If you’ve been reading the blog so far, the potential benefits of membership programs – increased loyalty, steady revenue stream, and consistent care for patients – should be clear. However, a key factor in launching a successful program is communicating the value of the membership to the customer. We can throw around numbers all day, but if the clientele doesn’t understand how a membership improves their care, the program is unlikely to get off the ground.
In the case of a sole proprietorship, the business owner can easily sell the program to the customers. They understand all the benefits, and have a vested interest in signing people up. But the larger the staff, the more crucial it becomes to educate, train, and motivate people to effectively sell the memberships.
The most common obstacle is that many employees in these positions don’t view themselves as salespeople. People don’t become Veterinary assistants, Dental Hygienists, or Nurse Practitioners with hopes of racking up upsells, so some pushback may occur. In these cases, the key is educating the staff on the value to the customer, rather than the value to the business.
Let’s talk about a Veterinary practice as an example. As we discussed last week and in previous posts, membership programs encourage regular Vet visits, thus leading to healthier pets. As opposed to putting off care for financial reasons, pet owners on membership plans pay a small amount each month, and gain regular access to their practitioner. This allows frequent check-ups, as opposed to only visiting when huge problems arise. Now, while the staff at the Vet practice has little interest in selling membership programs, they likely have a strong interest in helping pets. If the employee believes the membership helps pet owners take better care of their pets, they’ll be much more likely to bring it up at each visit and thus plant the seed. The key is spending enough time with your employees so that they honestly believe in the benefit to the pet, and aren’t simply playing lip service because the boss told them so.
That being said, a little extra motivation never hurt anyone, so an added incentive program can help kick things off. One example is putting $5-10 per new member into a bonus pool, and after 6 months splitting the pool amongst the staff. Alternatively, you can track individual sales numbers amongst employees, thus encouraging a little healthy competition around the workplace. Automated membership software can easily be used to track these incentives, making them easy to implement. The key is to set a bonus amount that will make things interesting, while keeping it modest enough that employees aren’t pushed to “hard sell” patients at every turn.
Next week, we’ll continue discussing successful implementation of membership programs, focusing on setting up payment cycles and the advantages of monthly versus annual payments.