Title:Marketing management in small animal veterinary clinics in and around Oslo
Nelson, Ina Ekeli
In the last two decades a huge up rise in small animal clinics is seen in and around Oslo in Norway. With this a new evolution of pet owners is created; the emotional value of the small animals are becoming larger given that their owners are able and willing to pay up to a greater amount to improve their pet‟s health and welfare. With the number of merely large animal practices diminishing it is giving rise to mixed and small animal practices. Though the Norwegian attitude towards keeping companion animals has changed drastically, there are still many animal owners that need to be educated about the importance of prevention and not just visit the veterinarian only in severe cases. However, the emotional tie between animals and humans are clearly getting stronger and with the increasing economic wealth, the pet owners request the services of the veterinarian from the selection of the young animal until the end of its life. Previously, the vets almost exclusively treated ill animals; now the trends are seen towards prevention, consultation and supervision. In order to operate a veterinarian surgery profitable, the veterinarian should know the main market tendencies and the business and management parameters of the practice as well as its economical processes. Hence, in the first part of my thesis the theoretical basics and principles of a veterinary practice management were summarized shortly, because the knowledge of that is necessary for all that are planning to run a successful veterinarian practice. The professional image of the clinic and its staff and the communication between the animal clinics with its clientele was examined, emphasizing its importance in the everyday run of a practice as well as the marketing management used. The motivations for the pet owners to choose a clinic, before having any personal experience with the veterinarians were also reviewed. The owners are influenced by several facts. External, visual elements (like the waiting room, the building and the logo) and information received through different channels (e.g. radio, TV, word of mouth, flyers, internet) may significantly influence their decision for choosing an animal practice for their pets. As seen clearly in the cities as Oslo, convenience also has an important role in their decision-making. For example opening hours, appointment makings, parking and easy access by public transport and other services that are available at the same time in the clinics (pet shops, pharmacies, etc.) may also greatly influence a client‟s choice of veterinarian. Based on all these conditions, the literature review summarized how a veterinary practice could function to survive and make a profit in an increasing competitive environment. Further development and continuous increase of services will be enabled with an increasing profit in your veterinary practice. In the second part of my thesis 20 Norwegian small animal practices, in and around Oslo, were surveyed and analyzed, as well as their clientele. Namely, their profile and location, main general practice management, their supplementary and special services and their number of patients and different tendencies expected in the future were examined. There were not many big differences between the clinics in Oslo vs. the ones located outside Oslo. In all the surveyed practices more than one vet was employed, and if more vets work together, the small animal medicine will be emphasized and can again benefit the practice; the chance for specialization is much greater. ProfVet, a computerized record system, was used by all practices with an appointment system as well as vaccination reminder system. On average there were 2,78 examination rooms per practice and the average parking places in Oslo were rather low compared to the clinics located in Akershus where all the practices had several parking spaces. All of the surveyed practices offered different supplementary services (pet food, pet-shop, pharmacy, grooming) and special services (X-ray, ultrasound, hospital care, laboratory, gas anesthesia, geriatrics, dentistry, ear and skin care). Geriatrics had a rather low average in both Oslo and Akershus, which shows that there are great possibilities to improve this area for the clinics as the companion animals are living longer and many pet owners will do what they can to keep their pets healthy and happy through out their life. The share of patient turnover for dogs and cats in Akershus was 75% and 20%, and in Oslo 50% and 45%, respectively. The patient turnover for exotic pets were the same, 5%, and non of the veterinary clinics questioned were expecting larger changes in the patient turnovers for the years to come, if anything a small increase in the exotic animal and cats. It can be said that the surveyed practices are expecting a growth in supplementary and special services; especially dentistry, skin and ear care as well as geriatrics. It can be stated that the key to success of a practice in today‟s market is to be able to serve the costumers needs as the need for higher level services is increasing with the new mentality and economy of the pet owners. If the practice is able to satisfy the always higher needs of the owners, their satisfaction will provide the profit needed for development and survival. This is why the environment of the practice (the localization, welcoming waiting area, etc.) and the focus on the pet owners as well as their pets (communication and follow ups) has to be emphasized. The vet‟s role is to increase the knowledge of the owners as well as direct and help to define their needs. All clients must be geared to what the clients actually want and not what you as the practice think they want or need. By providing a wide range of services and having good marketing strategies the profit of the practice will increase. Specialization can be a good market strategy in a small animal clinic and advertising this is thus very important to make the clientele and possible clients aware of the specialized services. It might be concluded that spreading the word and knowledge about the practice is crucial. A great way of attracting pet owners to your practice is by advertising in the yellow pages, internet, local newspaper and radio/television, magazines, etc. and by ensuring there is a good will between you and the community. By using new mediums as facebook, twitter, etc. one can reach out to a lager public that would not normally be your typical client base. However, keep in mind there are still a large population of pet owners that are not too comfortable with the new mediums of today‟s era. As the veterinary medicine has grown and the community impact has increased there are still many practice owners that have opted to stay in the past. In the future, veterinary medical professionals must become more aware of the community needs. Providers of health care services must differentiate themselves in a marketplace of “look like” systems. The “caring practice” can charge higher fees; the caring pet owners seek assistance more often and the staff can become veterinary extenders, allowing more income to be developed. It is a fact that the number of veterinarian surgeons are increasing in Norway, and many of them would like to find work in or around the main cities, as the capital Oslo. Thus, in order to survive and prosper in this very competitive environment, the veterinary surgeon has to acquire the knowledge of business management. Though a vet surgeon has acquired the basic knowledge as a graduate, it is crucial to keep in mind that this training must be continued through out the whole career in practice.
Ózsvári László (supervisor)
Ózsvári László (supervisor)