This is the final installment of a 9-part series of articles intended to walk you through all the ins-and-outs of purchasing capital equipment for a veterinary practice. Far too often important steps/factors are glossed over during the sales process, items that may not be clearly defined on product literature. Missed information can lead to confusion prior to purchase, other information gaps can lead to more serious issues down the line, when there is no turning back.
In this series, we covered the details and importance of:
- Evaluating Your Practice
- Assessing Your Needs
- Evaluating the Market
- Pre-Demo Homework
- Scheduling a Demo
- Post Demo
- Final Decision Time
- The Waiting Game
- Post-Install Support
You have a brand-new piece of equipment. Your whole staff is trained and excited to use it. And your practice is about to start expanding like never before. End of story, right? Why even bother with this article?
Because you’re not that naïve. You’ve been a thoughtful consumer through this entire process and so you understand the importance of being prepared and informed. This is not to take away from any of that initial excitement; you’ll need/want that enthusiasm to market your new modality and to keep your staff engaged and continuing to recommend/use it. But you should still have some questions and some needs, maybe even immediately.
More Applications Support
As diligently as you coordinated your install, I imagine you have a few staff members that weren’t able to get the full training, whether they were on vacation or working so hard that they couldn’t peel away. I’m sure you appointed some power-users to train the others, but who do you call if you need more applications support, now or in the future?
The equipment company who sold you your new technology has a duty to make sure you have what you need to be successful. And if you’ve followed the guide of this article series, you chose to partner with a company that is set up to do that, not a company that will just resurface when you have a need to upgrade in 5-7 years down the road.
The applications specialist who trained you initially, if performed properly, left a card behind with contact information. And you always have your equipment specialist to help as well. Now…be mindful of what you actually need and remember that the full-day of onsite training (if not a separate line item, then in the terms of your purchase) in your deal was “purchased” and required some travel expense and time from the company and its employee. So asking for “another one for free” is not a reasonable request.
That said, if you “forgot how to do something” or have a patient where you want to be able to use an advanced feature that wasn’t covered in training (either because you thought you wouldn’t need it or you didn’t have a patient with appropriate pathology), you are absolutely entitled and should feel free to reach out to the applications specialist for that refresher.
In some cases, you don’t know what you don’t know until you start using your equipment and expanding its applications. And that was part of the plan to begin with: to incorporate technology that will help you expand your practice. To do so, you may need more education especially on the more advanced uses. But where do you go for that?
Continuing Education can come in a variety of forms, some RACE-accredited, others useful but not officially recognized, others generally useless and just in place to make a company not look negligent. In any case, there are a few indicators of quality education:
- Quality of Instructors: look for credentials like DACVR, DACVIM, RDMS, DVM
- Breadth/variety of courses: multi-tiered courses are best so that similarly-skilled students get the appropriate level of attention (vs solving for the lowest common denominator); look for basic- to advanced-level course as well as specialized application (e.g. cardiac, soft tissue, hemodynamics)
- Ease of scheduling: there should be easy, online access to the full schedule of courses, which should be held more than 1-2 per year
- Instructor-to-student ratio: you will learn better with smaller groups; granted there may be some lecture-level teaching, but when it comes down to the hands-on portion, you don’t want to be one of a group of 5+ people scanning a single patient
- Accreditation: not only do you want these courses to count towards the annual requirements of your license, but accreditation means that some governing body has sanctioned the quality and level of the education.
Sound is proud to run the Academy of Veterinary Imaging, which is often referred to as the industry’s Gold Standard for Veterinary Ultrasound Education for the last 17 years because we have successfully educated over 16k students & teach over 35+ courses a year. Each course is 2-3 days long, which allows our handpicked expert instructors a 3:1 student to teacher ratio, which will give you maximum hands on probe time.
It should go without saying that after delivery/install you have both an email address and a phone number to call if something goes wrong with your equipment. One thing to take note of is WHO that email/call goes to. Is it the same company that sold you the product, or is it to the manufacturer, or in worst case, is it to a 3rd party repair company?
The latter is not really acceptable, and since you followed this article series, you made better partnership choices than that. But depending on the level of equipment (basic ultrasound up to advanced CT/MRI) you may be directed to different levels of support, some of which go all the way up to the manufacturer level.
In any case, you should have one number to call, then you should get “triaged” to the appropriate person based on your equipment and your individual issue. Wait times should be relatively short, and you should get clear communication on the timeline of any help/fixes required.
In some case, you have a support ticketing system or live chat built right into your equipment that gives you a direct line to the support engineers. In some cases, this system even offers you a way request features, report bugs, suggest improvements, and give you visibility to/ability to up-vote suggestions from other users in the install base. For example, UserVoice (https://www.uservoice.com) is built into every SmartDR system from Sound, as is a link to the Sound Experience Portal (https://apps.soundvet.com/help/) which is a password-protected back-end portal that includes help files/videos, live chat with support specialists, support ticketing, and more.
If this was not covered in your install/training or mentioned in your sales process, it may not exist, but it is worth a secondary ask to confirm.
You have signed paperwork with lots of fine print in the Terms & Conditions section, and odds are, what is/isn’t included in your warranty/service contract is listed there. That said, you should have a direct line (beyond that of your equipment sales specialist) to someone who can tell you exactly what your plan includes. Often Tech Support can answer this, but if you want a more robust explanation, ask for a Warranty Specialist to guide you through your plan.
Future Software/Hardware Features/Updates
Technology evolves, even within a given equipment system. Bugs are found and fixed, operating systems are updated, integrations are added. But how do you stay at the state-of-the-art? Some companies offer auto-updates that get pushed directly to your system/workstation. Some of these auto-update overnight, while others show an on-screen notification prompting you to download/install it. Sometimes a link is sent via email, other times a USB needs to be mailed and installed.
The bottom line is that you as the consumer should not have to go looking for updates or periodically checking to see if you are updated. Make sure you ask your equipment specialist which of the update procedures applies to your system so that you are at ease to know you stay on the cutting edge if applicable pending the modality.
If nothing goes wrong with your system, and you have all the training you need, there is no reason for the equipment company to reach out to you, right? WRONG. Companies need your feedback, and some even have dedicated Customer Experience/Success departments to monitor what their customers think of them on a regular basis.
The better companies are always measuring themselves via surveys and other post-sale touch-points. There are a few standards, not just in the veterinary equipment industry, but with business-to-business companies in general that can be used to gauge how well a company is viewed by its customers. You have probably heard of the Better Business Bureau (https://www.bbb.org) but that is generally geared more towards malignant complaints about a company.
More useful are things like Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Ratings (CSAT). Net Promoter Score is a measure of how likely a customer is to recommend that company to a peer. These often come by way of simple 1-3 question surveys that get right to the point. You can read more about it here (https://www.netpromoter.com/know/), but this is a good indicator that has transformed how companies get measured for dependability and growth.
CSAT scores often come from more in-depth surveys. Diligent companies push these out at several points of the customer journey:
- After installation is complete
- After a technical support issue has been resolved
- After any interaction with company employees
- At random times, to get a secular view of the customer impression
Companies SHOULD post these data on their website, and beyond that there are 3rd party services that monitor these trends across industries, some of which you have to subscribe to, others you have to pay for: https://blog.hubspot.com/service/net-promoter-score-benchmarks.