2020 has been a strange year. Many people coped with the loneliness and uncertainty of lockdowns and quarantines by adding a furry friend to the family. Pet ownership is way up because of the pandemic and has caused the pet industry to pivot and adapt.
As the number of customers has greatly increased, the pet industry has also had to deal with pandemic restrictions and changing health regulations. The only way to survive has been to stay close to customers, adopt digital solutions and pivot.
Brian Garish, president of Banfield Pet Hospital, said that although the way of doing business is now different, the company’s focus is still on building connections with pets and keeping its associates healthy while they continue to give care.
As an essential business, Banfield Hospitals has stayed open throughout the pandemic, but the store had to create new measures to keep associates, pets and clients safe. One of its major changes was introducing curbside dropoff for pets. Instead of owners walking their pets into the store, they now drop them off at the curb where a Banfield associate takes the pet into the hospital to perform the procedure and then brings them back when they are done. To help customers feel comfortable leaving their pets, Banfield built on its trustworthy reputation and increased its communication so that customers are still involved in every step of the process.
One of the most crucial aspects of pivoting during COVID has been digital transformation. Banfield was already working on a digital transformation, but it was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Now, clients can schedule services and access their pet’s records online. Everything can be done through an online portal or app to remove concerns and make clients’ lives easier and simpler.
The move to digital transformation helps both clients and associates, which then leads to a better experience for the pets. Instead of being weighed down by paperwork, Banfield associates can upload notes digitally to keep owners in the loop. Banfield is also working towards a green initiative to email all paperwork and receipts instead of printing hard copies.
Garish believes Banfield’s digital transformation has been effective because it is rooted in empathy. In his mind, strategy without empathy is wasted. To create the most effective digital transformation, Banfield encourages and facilitates conversations with its clients and its associates.
Digital transformation didn’t come about because it was a trend or an idea executives had—it came from listening to customers and having true two-way conversations. Banfield aims to be part of its clients’ lifestyles, even during a pandemic, but that can’t happen without real dialogue. Those conversations have continued during the pandemic as Banfield keeps in continual communication with its clients and associates about what is and isn’t working and how care can be improved.
Garish doesn’t see the pandemic pivot as temporary. He believes changes made in the last nine months will forever change the company and industry and re-affirm the need to put customers at the center of everything. Instead of a standardized path, customers want individual attention.
The pandemic won’t last forever, but the lasting effects of increased pet ownership will definitely stick around, and Banfield will be there every step of the way.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here.