Harrison Family Vets Case Study
FOREWORD BY JUSTIN
In over 10 years in the veterinary industry, I’ve learned so much about how marketing principles can be applied to help practices do what they do best: care for patients and look after their team members. Now as the founder of Practice Made Purrfect, I have an opportunity to share this knowledge with as many of the fantastic people who give their time and energy to keeping pets as healthy as possible. In this new series of blogs, I’ll be casting my eye over the industry and highlighting trends and techniques that excite me.
This week I’m reporting back from Harrison Family Vets, a new venture who have the distinction of being one of the country’s first practices to launch post-pandemic. Seeing as I know the founders from my time at White Cross Vets, which they grew to a £13.5 million business, I was interested to see their take on the modern veterinary practice.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH: HARRISON FAMILY VETS ARE TAKING THE CHANCE TO INNOVATE
Everyone who has been involved in veterinary practice knows that there are so many things that we like to moan about, but never do anything to change.
That’s not just in our industry either. More often than not, it’s easier to complain about an issue and then forget about it than it is to challenge it head on and think of a solution.
But what if you were building a practice from scratch? You’d have the perfect opportunity to consider those issues beforehand and bake the solution into the practice before your first client walked through the door.
And that’s exactly what Harrison Family Vets are doing.
As a new, venture with grand plans, the aim is to fix the things that they see as being broken in veterinary practice. Which means a licence to be brave, bold and different.
I was invited down to investigate their innovations myself – and to be honest, I came away very impressed.
Our industry can be painfully slow to evolve, and I have huge respect for someone taking such risks, across multiple locations, and with their own money.
Here are a few of the things that made an impression on me, and some quick advice on how you can use them as inspiration in your own practice.
HOW HARRISON'S ARE DIFFERENT
THE RECEPTION RETHINK
When you walk into a Harrison practice, one thing is immediately evident: they’ve revolutionised veterinary receptions.
The desk is gone. And I couldn’t be happier.
A reception desk is a barrier to interaction between your front of house team and your clients and patients. Getting rid of it fosters a more natural relationship.
As well as this, phones are no longer in reception, they’re answered in the adjacent office. The worst-case scenario for customer service is a client walking into the practice and waiting while the receptionist is on the phone.
What Harrison have is their client care team walking among clients, fussing over their pets, and operating the VetIT practice management system through iPads. And it works fantastically.
Also in the reception area, seating has been replaced by rows of pods, with clients and their pets each having their own private pod. It’s comfortable, it gives patients security and it works particularly well for cats, such as my Poppy Gabriella!
TV screens are installed in each pod displaying promotions and pet lifestyle content.
All in, it’s a big investment in fit out cost and clinic design, and it’s not without risk.
But they’ve highlighted issues and used all their knowhow to find a solution. I’m excited to hear feedback from clients as the practice matures.
GOODBYE TO CASH, GOOD RIDDANCE TO CASHING UP
I know it’s a cliche, but that’s for a reason: it’s the definition of madness to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
I’ve never spoken to a practice that enjoys cashing up at the end of the day.
And it isn’t just that it’s a nuisance.
It’s done after closing when the team should be making their way home to friends and family. It’s costly to process and mistakes are often made. And the worst thing is a team member has to risk their life driving thousands of pounds to a high street bank – usually in a car that’s not insured for business use.
Most practices will recognise this problem. Harrison's have binned it.
It’s not that they’re refusing to take cash at all – that would still be a bit too aggressive at this point, as lots of people still prefer cash. Which is their prerogative.
But they’re encouraging all of their clients to pay by card or Apple Pay. And if they do insist on cash, they’re only giving change as credit onto an account.
From what I saw, everything just works… better. Clients were fine with the arrangement, team members don’t have cash-induced headaches and everyone is a winner.
TAKING STOCK OF MERCHANDISING
Toys and treats account for a tiny fraction of practice profitability yet vets still persist with a dusty chaotic looking stand with handwritten, uncompetitive prices.
Let’s be honest – Pets at Home have this market nailed.
We should focus on what we can do better than anyone – and that’s delivering high quality veterinary services.
Harrison Family Vets evidently agree with me on this, and they’ve wished farewell to the toys and treats stand.
In place of messy shelves of badly merchandised food, they have one bag of each prescription diet displayed on considered shelving in the reception area.
For regular pet food the practice has an affiliate relationship with Butternut Box, who will deliver food every month on a subscription model, while the practice gets a kick back for each order without having to lift a finger.
The client simply signs up via a tablet on the wall. They even give wellness plan members a discount on their first orders, adding even more value to the plan, driving marketability, sign-ups and profit.
LITTLE DETAILS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
Innovation doesn’t have to be limited to big, expensive gestures.
For example, at Harrison, every member of the team wears the same scrubs, rather than different roles wearing different colours.
It means that they all look like one big team – and let’s be honest, not many of our clients understand or really care about the difference between an SVN and ACA!
The outfits are completed with sleek white trainers, a more practical upgrade on Crocs.
The prep areas are another example of a small idea having a real impact.
Every pet that spends the day in practice as an inpatient has their name written on a heart shaped sticker, which is then popped onto the wall, meaning that pet is furever part of the practice.
It’s already a really striking and heartwarming addition to what we all know can be a fairly functional area of our practice. And the longer they keep at it, the stronger the impression it’ll make on clients when they give them a tour of the practice.
In the past I’ve had to fight to convince practices just to put plasterboard over whitewashed breeze blocks in their consult rooms. If we can make these areas more inviting, I know that clients will feel the difference.
WHAT CAN YOUR PRACTICE LEARN FROM HARRISON FAMILY VETS?
Sure, the pods in reception are a pricy innovation, and I understand that you may struggle to convince your front of house team that they no longer need the sanctuary of their reception desk.
But other than that, none of the practical changes we’re talking about here would cost much to put into place in your practice.
Certainly putting renewed thought into scrubs and the appearance of prep rooms is something you could tackle today.
And I can’t stress enough how much I’d recommend following Harrison’s policy on cash – it will just make life so much easier for you.
More than this though, what I’d encourage practices to take from Harrison Family Vets is the spirit of innovation 💡.
We all know the pressure points and inconveniences our teams deal with every day. Talking to our clients will reveal a few more, too.
If you embrace the challenge of planning how to tackle them, and embrace out of the box solutions, not only could you improve life for your team, but you could see the service you offer your clients boosted.
Of course, it’s not always easy to see what the correct solutions are. If you have a problem in your practice, give us a shout, and we’ll guide you to a solution that works for you.
Have you spotted a practice who are really innovating? Let us know, and we’ll review what makes them inspiring in a future blog.