Working from home has become a reality for many Americans amid the pandemic, but Christina Freeman started working remotely for Adobe Animal Hospital in 2018.
Freeman ended up working remotely from North Carolina as a veterinary technician and customer representative. Today, she manages Adobe’s team of 26 remote employees.
Like Freeman, 11 remote team members previously worked in person at Adobe locations in Los Altos and Los Gatos.
Adobe President Summer Burke-Irmiter said the pre-pandemic employee shortage led staff to explore remote work options to help with the hiring process. The pandemic “has compounded that initial staffing shortage that we had,” she said. Eventually, the team missed more than eight veterinarians and 25 staff in total.
Cue the so-called 2020 puppy pandemic phenomenon to really make matters worse.
“We have all these new pet owners (who have) added to the patient load,” Burke-Irmiter said, “so our pet numbers just exploded over the last two years.”
In search of solutions
Burke-Irmiter and his team have made a number of adjustments to track patient or pet counts and provide quality service to Adobe customers or pet owners. First, Adobe stopped accepting new customers, choosing instead to focus only on current customers and limit emergency hours. But that would not be enough to fill all the gaps. For that, Freeman said the Adobe team “had to get creative and figure out over time, with our staffing shortages, what we can actually do.”
They have largely focused on customer support, such as the time customers spend interacting with staff when checking in and out of appointments with their pets, and the vet techs who can provide medical advice and answering patient questions.
Initially, remote staff included people like Freeman, who had worked in person at Adobe but had moved elsewhere, taking on much of the administrative and background work; however, as the remote team “reached its current size,” Adobe developed more sophisticated remote services, Burke-Irmiter said.
The animal hospital’s website now allows customers to chat with remote reps like Freeman to get answers to quick questions. Burke-Irmiter said that since 2018 staff have conducted more than 60,000 chat conversations.
“That would have been 60,000 phone calls,” she added.
Customers can also schedule virtual visits with a veterinarian and veterinary technician.
The flexibility makes pet care more convenient for pet owners, according to Burke-Irmiter. Not only can online tours help customers “learn anything from how to trim your pets’ nails to helping you give your pets fluids at home,” he said. she said, but they can also avoid the hassle and potential scratches of trying to load a chat. in the car.
Both Los Gatos locations already have a virtual payment process in place that allows clients to pay for services and schedule a follow-up appointment “from the quiet of the exam room,” Burke-Irmiter said. . In other words, customers will no longer have to pull out their credit card while trying to keep their dogs on a leash.
Although virtual care may seem sterile or less than welcoming, Burke-Irmiter and Freeman underscored the power of the online chat function as end-of-life pets.
“People can still cry and kick,” Burke-Irmiter said.