Veterinary clinic staffers spend plenty of time on the phone. People are always calling to find out where to take their dogs and cats for rabies shots. When a furry friend won’t stop scratching himself, somebody wants to know if the doctor’s available this afternoon — and if they can afford the visit.
It’s all in a day’s work at Stand for Animals, a non-profit veterinary clinic with three locations in metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina. Pet care can be expensive, but they believe in accessible and affordable care for all. “We get hundreds of phone calls a day,” says Nicole Hash, Stand for Animals’ operations team lead. It’s easy to understand why: The Charlotte metro area has more than 2.6 million people, which translates into strong demand for the clinic’s specialty: accessible low-cost pet care.
In honor of Small Business Week, we’re looking at how companies with small staffs and limited resources use modern, cloud-based technology to streamline communications with their customers. Stand for Animals provides a practical case study.
The veterinary clinics’ locations tend to everyday needs like rabies vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and annual office visits. With a limited staff and a perpetual stream of phone calls, each location manager knows they can’t talk to everybody. Callers are bound to get impatient and stop waiting on hold.
That means pets might not get the care they need. Understandably, Stand for Animals seeks to reduce abandoned calls as much as possible. Shrinking abandoned calls to zero might be an unrealistic goal, but even incremental improvements are welcome.
A Vet’s Lament: Too Many Calls, Not Enough People
Stand for Animals sought out to combat four challenges:
- Volume: Figuring out the smartest way to handle hundreds of calls every day without distracting clinic staff from their pet-care responsibilities.
- Management: Placing calls into queues and ensuring they get answered as soon as possible.
- Insight: Gaining insight into their calls, and then using this data to optimize service by analyzing the behaviors of staff and callers.
- Technology: Implementing cloud-based tools without having extensive in-house technology expertise.
The veterinary clinic group created a call center with staff answering calls all day. It was a good start, but it left much to be desired.
Call center agents and pet owners often got caught up in extended phone tag. People would call and leave voicemail messages. Agents would call them back. Over and over and over. “They could spend two hours returning calls, and by the time they finished, they needed to call again,” Hash recalls. “And if clients called one clinic but needed to contact one of our other clinics, it was ultra-complicated.”
How Stand for Animals Turned Things Around
The animal clinic implemented a modern call-management application to do jobs like balancing call routing across its three locations. They chose an all-in-one phone solution hosted in the cloud (known as VoIP, or voice over internet protocol). Their VoIP app was designed specifically for small businesses that could implement it without extensive technology training.
With VoIP, the service provider keeps the technology secure and takes care of the data center, which simplifies things for small-business managers. Instead of buying hardware, businesses pay an economical monthly fee.
Stand for Animals also added a tool for managing its contact center. Hosted in one unified app, contact center as a service (CCaaS) transformed their customer service operation. While their VoIP phone system let them route calls, GoTo’s Contact Center solution provided the visibility, efficiency, and analytics to improve outcomes. The technology creates call queues that show contact center staff every incoming call. Managers can assign staff to calls, or reps can grab calls as they come in. CCaaS generally works across multiple channels: phone, chat, text, and social media integration.
Stand for Animals used the advanced analytics capabilities to reveal inefficiencies and track the performance of contact-center staff. These tools helped the animal hospital fine-tune its calling functions.
“We’ve evolved from having a dedicated group of people in one building answering phones to a decentralized approach where everyone across clinics shares the load,” Hash says. “We try to keep each clinic to their specific queues, but if we’re short-staffed, we fill in for each other.”
The benefits have been substantial:
Stand for Animals’ missed calls are down by more than 60%. That means more humans — and their pets — are connecting with people who can help.
A Good Deal on Cloud VoIP and CCaaS
Stand for Animals implemented GoTo’s Contact Center solution to enhance their call center operation. GoTo Connect, a unified app for phone, meeting, messaging, and contact center, underscores GoTo’s conviction that small businesses should have all the communications tools of their corporate rivals — minus the cost and complexity.