Re-Envisioning the Pet Care Experience
Updated: Mar 31
This is part 2 in this blog series exploring the similarities between the arts and veterinary medicine. Be sure to check out the other parts in this series under the “Arts” tab in this blog.
“What was the most memorable experience you’ve had with your doctor or veterinarian?”
Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to extern at Westfield Veterinary Group. During my externship, I had a conversation with the Business Manager of the practice, Daniel Maus. We sat down to chat about where the veterinary field is right now, where we’ve come from, and where we think it's going. To kick off where we’ve come from, Dan shared with me the vision for Westfield Veterinary Group, one that was first created by his now retired veterinarian father, Dr. Richard Maus. He shared with me that his father’s goal was pet education for clients. When a client came to Westfield Veterinary Group, not only were they going to receive top notch medicine, but also a great education. Westfield veterinarians were expected to be knowledgeable, excellent communicators, and a great resource for all individuals who entered the practice. Dr. Richard Maus believed the exam room was a laboratory for educating and teaching pet parents about flea/tick prevention, heartworm disease, and core vaccinations, to name a few topics. Looking at where the profession is today, I would say Dr. Maus definitely achieved his vision. Today’s pet parents have the knowledge and are comfortable with preventative medicine. Compliance has drastically improved over the last 20 years, and medicine and technology has improved with it. Gone are the days of dipping animals in chemicals for flea/tick prevention and hello to once every 3-month oral tablets. Talk about an evolution in pet care!
Our next discussion point centered around evolving the vision of a veterinary hospital for today’s pet parents. Education will continue, but what’s the next? Pet parents today are more knowledgeable than ever before about pet care, and it’s no longer enough for a veterinary hospital to have a goal of educating clients and providing top notch medicine. Today’s pet parents expect to be educated and receive top notch medicine. So how else will a veterinary hospital set itself apart?
To explore this more, let’s take a walk down Broadway.
A Night on the Town
The date is July 31st, 2019. A date already significant to this blog as the day Ducky had his total hip replacement. But later that evening, my girlfriend Emily Adar and I had tickets to see one of the most popular up and coming Broadway shows, Moulin Rouge! The Musical. As Emily and I entered the theatre, we were met by ushers who greeted us and welcomed us to “The World of Bohemians.” We headed up the stairs, received our playbills, and proceeded up the aisle to our seats. Then, we saw it.
Our jaws dropped. The set, it was SPECTACULAR. The giant deep blue elephant was detailed down to the wrinkles on the skin, to the cherry red sparkling windmill that circled and turned during the pre-show, and the ceiling curtains with the scattered pinpoint lights joined with the beautiful chandeliers. Shifting our view towards the stage, there were big, bold shining letters that spelled out “Moulin Rouge” and the layered hearts that made it seem like the stage extended back for miles. Then there was my favorite part, the stage extension surrounded by restaurant-table seating. Truly, a spectacle.
What did Moulin Rouge! set out to accomplish with their production, along with many other theatrical productions? They showcased the importance of the experience, especially pertaining to the ushers and key terminology used when interacting with patrons. Most importantly, the entire setting of the production; from the set, to the rafters, and finally the audience seating. The experience was at the forefront of every decision.
Enter: The Veterinary Experience
Now more than ever, it is crucial for veterinary hospitals to prioritize the experience. As the demographics of the profession, both veterinary team members and clients, shift away from Baby Boomers and Gen X to Millennials and the approaching Gen Z, the importance of the experience cannot be over emphasized. According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 67% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.9 million homes. According to the APPA, the 37 million millennials with pets constitute 27% of all pet owners, and this number will only rise in the coming years. Millennials and Gen Z prioritize the experience, even more so than the service. A 2016 study by Harris Group found that when it comes to millennials consuming and spending money, “experiences'' trump “things.” Their findings include: 1) More than 3 in 4 millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable, and 55% of millennials say they’re spending more on events and live experiences than ever before. 2) Nearly 8 in 10 (77%) millennials say some of their best memories are from an event or live experience they attended or participated in.
The question begs asking, how does a veterinary hospital, something that is inherently providing a service, become more experience centric? From my perspective, this is where we can look to the arts and theatre. To explore this shift in mindset, let’s look at the company that is known for providing the best customer experience, Disney. In the book, If Disney Ran Your Hospital by Fred Lee, a chapter is dedicated to changing the concept of work from service to theater. The opening paragraph describes:
Would Disney really define work as theater if they ran your hospital? Absolutely. And here’s why: Disney World is not a service; it is an experience. Disney World provides the stage to facilitate the experience of healing. For both Disney and hospitals, it is more accurate to describe their business as providing a transforming dramatic experience than delivering a service. Not all drama is meant to be fun. But all successful drama is a transforming experience. …The best way to revitalize many stalled service-excellence initiatives in hospitals to make a shift in emphasis from the caregiver’s service to the patient’s experience.
Just changing the language of service and courtesy to one that highlights experience and theater is refreshing and often energizing. Another book titled The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore describes, “entertainment as only one aspect of an experience. Rather, companies stage an experience whenever they engage customers, connecting with them in a personal, memorable way. While commodities are fungible, goods tangible, and services intangible, experiences are memorable.”
At the top of this blog post, I posed a question. What was the most memorable experience you’ve had with your doctor or veterinarian? During my conversation with Dan, he raved about his dentist, and cited his times there as his most memorable medical experience. His dentist was a true comedian, and would have Dan cracking up the entire visit. Dan felt it was pretty miraculous that his dentist was able to get the work done on his mouth, since Dan was laughing the entire visit all while trying to remain still, keep his chin up, and saying “ahhhhhh.” To this day, Dan sees the same dentist, and can’t imagine going anywhere else.
So veterinary medicine, I challenge you. How will you re-envision the pet care experience?