Delighted sat down with Gretchen Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of Emancipet, a non-profit spay-and-neuter clinic based in Austin, to find out how a customer-feedback program has become integral to its success.
Can you just give us a little background of Emancipet, what it does, and what you do there?
Absolutely. Emancipet was founded in 1999 as a non-profit, high-volume spay/neuter clinic in Austin, Texas, but since then we’ve grown to establish a network of clinics, nationwide. Emancipet’s mission is to make spay/neuter services and veterinary care affordable and accessible to all pet owners. We perform 30,000 to 35,000 spay/neuters-a-year. We serve more than 100,000 pets with vaccines and preventive treatments, and we’ve recently started providing low-cost heartworm treatments and low-cost dental.
Where are you located? I see you have offices or facilities all around.
Our headquarters is in Austin, and we have five clinics in what we call the Central Texas area. We have one clinic in Houston. We’re opening another one this year in Houston, and we opened a clinic in Philadelphia in February 2017. We also have a mobile clinic.
These are actual clinics where people can go for either free or low-cost services?
That’s right. Our spay/neuter surgeries are $69.00, whether it’s a male or female, cat or dog. All of our services are low-cost. We do provide some free services, and we advocate for cities to fund free services so the pet owners who aren’t able to afford the $69.00 can be subsidized. We also conduct an outreach program where we will go into the neighborhoods where people probably have never taken their pets to a vet. It’s not because they don’t want their pets to be healthy – they do. Some pet owners just don’t have access to a vet, the cost is prohibitive, or they don’t have transportation.
That’s wonderful. What’s the thinking behind all this?
We do all of this non-judgmentally. We have a foundational belief that people, if they have access, want to provide health services for their pets.
As the COO, you’re involved in operations across-the-board, I imagine. How are you directly connected to the kind of customer feedback that you get through using Delighted? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Sure. I first found Delighted through Geckoboard. Geckoboard is what we use as the organization dashboard to keep track of all our key performance indicators. I take all the data from the clinics so we can see how we are progressing toward goals, and then I compare the Delighted numbers with the KPIs. We consider the NPS to be a “Happiness Score.” I compare the Happiness Scores from each of our clinics with how they’re doing operationally. For example, if we’re not meeting goals and the Happiness Scores are lower than normal, then I ask the manager of that community if anything different has happened recently. Have we had more clients than usual, do we have new staff, or are there any other operational changes? The scores are not used negatively; instead, we use the scores to help leadership and management determine what kind of support is needed for the staff who are providing direct service.
That’s really interesting. How else do you use the feedback?
Emancipet has a core value of compassionate customer service: We serve people and animals with kindness, warmth, and compassion. If our staff receives high Happiness Scores, it shows that they are being compassionate with pets and people, which then translates into an opportunity to serve MORE pets and people. For instance, we have programs for pet owners who are seeking free services. If those pet owners are “happy” and promote Emancipet, they might also be sharing with their friends and family that free spay/neuter is accessible for their pets too. The recommendations help Emancipet spread the word to pet owners who need access to affordable care for their pets.
So, you actually measure the NPS score of each separate clinic? Do you share the information across clinics?
We do. Each week, we email all pet owners from the previous week who received care for their pets. Organization leadership, including directors and managers, have access to the Geckoboard, and they can see the Happiness Scores and their KPIs every day. I encourage them to celebrate the happiness often.
What have you been finding? I mean, have you found this kind of customer surveying to be valuable and is it something that you’re going to continue to do?
Oh, it’s definitely something I am going to continue. In fact, I want to grow the program even more. We just recently connected Delighted with Groove. I’ll respond to all the detractors if it’s a general question. If it’s a branch or clinic-specific feedback, the local manager maintains the relationship with that person so the manager can create a meaningful connection with the client and they will continue to bring their pet to Emancipet for veterinary care. I’ve just started within the last month responding to every single promoter using Groove
Is the verbatim response that you get with the NPS survey as important to you as the number?
Yes, absolutely. Each week, I send a digest of happy comments to each branch so they can see how much everyone appreciates their hard work. If an individual staff member is mentioned in the feedback, then we try to recognize them individually also.
Do you have any plans to expand your customer feedback program or do anything differently?
I’m still trying to figure out more ways to determine our mission impact on pet owners. Combining operational and customer service data could possibly tell us if we’re reaching people who need affordable and accessible veterinary care for their pets. Emancipet is really a wonderful organization; our core values encourage the best experience for all of our customers and employees. We want to spread happiness!
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