When pet owners seek answers online, view it as an opportunity rather than an annoyance.
Does it irritate you when pet owners tell you that they’ve already googled their pet’s symptoms and then outline their theories on what might be amiss, perhaps even interrupting or questioning you?
If so, the feeling is understandable—but it’s important to take a step back and try to reframe your reaction, says Eric Garia, IT expert and owner of Simply Done Tech Solutions. To help you do this, remind yourself that this behavior is, at its heart, a sign of an engaged, proactive and caring pet owner.
“When pet owners go online and do their own research and then call you or come into the exam room and talk about their findings, we shouldn’t get angry about that,” says Garcia. “Instead, we can recognize that they have taken the initiative to learn more to take better care of their pets. We need to celebrate that with our pet owners and use it as an opportunity to educate them.”
It’s Only Natural
Pet owners doing their own research is a trend that we should only expect to continue, says Garcia. That’s particularly true of younger generations of clients, who will spend quite a bit of time and effort to understand how to best take care of their pets.
“Research shows that 63% of Millennials say that staying current on pet health-care topics is important, versus 54% of Boomers,” Garcia says. But this data point doesn’t merely show that more Millennials than Boomers want access to information about their pets, he adds. It also reveals that more than half of both these large generations of pet owners want access to information.
“They’re not challenging what you know,” he says. “They’re just taking the initiative in a way that we’re all used to doing. We all go online and search for our own information.”
Reclaiming Online Education
If clients are citing faulty or misleading information, that’s where you as the professional can step in and help. “We cannot get mad that the information they find is far inconsistent with what you would recommend,” says Garcia. “It’s our profession’s fault that we fail to educate pet owners in a way that’s meaningful and engaging.”
Keep in mind that the exam room is not the best place for that education to take place, he says, simply because there isn’t time. “The average time a veterinarian spends in an exam room with a pet owner is nine minutes and 45 seconds,” says Garcia. “And when we go over too much information in too short a time, it can actually result in impaired ability to implement preventative healthcare.”
Instead, turn to your practice’s social media channels to provide clients with information that is both educational and engaging. “Many practices don’t educate their clients because they don’t believe that pet owners are actually interested in education,” he says. “Or they present the educational information in a way that’s boring and that doesn’t get pet owners to act.”
You can create your own content or make use of existing educational content that can be tailored to your practice. Such content is readily available online, including through services such as VETsocial. “There are tools out there that can give you educational content that will engage clients,” says Garcia. “There’s prewritten content that you can tweak, with engaging graphics and elements that add humor, which is often the first step toward building a bond with someone.”
The bottom line, says Garcia, is to take the time to educate your clients—and embrace the fact that they are seeking out information. So next time someone starts explaining what they found online, praise them for being such a conscientious pet owner … and then gently point them toward to your own educational channels. As Garcia puts it: “Don’t hate, educate!”