RCVS Client Service Award – Q&A with 2 winners
The RCVS Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) helps animal owners to ensure they are getting the best possible care. It does this by accrediting veterinary practices and rewarding those that have gone above and beyond to offer exceptional services.
In addition to the PSS accreditations, practices can apply to be assessed for optional awards, demonstrating excellence in particular areas. Practices may be designated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in areas such as team and professional responsibility, client service, in-patience service and diagnostic service across small animal, equine and farm animal practice.
Charlotte Hartley, clinical coordinator at Gillivervet and Andrew Wallace, director and veterinary surgeon at Buckingham Equine Vets, work at practices that were both awarded ‘outstanding’ in the RCVS Award for Client Service. We sat down with them to hear more about their awards, the processes involved and what it means to have been awarded ‘outstanding’ in their practices.
Why did you decide to go for the Client Service Award?
As an accredited practice, I wanted to encourage team work and enhance communication to improve our customer care skills in practice. We always strive to put both clients and the patient’s welfare first, but I understand that there is always room for improvement.
We were looking for a way to highlight the efforts the practice staff go to in optimising the client experience. We are proud of the service we provide, and feel is a way our business can offer a different marketing strategy.
How difficult is the process and how long did it take?
I think the only difficulty that I experienced in the process was getting the vets to change the way they work! It took me time to encourage them to embrace change and ensure that the staff were on board with achieving the award. I would say it takes approximately 6-12 months to fully complete the award. This gives ample time to send out client questionnaires and consider the results and implement changes.
From deciding to start the process to receiving the award took 12 months. Although we already had many of the 34 requirements in place, we often found we needed to provide written evidence and protocols for their existence. If you need to fundamentally change the way you operate to improve your standards of client service it will be much harder to achieve the award, although arguably more worthwhile.
Andrew says that he takes every opportunity to highlight the practices achievement
Where did you start with the process?
The easiest place to start was to look through all the requirements and put them into groups such as veterinary surgeons, vet nursing and reception and admin teams and delegate the work into bitesize pieces. This is important as it avoids the tasks looking too overwhelming.
One individual was tasked with overseeing the award process. He was then able to delegate responsibilities to the team to achieve the relevant tasks and was responsible for collating the evidence required.
Were there any cost implications?
The RCVS charges for some elements such as the inspection (which is required) and if you choose to use tools such as Survey Monkey to send client questionnaires then you will incur charges for such services.
The greatest cost was in the time spent by employees in achieving the award requirements. Obvious direct costs included attending the three training courses that needed to be completed. Many of the costs involved were associated with forcing us to do what we should have been doing anyway to support the business, such as updating the practice website and seeking useful client feedback.
Were all staff involved in the process?
Yes, all staff members must be involved – it is a team effort and not just a one-person tick box exercise. The awards are there to encourage practices to ensure policies, protocols and standard operating procedures are in place. If these are not in place, they are created to ensure methods of work are carried out efficiently and each and every staff member works methodically and systematically.
"The staff were really receptive to changes and were keen to further improve the customer service we provide"
All staff were involved, but the process was driven by the reception team under the guidance of one individual. The staff were really receptive to changes and were keen to further improve the customer service we provide.
How have you promoted your award-winning practice?
We have highlighted our award on Facebook and our practice page. We are using the RCVS PSS toolkit to ensure we are promoting our awards to the best of our ability. We have ordered bookmarks to give out to our clients who attend our regular client evenings and window stickers to place in our company vans.
We promote the award as one of our brands of excellence. The achievement was initially reported on our practice newsletter, client emails and social media. We now have the award logo on our website and all marketing material. We take every opportunity to highlight our achievement.
Charlotte says that in order to achieve the award, she delegated the work into bitesize pieces
Have you had clients notice you have the award? Have they given you any feedback?
It can be difficult to monitor feedback, but I think the proof is in the pudding so to speak. We tend to have a low turnover of both clients and staff and our trends do show we have an increase in new clients registering and existing clients have rated our practice and vets on Google and Facebook as 5/5!
When initially reporting our award, we had an amazing response from our clients, particularly on social media. Clients seemed genuinely pleased with our achievement and since they were involved in giving feedback to help gain the award, were proud of it too.
What recommendations would you make to other practices considering going for the award?
Do it! Use the award as a tool to enhance your customer service. Take criticism constructively and learn from any mistakes. Create improvements on already held policies and protocols.
First of all, I would advise practices to decide why they want to achieve the award. Having a clear reason for completing the goal will help the process. Also decide if you have the resources in both people hours and finances to complete the process. Choosing to achieve the Client Service Award on its own or in conjunction with other RCVS Awards is an important step.
More information on the scheme can be found here.