By Steve Dale
As the pandemic hit, millennials and zillennials (Gen Z), the most influential generations in many decades, had already begun to take charge of veterinary medicine. And cats – who had been under medicalized for decades – were being paid attention to. These generations are as obsessed with their cats as they are their devices1.
During the pandemic, millennials and zillennials led the way in adoptions of all sorts of companion animals, from leopard geckos to shelter and rescue dogs, and cats to Guinea pigs. According to the ASPCA (and several other sources) as many as one in five Americans may have adopted a pet from the onset of the pandemic in late 2019 through 20202.
When you think about it, millennials’ and Gen Zs’ attachment to their pets isn’t a shocker. These are the generations that refer to pets as “fur babies” and to themselves as pet parents.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) Pet Owners Survey 2017-2018, just over 70 percent of millennial dog caretakers and 55 percent of cat caretakers say their pet “is like a child.” Odds are those number may have increased since.
According to a study by Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) and Banfield Pet Hospital entitled, Millennials and the Human Animal Bond3:
- 77 percent of millennials would have a more favorable view of their veterinarian if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them;
- 74 percent of millennials would be more likely to visit their veterinarian if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them; and
- 25 percent of millennials always talk to their veterinarians about the health benefits of pet ownership, more than other generations.
In short, the emotional well-being of their fur babies matters at least equivalent to their medical health. Wrestle an unwilling dog or fractious cat and the millennial or Gen-Z client will likely say “goodbye.” Worse, they offer a heartfelt nasty review on social media. These demographics feel empowered by social media, and they don’t hesitate to use to express their perceptions.
Word of mouth has always been the most impactful form of advertising. What’s changed is that that so many can hear or see those words, which can be spread potentially to thousands or more nearly instantaneously.
Offer a diagnosis a client in these demographics that they’ve not heard of – and instantly they’re checking their phones with Dr. Google, before even departing the exam room.
The assumption then becomes these (millennial and Gen-Z) clients have no loyalty4,5. That’s not true. For starters, they’re obviously loyal to their fur babies. If there’s any doubt….6
- 92 percent of millennials are as concerned about their pet’s health as their own health.
- More millennials would rather spend time with their pet than with their spouse, parents, and friends, combined.
- 86 percent of millennials would risk their own life to save their pet.
In fact, they are loyal to brands they care about4,5.
So, how should Veterinary Technicians respond to these generations?
First, be proactive and reassuring; they are going online to search. Support their efforts so they go to viable websites; anything ending with a .edu is a good place to start. The American Association of Feline Practitioners offers lots of cat information for the public at www.catfriendly.com and there’s the Fear Free website for pet parents where all the stories are reviewed by a boarded behavior technician and/or a veterinary behaviorist, www.fearfreehappyhomes.com. There’s my website, www.stevedale.tv and countless others which you may deem credible. Not only are you offering viable websites, you are demonstrating that you care and you want to help. Millennials and Gen-Z want to do their own homework but you will usually be deemed with high regard for helping out.
If we’re talking about their babies – like all parents, they simply want to know you care, and they actually DO want to hear from you. However, their preferred means of communication isn’t the same as what it was back in the day. While previous generations were patient to receive their answers, millennials and Gen-Zers want to know answers yesterday, and also have the attention spans of those cats they love so much.
All this is one reason why following up by text is so important, provided you get their permission to do so. Not only is this means of communication preferred by these clients, it’s so much faster than playing a game of phone tag. And do you really want to talk to that client at length when you can text?
The average text is 13 seconds; the average call 90 seconds. That’s a savings of 176 hours a year! And this data doesn’t account for missed calls back and forth which may add up to lots of wasted time for vet clinics and increasingly frustrated clients7.
When clients call in – with services such as Weave, instantly the client’s name, pet’s name, and additional information appears – from pet birthdays to heartworm is due, as examples. Not only can systems like this be an efficient means to track product sales and appointments, but also provides a personal touch. All generations appreciate that. Who doesn’t want to feel special?
Instead of a follow up visit – when you may be overbooked – a Zoom call (when appropriate medically) with a technician or nurse might not only be preferred by the client but may benefit the practice – and it’s about time techs are asked to use their expertise and further develop a relationship with clients..
Appointments are less likely to be forgotten about and cancelled for any reason when calendar reminders are emailed.
Millennials and Gen-Z clients also typically prefer the technology of Apple Pay or Venmo. All of this is beneficial to you.
According to a Pulse Survey from Weave, two in five Gen-Zers believe their veterinarian is technologically “outdated.” The survey suggests 34 percent of zillennials want to see similar technology to that used routinely in human medicine, such as digital portals to communicate with doctors and schedule appointments, even to receive quick tips8.
The message is that millennials and zillennials care passionately about their fur babies. It’s not that they are disloyal – it’s that they prefer to communicate differently, and considering such changes in communication may benefit practices, and specifically technicians in several ways.
Opinions and statements in The NAVTA Journal are those of the authors and not necessarily those of NAVTA, unless so stated. NAVTA assumes no responsibility for, and does not warrant the accuracy or appropriateness of, recommendations or opinions of the authors or of any product, service, or technique referred to in The NAVTA Journal.
1 Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Spark a Public Interest in Pet Adoption, Ho, J; Hussain, S; Spragano, O; Front. Vet. Sci., 07 May 2021 Sec. Veterinary Humanities and Social Sciences, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2021.647308/full
2New ASPCA Survey Shows Overwhelming Majority of Dogs and Cats Acquired During the Pandemic Are Still in Their Homes, May 26, 2021 https://www.aspca.org/about-us/press-releases/new-aspca-survey-shows-overwhelming-majority-dogs-and-cats-acquired-during
3 Millennials and the Human Animal Bond, study of Banfield/Human Animal Bond Research Initiative; September, 2016 https://www.banfield.com/en/about-banfield/newsroom/press-releases/2016/millennials-and-the-human-animal-bond
4 Kasasa Exchange: https://communityrising.kasasa.com/gen-x-gen-y-gen-z/ 07/06/2021
5 Millennials: Breaking the Myths, Nielson Company Report, January, 2014, https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2014/millennials-breaking-the-myths.html
6 Weave Research Study, 2019. https://www.getweave.com/study-shows-millennials-demand-personalized-care-for-their-pets-to-remain-loyal-to-their-vets/
7 The Modern Veterinary Clinic Communication is the Future: How the latest tech can reduce inefficiencies, retain good employees, and build client relationships 2021 https://tinyurl.com/2p89d4hv
8 Survey: Gen Z, Millennials Want More Modern, Easy Interactions With Their Vet, Rueckert, P; 2022; https://tinyurl.com/ycy3uvfe