It is 2021, and it appears, for the most part, that our lives are being organised, controlled and sometimes – for many of us – taken over by new technologies. I will not pretend to be tech-savvy; I can email, and I know my way around applications that work for me, but I am no expert.
However, the application of technology in our work has been part of my career right back when I last worked as a vet nurse decades ago. However, the world is changing, and now a new generation of pet owners are coming through, Generation Z (Gen Z). For anyone unfamiliar with the term, Gen Z are those born in the late nineties and considered to have lived their lives somewhat dependent on tech. This generation is soon to become vet practice customers – but is the veterinary industry ready for them?
What is the difference between our current client base and that of the upcoming Gen Z’ers? Our existing client bases are slightly older and have learned, over time, to embrace technology as it becomes popular and sometimes necessary. Gen Z clients are a very different group. Many live their lives attached to technology. They will likely purchase via apps and online rather than ‘struggle with the effort’ of visiting the high street. They expect that they can do whatever, whenever. They prefer a screen to a piece of paper, a touch screen to a pen. It can only be assumed – with plenty of science backing it up – that as and when they become clients of a vet practice, they will expect the same level of service from us.
Moving from practice to sales and marketing, I have watched from the outside as technologies grew within practices. Although technological leaders tend to be multisite groups and conglomerates, we have seen new developments that will see the world of independent vet practice chance irrevocably – and in the not-so-distant future.
I have been working as a consultant for VisioCare Services for some time. I only recently joined as an employee. It was during this time that I began to get an understanding of where the industry was heading concerning new technologies. From apps for clients to manageable digital information services in waiting rooms. The introduction of digital products providing vets, nurses, and clients with detailed information about conditions, procedures and even how to remove a tick from your pet. Now, more than ever, we have digital services available to us that would have been something of dreams when I qualified.
Has it gone far enough? Very likely, not! As an independent vet practice, how are you expected to develop said technologies? Would you pay for someone to create a piece of technology for you? How much is that likely to cost? Will it provide a return on investment? All valid questions, but frankly, no blanket answer exists. Or does it?
Having spent time speaking to and getting to know our clients, I realise that the time, effort, and cost it takes to set up new technologies for the practice is far too daunting. One client admitted that he had asked his daughter what technology she would expect if she brought her pet into a practice. The answer was more than he was prepared for. Nevertheless, involving his daughter was the right thing to do. Getting to know the next generation of pet owners is the reason our products exist. Our research and insight into the market have led to many ongoing developments of our services. We must ensure we can provide the best possible service for the practice, but equally as importantly, the clients.
Our solutions vary from cloud-based services, that require nothing but an internet connection, to applications that allow your customers to be in contact with the practice twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. For example, the most recent advancement of our vet application provides real-time updates to clients, including images, videos and sounds that allow the practice (or hospital) to update them on the progress of their hospitalised pet. These updates prove that their beloved pet is awake, eating, happy and in good hands. Something that is incredibly reassuring for a client and provides a new level of service for the practice. All for the price of an average lunch for two a month.
Following a year where we have had to adjust practices, change our lifestyles, and missed out on so much as individuals – technology has been our saviour. We have adapted and learned to use technologies in different ways. Older generations have had an experience of digital life – no doubt assisted by their grandchildren. Many have found it less intrusive and intimidating than they might have thought. If there was any better time to embrace technology and begin introducing it into practice life, the time is now. If you act too late, your clients may find an alternative, more attractive opportunity elsewhere.
Karen Froud-Murray, VisioCare Services UK