Pet ownership reached an all-time high of 70% of US households in 20201, leading to skyrocketing visit volume at Vet ERs in 2020 and 2021. Animal Emergency and Trauma Center in Poulsbo, Washington, part of a larger chain of nation-wide clinics, needed to address the challenges of maintaining social distancing and trying to keep their workflow as low-contact as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. To create a safer experience for patients and staff, they instructed patients to call to check in.This process overwhelmed the staff with inbound call volume both from registration as well as pet owners trying to get updates on the wait or their pets’ condition.
While AETC already received many positive reviews, they did not fully capture the sentiment of their client base. The angriest clients (who often arrived with unrealistic expectations) posted disproportionately more often: 12% of all reviews on AETC Google listing posted one star. Furthermore, 29% of the reviews came from “local guides” – the heaviest posters – who did not necessarily represent all of AETC’s clients.
AETC implemented ER Express’ mobile check-in solution to let pet owners wait at home, receive and respond to text message updates, and see how many pets the ER already had in line.
In addition to making the clients and their pets more comfortable, mobile check-in gave an objective measure of the wait. ER Express’ secure two-way texting workflow helped manage client expectations without generating unnecessary phone calls – freeing up the staff to handle more complex and sensitive discussions on the phone.
At discharge, pet owners received a text-message survey with three short questions. The ER Express system captures all the feedback in its secure reporting tool that AETC can review in real-time. Furthermore, it prompts each client to share a review on AETC’s Google listing.
Per Google’s Prohibited Content Policy, ER Express does not use reviewing-gating2, i.e., regardless of positive or negative sentiment, the respondent gets a prompt to share their review on Google.
Since implementing mobile-check-in, review volume and recency have doubled. Prior to launching mobile-check-in in April 2021, AETC’s Google listing received eight reviews per month in the pandemic era (defined as September 2020 to March 20213). Since April 2020, the listing has received an average of 24 reviews per month – almost one each day. In total, AETC has received almost as many Google Reviews in the first five months of mobile check as it did in the prior seven years. The Search Engine Journal reports that 69% of survey respondents consider only reviews posted in the last three months, and 40% only consider reviews written in the last two weeks.4
Because all discharged clients receive a survey, AETC’s listing received not only more reviews, but it also received more positive reviews AND fewer one-star reviews. The average star rating rose 7% (from 4.4 to 4.7) and the percentage of one-star reviews decreased 50% (from 10% of all reviews to 5% of all reviews, time period-adjusted). Additionally, AETC’s listing better represented its full client base, as it depended less on “Local Guides,” who tend post more frequently wherever they go. The percentage of reviews from local guides decreased from 14% to 7%, suggesting an increase in the likelihood of other clients to post a review, rather than just the clients who already had a pre-disposition to post.
3Based on how Google date-stamps reviews. Google does not show the precise date, but rather the relative time elapsed since the reviewer posted their review. Since we conducted the study in September 2021, we do not precise date stamps for reviews posted between March 2020 (the actual start of the pandemic) and September 2020. However, one should note that visit volume did not immediately begin rising in March 2020 – it lagged the rise in pet ownership.