APL Accounting News November 2015

Secret Shopper – the Petbarn / Greencross experience

Zack is not only our CEO, he is also our secret shopping weapon.

It was time to get Zack a new lead, so instead of ordering online, this time we decided we would go to Petbarn and see what the experience was like.

On entering the local Petbarn, we found the store itself very presentable with a lot of stock and a lot of space to easily move around with Zack in tow. The small number of other customers in the shop had also brought their pet with them and Petbarn seems to encourage this behaviour, which we must admit is quite nice.

Free treats were available at a counter in the entrance along with a water bowl.

While we were browsing, staff came to help us and were friendly towards Zack. They helped us fit a dog collar and lead and then also helped us try on Zack’s halloween t-shirt which was on display in various sizes.

So the actual shopping experience was pleasant and confirmed what most of us probably already know – to compete at this level on retail, a veterinary clinic would probably struggle in both having the space, the stock and the level of staffing required to do this.

This is why we are so proactive in getting veterinary clinics to increase profitability through selling of professional services and not through retailing – because in the area of retail, the level of competition is high and it’s easy for non-veterinary players to to offer a good service. Professional services on the other hand have higher profit margins and of course can only be offered by trained professionals like yourselves.

But the really interesting bit came at the checkout, where we paid for our goods. It became really obvious how this group is trying to leverage off having a large customer base in retail and then trying to funnel then into Greencross veterinary services.

At the checkout, the cashier immediately asked for our email address. I’m pretty sure that they would have also entered what type of pet we had (and still to confirm if they got our postal address – can’t remember). Zack was signed up for their special rewards programme and will get emails regarding all special offers that may relate to his needs (eg. food type he eats).

Considering that the closest Greencross practice is about 7km from this Petbarn and that there are other veterinary practices within a 1 km radius, the cashier was still very confident in promoting the Greencross practice and gave us a brochure which would allow Zack to have a free health check at the Greencross clinic and promoted a few other services including the health plans.

When we arrived home 30 minutes later, there was already an email in our mail box with more information about the closest Greencross and promoting once again the health plans and free consultations. We even had the option to book his appointment online right away.

I think what was most impressive was the seamless way in which the marketing machine worked and once again shows how veterinary practices are going to have to spend more time making sure that reception staff can offer the same consistency in getting information from clients and keeping the practice database clean and current – surprisingly this is an ongoing challenge for veterinary businesses where the reception area is much busier and reception staff deal with this in a manner somewhat inferior to the Petbarn giants.

Also of some concern to small veterinary practices will be the fact that if Petbarn can approach the market with such consistency, then within a year they will have aggregated a mailing list of millions of pet owners, which will then allow Greencross to have some very targeted marketing campaigns – many of your current clients will be exposed to these campaigns.

HOWEVER – and this is the VERY BIG question in our minds – does the pet owner market necessarily want this or are they wowed by it enough to move to another vet? To explain further, how would you feel after shopping for groceries at Coles if the cashier offered you a ‘free health check’ at one of their affiliated medical clinics? And here the opinion is likely to be somewhat divided, but we feel that this may look and feel a bit cheap to many pet owners. In particular, if a pet owner is really happy with the service offered by their current vet we feel that they are unlikely to move over to Greencross. On the other hand, it the pet owner is fairly indifferent about their vet, this may push them over the line.

So all in all, this experience tells us something else that we have all heard before, but probably need to hear again and again:
Veterinary practices with excellent customer service and bonded clients are less likely to be effected by this, if at all.
And secondly  – veterinary practices need to get better about keeping clean mailing lists and customer contact information so that they can promote their services to their existing customer base using emails, postal and text messaging campaigns.

We will be helping all of you in this arena, and have already started workshopping some of these areas in your businesses at our annual workshops. In particular, we will continue helping our veterinary clients to promote their services digitally, keep their databases clean and to aggregate information consistently at the reception desk.


Does your business reporting suffer from classic canine garbage disease?

Zack is a dog who is a couch potato and has an unusual life experience. His owners who were once exciting vets have now become boring accountants. They used to bring him into the exciting vet practice every day, now they bring him into a boring accounting office every day. This gives him a unique dog’s eye view on both professions.

Pictured above with his personal assistant Daisy at APL Headoffice. Daisy dressed in a pumpkin tutu and Zack in zombie t-shirt for staff halloween party!

I’m no stranger to garbage disease (defined as the classic canine condition where certain individuals are prone to eating any rubbish they find on the ground with a resulting acute gastro enteric event) – after all, I am a Beagle, so scavenging and coprophagia are some of my favourite pastimes.

This makes me more than qualified to discuss a similar condition that effects most veterinary practice management systems – Garbage disease where the data you get from your reports is rubbish!

And just like canine variety of the condition, it your strategic plans have garbage going in one end, unfortunately what comes out of the other end is ……… you know what (the smelly stuff).

But fortunately there is a cure!!!!!!!

For many years, practice management systems have produced reports, but these have never been consistent or had any way of being audited – until now.

A new product – the SMARTVETAPP is super cool and super clever. It sucks the data out of all the common practice management systems every 12 hours and builds beautiful business reports in the cloud.

It will also suck data from your Xero accounting file and combine reports from your accounting and practice management system – how cool is that?!! For the first time ever, this now allows production based reports because SMARTVETAPP can access both wages information from the accounting software and sales information from the practice management system.

And how are the reports audited? Well that’s where the developers of this very clever program have got the edge – They use APL Accountants to test the validity of the data and help with the building of the reports for the veterinary industry.

We stand by and highly recommend this product – no more manual searching through reams of reports! No more manual manipulation of error prone spreadsheets!

AND BEST OF ALL, NO GARBAGE DISEASE where poor information results in poor strategic planning.

With no setup costs, a 30 day free trial and a 90 day money back guarantee, what are you waiting for?
Go to http://www.smartvetapp.com and have a look for yourselves.

Please Note: Many of the comments in this publication are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information’s applicability to their particular circumstances. In particular, please note that ‘Zack’ is a dog and does not have opposable thumbs so has to type with his nose.