Owners love their pets dearly, and often one of their biggest concerns is how they will access veterinary care outside of normal opening hours. As such, it is important that vet practices have a clear and reliable out-of-hours process for their clients.
Why do you need to provide an out-of-hours service?
In the UK, it is a legal requirement for all veterinary clinics to provide an emergency or ‘out-of-hours’ service. This can either be through providing the cover themselves, teaming up with other local practices, or by working with dedicated emergency out-of-hours vets.
The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct states that all veterinary surgeons in practice must take steps to provide 24-hour emergency first aid and pain relief to animals according to their skills and the specific situation.
Veterinary surgeons in practice are required to take steps to provide 24-hour emergency cover. This does not mean that veterinary surgeons must personally provide the service and they are not expected to remain constantly on duty. They are, however, required to ensure that when off duty, or when otherwise unable to provide the service, clients are directed to another appropriate service.
Using an emergency vet practice to cover out-of-hours care
The benefits of using an outsourced emergency practice for your out-of-hours care is that you don’t have to provide veterinary staff to cover from your own practice. If you are a small practice, this is particularly useful as there may not be enough vets to cover out-of-hours care without overworking all the veterinary team.
However, your customers may feel upset or stressed about going to another vet who they don’t know at a location which is unfamiliar to them, especially in an emergency. When your customers call the vet practice out of hours, it is normally because they are deeply concerned about their animal. They are likely to be upset and stressed, so adding a new location to the mix is only going to make their stress levels more significant.
This can be made worse if the call is automatically redirected to the other practice without warning, as the customer may be confused about why they are not speaking to their normal vet practice. Or they may end up driving to the wrong location. Likewise, if you have a voice message that tells them to hang up and redial a different number, it is likely to add more delay and stress to their emergency.
By having a dedicated out-of-hours answering service such as ours, you can give your customer a less stressful experience. We are real people based in the UK, Cornwall to be exact, and we can reassure your customers and act as an intermediary between your customers and the covering emergency practice. This gives your customers a sense of confidence as we can answer the phone as your practice and explain the process to them while liaising with the emergency vet practice.
We can also provide this service for vet practices who are teaming up with other local practices, as we can provide cover to the whole group of practices as required. This means your customers always have a smooth process for getting in touch with a vet out of hours.
Covering out-of-hours care in-house
Traditionally, out-of-hours care has been covered through a rota of veterinary staff from the vet practice. This could include waking nights, such as in the case of in-patient care, or sharing an emergency out-of-hours mobile for customers to contact the vet directly.
This approach can work well for your customers, as they feel safe in the knowledge that when they call out of hours, they will get you directly. However, it can have a huge impact on staff wellbeing, increasing work stress and fatigue, which can have a knock-on effect on customer care and staff retention.
This is where we can help. At Kernow Vets Messaging, we provide out-of-hours phone cover for your vet practice. Allowing us to provide phone cover helps to reduce the impact of out-of-hours calls on vets, which in turn can improve their work-life balance and reduce their stress levels.
We can filter out unnecessary calls and collect all the relevant information. Then we can contact the vet covering the night shift directly to discuss the information. This gives the vet a chance to wake themselves up and be prepared before dealing with the emergency client. This improves customer service and reduces the stress placed on the vet. Customers also benefit as we can answer their call quickly and reassure them of the out-of-hours process while collecting the information to pass to the vet.
How do we ensure we have clear processes for your out-of-hours cover?
When we begin work with a new veterinary practice, we take the time to design robust escalation processes to ensure that your customers get the help they need.
As we are a dedicated veterinary call answering service, we can provide high levels of care to your customers. By combining this expertise with your escalation processes, we can effectively triage your customers so that the most urgent get seen rapidly. All of our team are well versed in veterinary call management and as a business we have over 30 years of experience in the industry.
This is what one client had to say: “Your staff filtering the calls using the agreed call-flow menu helps reduce the number of non-urgent or routine calls that would take up valuable time of the clinical out-of-hours teams trying to prioritise inpatients and urgent referrals only.”
To find out more about how we can help you provide first-class out-of-hours care for your vet practice, get in touch.