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Case Study

Seadown Veterinary Services Autonomously Schedules 1000+ Appointments in 1-Month

with Kate McMorris, Director and 1 of 3 Certified Advanced Practitioners at Seadown Veterinary Services

Seadown Veterinary Header

During the month of June 2020:

1031

appointments booked online

635

payments successfully taken

48

new clients acquired

*Through the Vetstoria platform

Growing increasingly concerned about the future of their practice due to COVID-19, Seadown Veterinary Services embraced the power of the Vetstoria platform. This enabled them, despite furloughing all receptionists in March 2020, to automate their booking and payment processes and offer video consultations - resulting in streamlined operations, a huge number of monthly bookings, and a surge in new clients.

Growing increasingly concerned about the future of their practice due to COVID-19, Seadown Veterinary Services embraced the power of the Vetstoria platform. This enabled them, despite furloughing all receptionists in March 2020, to automate their booking and payment processes and offer video consultations - resulting in streamlined operations, a huge number of monthly bookings, and a surge in new clients.

In response to COVID-19, Seadown Veterinary Services furloughed all receptionists and used technology to automate some of their routine tasks. Director Kate McMorris spoke to us about how they managed the drastic changes and why she will continue to use technology to automate tasks such as booking and payments, alongside receptionists, when they return to work.

Another crisis defeated - How Seadown Veterinary Services weaponized automation to fight COVID.

Battling on without receptionists

Founded in 1923, Seadown Veterinary Services has seen crises preceding COVID. So it’s no surprise that director, Kate McMorris, took the initiative to manipulate Vetstoria’s technology to automate appointment booking and payment collection in the absence of furloughed receptionists.

As the practice ages into its second century, the world around it seems bleak with economic and social upheavals brewing. The only way to safeguard jobs and maintain excellent pet care is by acting fast and leading with intelligent choices – something Kate happened to have had the time and the ability to do.

The timing of the lockdown was a lucky coincidence. I came back from France three days before the lockdown and had to isolate for two weeks because I had a cough. So I was literally isolating at home, looking at the technology I had, and working with Vicky (Vetstoria’s product specialist) to really set up Vetstoria in a way that can make a virtual clinic work.

Rather than stick to doing things the way we’ve already done and worrying about whether the staff would like it, we had no choice but to drive all the phone calls out of the building and utilize technology when we furloughed our receptionists. So far, the new system has been working amazingly, and when we go back to normal, we won’t be going back to our old ways completely because we have educated our clients enough so that a number of them will be catered to by automation.

Kate McMorris

Kate McMorris – Director of Seadown Veterinary Services

Seadown has been using Vetstoria for online booking since January 2020 and is aware of its benefits of saving the receptionist’s time. However, a key element in the workflow of the clinic is payment collection which would be tricky if no receptionist is working. The priority was to drive all the activities that take place over the phone to the website.

Emergencies only plus telemedicine consultations

Adhering to BVA’s (British Veterinary Association) guideline in running a skeleton service, Seadown had to change the appointments they offered to pet owners massively and implemented telemedicine consults. The telemedicine consults were adopted as the first step to triage patients or offer advice for the same price as a face-to-face consult.

The doctor who conducts the video consults works purely remotely, and the integration with the Practice Management Software, IDEXX Animana, means that no manual work is needed to send meeting links. No app downloads also mean little needs to be explained to the pet owner, who would receive the video consult link with their payment confirmation and appointment confirmation in one email.

Payments collected digitally at the time of booking

Pet owners were encouraged to book themselves in and not call in unless it’s a genuine emergency, in which case it was picked up by the nurse who could be treating them. In most cases, pet owners would pre-authorize payment of £100 ($125) when booking an appointment online, knowing that the expected fee, including medications, should be lower or equal to £40 ($50) just for the consultation. After the consultation had taken place, payment was authorized and left the pet owner’s account.

Before using Vetstoria for both payment collection and telemedicine appointments, Seadown had been using Whereby (a platform similar to Zoom) for video consultations, which had many limitations, and the receptionists would manually send links and collect payments over the phone.

It was very easy to have a message on the machine to say – go to the website to book the appointment. Because I then restricted what appointment choices they had, so they couldn’t just book everything. We then fixed up the telemedicine ourselves to enhance the experience. The payment is just the icing on the cake because that reduced the number of calls needed to chase the money.

The integration of IDEXX Animana (Seadown’s Practice Management Software) and Vetstoria’s features have been a revelation in setting the blueprint for the digitized future where phone time is kept to the minimum and reserved for pet owners who require a personal touch.

The payment was just amazing, and it started working brilliantly. Some clients don’t pre-authorize the payment, but we won’t stop them from booking the appointments. Out of everyone who’s booked telemedicine consultations, 80% I would say pre-authorize payments. We have been using the payment feature at the vaccine clinics, and the same percentage of people pre-authorize.

Kate McMorris

Kate McMorris – Director of Seadown Veterinary Services

New clients acquired - still growing despite grim predictions

Despite The UK economy shrinking by record 20% this year, Seadown Veterinary Services did not stop their winning streak in acquiring new clients. In fact, in the month of June, out of the 1,031 appointments booked on Vetstoria’s platform, 48 are from new clients. Many factors contribute to this promising trend and one of them is telemedicine.

Pet owners who are isolating may not see their usual vet offer telemedicine consultation. By making the service visible online regardless of geographic region, Seadown is able to convert the visitors to customers right there and then. Not only a new revenue stream is established for the practice, but the pet-owners who are in need of help are also enabled to speak to a vet and get the peace of mind.

Moving forward and preparing for the next crisis

Exponential growth from 0 to 1000+ monthly online bookings in just 5 months of using Vetstoria

Translation: 1000 fewer phone calls and 100s of hours of phone time saved.

Getting used to new technology can take a bit of time. However, when it’s utilised the right way and supported by the staff and the adjusted workflow, the results can be amazing.

Seadown june updated
Data taken from Vetstoria's system

In just 5 months, the number of appointments that Seadown has taken online jumped from 12 in Jan when they started using Vetstoria to 1031 in June and the number is expected to grow further as the global economy bounces back. That means, 1000s of phone calls fewer are made to the front desk to book appointments. Not only the staff have more time to focus on higher priority tasks, but their productivity also soars. More importantly, the reduction in call volume benefits staff’s mental health monumentally by removing the pressure and the distraction.

The percentage of payments collected digitally also increases by the month, which means that Seadown’s clients have become more and more comfortable doing the transaction digitally, reducing the bottleneck at the front desk to pay as well as the possibility of debts.

Kate and Vetstoria Zoom Call
Kate and Vetstoria teams' Zoom call - lots to smile about

A massive time-saver!

The time-saving benefit that Vetstoria brings to the front desk is unquestionable. Not only are routine and time-consuming tasks handled through automation, but the additional time also means that receptionists can spend more time offering a better service to those pet owners they speak to. Kate exhibits this view.

Online booking and upfront can be a massive time-saver for the staff who are actually working at the clinic because it’s putting the onus on the client to do it, rather than using the receptionist’s time to do it. Also, they instantly get the available time-slots, so they look at it and say okay, that’s the one that suits me. Otherwise, you’ll get into an entire discussion on ‘is this time good for you?’. People also like choosing their own vet as well, which they can do on the online booking system. It reduces the time for the receptionist but also the time for the client.

Doing it this way, we can cater to both. If we can reduce the number of phone calls that DON’T HAVE TO BE MADE by those people who don’t want to make them, we’ve got time for people who do genuinely want to chat or speak to someone without our staff on our end thinking ‘urgh, I can see I’ve got three other calls waiting’ then hurry off the phone which comes across even worse.

Moving forward, the more people who book online, the more time we can spend with people physically here.

Kate McMorris

Kate McMorris – Director of Seadown Veterinary Services

Payment upfront is key for a post-covid front desk

Seeing how Vetstoria’s automation technology saves time, Kate has already envisaged what a post-COVID front desk looks like as lockdown restrictions are lifted, and pet owners rock up at the practice doors.

During COVID, we do not allow clients to book physical appointments to come into the clinic unless they phone emergency. I will definitely use Vetstoria to take payments for physical appointments moving forward. Pre-authorizing at the time of booking stops the big discussion about bills at the clinic.

Now with the lockdown being eased, we see a drop in telemedicine bookings but the receptionist desk is still going to be a bottleneck where people cluster – well they can’t! The payment feature on Vetstoria means we can quicken up the procedure when clients leave the building.

There are pluses and minuses about not having a discussion about the bills. It may well lead to misunderstanding about the bill but the reduction at the bottleneck is well worth trying a new procedure.

Kate McMorris

Kate McMorris – Director of Seadown Veterinary Services

Mentally committed to spending the money

By enabling pre-authorization, it makes the discussion about payment a lot easier because they are mentally committed to spending the money. If they realize the consultation + medication can be generally under £100, they are committed to spending that. For the out-of-hours appointments, the amount they pre-authorize is much higher.

Kate McMorris

Kate McMorris – Director of Seadown Veterinary Services

Get compensated for offering advice and being disturbed at night

It’s not uncommon for a vet to give free advice in the middle of the night when a pet owner freaks out and insists on speaking to a vet. This not only disturbs the sleep for the vet and impacts their wellbeing, but it usually means that this piece of advice was given away for free.

It goes against my belief that we have to charge people to give them advice, but we give out a lot of free advice on a day-to-day basis, and no other profession does that. Sometimes it’s just a bit of vomiting and diarrhea, which can wait till the next day. But in the future, because we can set up this “pay to speak to the vet” or at least for out-of-hour situations, we can use Vetstoria’s online booking and payment to charge for it.

If people are very insistent, they can pay for the advice which we can deliver with much better accuracy on the telemedicine platform. We are not doing this yet, but moving forward after COVID, it is worth exploring.

Kate McMorris

Kate McMorris – Director of Seadown Veterinary Services

Vetstoria - a godsend at a time of crisis and pleasure to work with

Automation will undoubtedly drive long-term prosperity. In veterinary practices, however, pet owners will continue to expect personal service, human touch, and empathy, which machines can’t replicate. Vetstoria understands that, which is why our platform is there to enhance the human touch rather than replace it.

When we asked how Kate would describe Vetstoria as a company, this is what she had to say:

Vetstoria is giving us the facilities to work in a different way. If we didn’t have the urgency because of the lockdown to push all the phone calls to video consults, we would have done something else like a phone redirect service for a receptionist who answers calls at home. That obviously would have cost us a lot more. In a way, Vetstoria was a godsend because now it’s making me think about how we are going to work after COVID. I fear we’d go back to our old ways, but that’s unlikely to happen.

For me, what’s so fantastic about working with you guys is that I’ve given feedback, and the answer is always ‘yes, sounds good, we’re working on it’. As a company you guys have been fantastic, it’s been a joy to be able to work with you because you are just able to deal with the issue straight away, unless you can’t. But I’ve always found you very personal, very happy to help.

Kate McMorris

Kate McMorris – Director of Seadown Veterinary Services

About

Seadown Veterinary Services is independently owned by five directors, all of whom are practising vets. First established in 1923, the veterinary group now has 3 locations catering to small animals and equine as well as specialist needs.

Locations

3 location based in Hampshire, United Kingdom

Practice Type

Independent

Practice Management System