Difficult clients are everywhere but with the right knowledge and responses, it is possible to turn a difficult client into a star client for any veterinarian.
First, take a look at your practice. A good deal of how clients are handled is done by the hospital staff and patient relations and care for their pets. There several different types of clients and it is important to know what motivates them as it can help with handling them when the time comes. The problems can be compounded if you don’t handle them in a professional and competent manner. In fact, it can be very detrimental to your practice.
One of the most frustrating is the client who does not want or may not be able to pay the amount for veterinary care. One way to handle this type of client is to be very detailed with financial statements and ask every time how they intend to pay for the care given. Persistence is the key along with an explanation of costs. There are some times in which you may have to refer them to a collection agency.
The next type of client is the one who is very demanding and picky. He or she wants to know the minute details of how you will treat his or her pet. For this person, it is wise to schedule extra time and provide a greater depth of information to them. If they have additional questions, have them write down a list and bring it in when they visit next. These people are worth the time it takes in answering questions as they do have their pets’ best care in mind.
Remember to try to think of things from the point of view of the client, they are emotionally involved with their pet and may not be thinking as clearly as they would otherwise. This is true of the type of client who is a cynic. He or she needs specific what-to-do information, especially in the short-term dealing with the ins and outs of pet care and health.
When it comes to difficult clients, don’t avoid them. Use the time and effort to improve your dialog with people. Often, they do care and can be responsible, but may not know the best way to do so. After all, animals can’t talk and speak up for themselves, this is one of the most frustrating parts of animal care.
If you see your clients in public, be friendly. Ask them about their pets, it shows that you remember them and that you do care about them and their pets. This can be one of the most important vet/client relationship-building activities you can do. Remember that word of mouth advertising can either be your greatest benefit or largest detriment. It depends on how the client perceives you and your professionalism. So brush up on your personal skills, really think about your clients and what they need or perceive to need and smile, answer questions, and watch your practice increase.
No matter what business you are in, solid communication is a necessity today. Good skills in communication help to develop a strong working relationship. In the case of a veterinarian/client relationship, it is crucial to the well-being of the patient and the understanding of the client–typically the pet owner. Veterinary specialists can take a lot away from a situation by relying on good communication.
In most cases, communication classes are taught as a compulsory aspect of all medical health courses. This even includes veterinary courses. Communication with clients, as well as with colleagues, can color every aspect of your business.
Communication will help with history-taking, allowing you to have a better chance at diagnosing the patient. The way in which you communicate with your clients will help to assure that patients are given the right medications at the right time and that the treatment regimens are correctly accomplished.
Approaching communication as another procedure that you undertake in the course of your veterinary duties, will help to hone your communications skills and give you and your client the best rapport possible.
Here are a few tips to help you to communicate more fully with your clients and customers.
- Show the empathy that you have for the client and what they and their pet are going through. Comment on something that is unrelated to their pet concerns–for example, a comment about their person. “I sense you are very nervous, but there isn’t any reason to be,” might be a good way to relate to your patient and how they feel about their animals.
- Watch for non-verbal cues and respond to them appropriately. The non-verbal is a fair portion of communication and you can learn a lot from your clients by their non-verbal communication with you. For example, if they are sitting with their arms crossed and are very tightly controlled, typically they are very nervous or are angry. Addressing this and asking questions will help you to understand better what your client’s concerns are and to address them.
- Repeat what your client says to make sure that you’re understanding them correctly. If you repeat what they say and then ask–“is that what I am getting from your comments?” you’ll be better able to assure that you know what they want and how to give it to them.
Communication is everything to you and your business. Non-verbal as well as verbal communication skills will serve you well in every aspect of veterinary medicine. Make it a point to hone your communication skills to the best of your ability. When you can communicate effectively, with your clients as well as with your patients, the relationships will be more rewarding.
Laura W. Anderson is the founder and president of Veterinary Career Services.
After significant research in the veterinary job market, Laura saw the need for recruitment services specializing in the veterinary industry and founded VCS in January 1998, with the primary goal of assisting veterinary practice owners in their hiring needs.
Laura holds a Masters of Business Administration from Boston College and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have! I look forward to hearing from you.