happy.

But, some time after it goes live you start to discover that your lovely, shiny new sales and marketing tool is not getting the traffic you had hoped for. What could be the problem? You did the market research, ensured you are targetting the right segments but it is not generating many sales.

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GDPR – Why GDPR Is A Godsend To The Marketeer…

GDPR is often regarded as a pain in the backside. But look at the reality.

The UK along with Europe in general introduced GDPR rules as a way to protect email users from unsolicited email. No doubt we all support these rules; but we should also embrace the change as a useful tool to find out more about our clients.

Your annual GDPR email is now an excepted communication and hence most clients, whilst like you they find GDPR a pain, they also accept that the ‘law’ is the law and that your business has to comply.
You should not only explain your privacy policy and ask their about their communication preferences, SMS, phone, email, snail mail etc. but also useful demographics such as (but not limited to):
  • favourite pet species
  • favourite breed
  • what food they use
  • what toys their pets like
  • the client’s date of birth – many will give it
  • their favourite colour
  • do they have family members who also have pets
  • how often do they take pets to the groomers
  • do they have birthday parties for pets
  • do they order pet products on;ine
  • if you offered online click and collect would they be interested
  • do they take someof their pets to another vet as well as you

Obviously, you don’t want to ask things you already know or ask too many thinks at once.

You can build this up gradually. If your PMS cannot support all this. Mailchimp and others can.

The cost of utilising this approach, not limited to GDPR of course, is relatively low. There is some pain along the way not least because PMS suppliers don’t seem to be very helpful (I’m sure there are exceptions) at getting information out of your database, in which case find a new one. Remember, the most important aspect of your PMS is to be able to sell more to clients, you can keep patient notes on record cards if necessary, but you can’t make your business grow that way.

Used wisely the GDPR is an intro clients won’t complain about and can deliver a lot of insight. You do then of course need to segment your client base and send appropriate messages as a followup to sell more stuff – which is very important for your patients, clients, staff and your business!

Practice Management Systems – Choosing The Right One For Your Practice

A New PMS?

Choosing a PMS is no simple task, there are many variables and many are unique to you and your business. But there are some basic principles you can follow which will take some of the guesswork out of the equation.

Features

A key problem for providers is determining which set of features is relevant for most businesses, after all, they don’t want to waste money creating things people don’t value.
 
On the other hand, one of the complaints I hear most often is ‘they won’t/can’t provide the feature I need now’.  This is a major problem in keeping up with new technologies, current business thinking and delivering leading edge capability that will give you an advantage over your competition.
 
If you expect to need changes to suit you, get it in writing as part of the contract that they will deliver such changes in a timely fashion – difficult but doable.

The Feature List

If you have a system currently, write down ALL the features you like/want and in as much detail as you can. Add to this any improvements that you would like in the current system.
 
One of the areas PMS fall down on is good marketing data collection, you want to know everything you can about your clients.
 
The above will take quite  while and should ideally involve the whole team. But this list is the basis of ensuring you get the best fit possible.
 
Put all this on a spreadsheet, and send to prospective suppliers and get them to tick those they can satisfy and a x against those they can’t. They will probably ask you for priority – tell them ‘no, just do what we ask’! If they can’t do that they are out of the running.
 
Once you get the spreadsheet back you can add priorities, e.g. ‘can’t live without’, ‘really important’, ‘nice to have’.
 
Put all the responses alongside your requirements in one spreadsheet.
 

With this you can determine the best fit by adding all the scores. Be careful to be unbiased when you do this, if something becomes more important just change the priority.

Also:

I prefer cloud based because it removes a lot of pain in terms of backup. But: make sure that:
  • only currently supported operating systems are used – Windows 2003 is no longer supported – hence any vulnerability will not be patched by Microsoft. Everyone should now be on Windows 2012 minimum…
  • the systems are properly updated with latest patches – especially security patches
  • quality and upgrade of antivirus and similar software
  • avoidance of intrusion via email
  • avoidance of intrusion via floppy disks, DVDs, CD ROMs or USB sticks – sometimes called sneaker-net
  • control over sites that might be accessed via the cloud solution for instance using tools like Open DNS to prevent users accidentally going to dodgy sites
  • backups are made regularly – for instance in SQL server you could do a daily backup and do ‘log shipping’ every hour – or perhaps every minute – see this useful blog:

https://www.brentozar.com/archive/2014/02/back-transaction-logs-every-minute-yes-really/

  • backups and logs are moved instantly off the network to an inaccessible storage platform
  • users are forced to change their passwords regularly
  • passwords are strong – watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ5iiMRFssc

Suppliers of your systems, cloud based or otherwise, should be able to demonstrate/prove that all the above is dealt with effectively.