Helpshift Aids VCA in Pet Wellness

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VCA provides veterinarian care and related services through 817 animal hospitals and 60 diagnostic laboratories across the United States and Canada. Beyond vaccinations, surgery, and emergency care, the Los Angeles-based company wants to be the top provider of animal wellness as well, says Brendan Lynch, its vice president of digital strategy and client experience.

That’s a tall order. VCA has a reputation for excellent care at its facilities, and its website is a treasure trove of valuable information, but too many pet owners—as many as 39 percent—turn to the often undependable "Dr. Google" when they leave a VCA facility, according to Lynch. "There's a lot of untrusted and unreliable advice online," he says.

To combat that, VCA was looking to launch a mobile app with free live chat for members of its VCA CareClub, which offers customized wellness plans, 12-month payment plans, and other amenities.

Whatever solution it put in place, though, had to integrate with all of the other systems VCA already had in place, and it had to work across both iOS and Android platforms.

It found all that and more in Helpshift, which also wound up offering the most cost-effective solution.

VCA started slowly, launching a pilot in Texas in the summer of 2017. The app was so successful that VCA launched it nationwide after just a few months. The number of users quickly multiplied, requiring Helpshift and VCA to implement a few operational adjustments to ensure that the app could continue to provide the same level of instant and personalized service.

"We were getting fantastic client reviews," Lynch says. "We had a great uptick in the number of users. The app provides a tailor-made guide for maintaining a healthy pet. It offers easy-to-follow advice for every pet, based on the pet's age and species, and it enables a member to book an appointment in real time."

But even with all the helpful advice available through the app, there are still times when pet parents need to speak to a live vet, and pet emergencies don't just happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Helpshift not only facilitates the conversation between doctor and patient, but upon completion of each online chat session, pet files are updated accordingly so that the doctor is completely up to speed when the pet arrives for subsequent appointments.

Since the initial rollout in October 2017, VCA CareClub has implemented several additional back-end features, like automated routing. Based on factors like vet availability, specialty, and backlog, Helpshift’s automated routing ensures that the best vet is connected with the pet owner in real time.

The original service-level agreement called for chats to start within 40 seconds, but VCA has consistently beaten it, responding to most chat requests within 30 seconds.

The app also regularly sends out push notifications to remind CareClub members to use and engage with the chat feature more frequently.

The app and live chat feature have both been extremely successful, Lynch says. Sixty-five percent of users say they are likely to renew their memberships, with a similar percentage saying they are likely to make a referral due to the existence of the live chat feature.

Additionally, VCA CareClub has maintained customer satisfaction ratings of 4.8 on a 5-point scale, and the app is seeing 45 percent usage growth month over month. Lynch says the mobile app and chat feature are also helping to drive customer loyalty increases.

In the future, Lynch would like to increase the scale and use of the app to increase customer satisfaction, retention, and referrals even further. 

The Payoff

Since adopting the HelpShift mobile app and live chat, VCA's CareClub has seen the following results:

  • most chat requests answered in 30 seconds or less;
  • consistent customer satisfaction ratings of 4.8 on a 5-point scale;
  • 65 percent of members reporting they would renew; and
  • 65 percent of members reporting they would refer others to VCA.

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