Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Business is a part of Veterinary practice…when will we realise!

By Adeel Khan, 5th Year, University Of Nottingham

The sooner we realise that as vets we have to consider the business aspect of veterinary medicine the sooner we can improve our relationship with our clients, increase our client base, increase our profits and most importantly increase our quality of care.

Luckily at Nottingham Vet School we have a business module where we are taught about all these important skills. With these skills in mind and an interest in business I decided to undertake a two week Business EMS placement at Onswitch, the UK’s leading veterinary business consultancy. Dedicated to equine work and wanting to do an internship after graduating I spent my time at Onswitch auditing one of their clients; an equine practice in the UK.

Looking back at the two weeks, all I can say is that it is simple stuff! We all know when we are receiving great customer service when we go shopping then why can’t we provide the same level of service to our clients? Point to note here is that I said client, there is no doubt in the world that we try our utmost and go out of our way to provide a great clinical service. What we don’t do is provide great customer service.

Factors important in great veterinary customer services include how the vet communicates with the client, how the practice presents themselves to the client, how the practice appears on social media, how the receptionist staff answer the phone and how the practice contacts clients.

As part of my audit on the equine practice I looked at a variety of components that are explained below:
  • ·         Online Presence. This is extremely important as clients are using social media and the internet more and more, whether that’s to attempt diagnosis, figure out treatments or to decide on which vets to use! I looked at the practices own presence online and how well they are using social media and then comparing that to their competitors.
  • ·         Site Audit. This involved spending time at the practice and seeing how they run their day to day activities. Going on ambulatory calls I looked at the practices performance, effectiveness and customer service skills.
  • ·         Mystery Shopping. Not only did I mystery shop the practice but I also shopped the competitors and compared it to the practice. The first direct contact a potential client has with a practice is over the phone and so that one call can make a huge difference.
  • ·         Key opinion leaders research. This is more so important in equine practice than small or farm practices. In addition to family and friends, horse owners actively seek advice of various stakeholders who have the knowledge and a respected opinion on the matter. Research was undertaken to source key opinion leaders (KOLs) and they were subsequently rung in a similar manner to mystery shopping. Particular attention was given to which equine practice they would recommend and subsequently what their opinions were of the practice that I was auditing. The KOLs included farriers, registered equine dental technicians, livery yards, and riding instructors.
  • ·         Net Promoter Score (NPS) Data. NPS is an extremely useful tool used worldwide to gauge the customer’s attitude and position towards a company. The NPS can be applied to a variety of businesses and firms including equine practices. By using a series of simple questions the customers are split into one of three categories: promoters, passives and detractors. Promoters are the loyal clients, which will continue to use you and recommend you to others. Passives are those clients may be satisfied with the service but due to a lack of enthusiasm towards the practice, they are easily distracted by competitors and their offers. Detractors are the unhappy clients that are a threat to the business due to their ability to damage the practices reputation.

Analysing all this data and using this information I was able to mention many recommendations and novel methods that would allow the practice to improve their current work, be more efficient and increase their client base.

Why Onswitch?

After two weeks at Onswitch, this is just some of the reasons why I loved doing Business EMS (BEMS).
  • ·         Part of the team. You are an equal member of the team. I got my OWN DESK AND PHONE! This isn’t like a small animal CEMS where you might get to wipe the table down. At Onswitch you get involved!
  • ·         Independent. Yes you are auditing a real practice with real data. The staff at Onswitch HQ are really nice and are there for you if you need anything but you’ve got a job and so get on with it!
  • ·         Working Life. Just like a normal job you are expected to arrive on time, work hard 9-5 and make sure the work gets done.
  • ·         Real World Learning. There isn’t any made up practice or scenario. This is a REAL practice with REAL competitors and REAL problems
  • ·         CV. From such an experienced and dedicated team you not only get to mention this on your CV but they will put the time and effort into helping you write the perfect CV. They know what the employer wants to see!
  • ·         BAKE OFF. Who doesn’t love a good cake? Onswitch do! You get the opportunity to compete in the BEMS Bake off with the current BEMS star baker being me!!!
  • ·         Free lunch. Which student doesn’t love a free lunch? On your last day you get taken out for a lunch courtesy of the boss. In addition to this you get a goody bag of treats including vouchers to join consult training days and a t-shirt! Freebies aside, its such a nice caring team.

I could carry on mentioning the amazing things about BEMS at Onswitch but the important part is the real world learning. I believe that practice audits should be incorporated into the veterinary curriculum. Nottingham does it for sure and it is very important yet very simple! I really hope to see the veterinary world take business more seriously and understand its importance. 

If after reading this you have any queries about the process or my work then please contact me via my email on or contact Onswitch and let them show you how to really improve your practice.


  1. Excellent blogpost and you really understand critical aspects of being a successful, value creating professional. I wish I would have been taught and had this insight at graduation - 15 years ago. Customer first and expectation management is a valuable lesson for Vet Schools nationwide to teach new vets.
    Nottingham - and with the help of Onswitch - is paving the way forward for Vet Schools and hopefully all the vet schools should take notice. I know Surrey University is getting onboard but why not try and get the rest to join them?

  2. Adeel.......Excellent and needed blogpost. I'm a Business and Executive Coach. I specialize in supporting Veterinarians and Veterinary Practices to enhance their business acumen. One piece I would add is the "emotional Intelligence" quotient i.e., our self awareness of our emotions, how we're perceived by clients, co-workers, our body language, how we manage our emotions and the emotions of others around us. This is key in business!

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