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10 simple ways to let clients know you care
Do you care about clients outside the exam room? Show it.
>>> Client service creates real bonds that clients find meaningful and positive and that doctors and team members can find fulfilling. (Photo: THINKSTOCK/ALEXRATHS)Pet owners are like any of us. They want to like the people they do business with and they want to feel liked in return. Through the years, we in the veterinary profession have talked a lot about about quality of medical care as we've seen improvements in diagnostics, therapeutics and surgical procedures. But I've been happy to see in recent years an increased emphasis placed on the quality of the client experience.
But that can be an esoteric term-what does “the client experience” mean anyway? To help answer that question, here are 10 tangible ways you and your team can demonstrate not just exceptional service but a genuine commitment to each client every day:
1. Ditch the “waiting room.” Change the mindset of your whole practice team. Eliminate the term “waiting room” and refer to it as the “welcoming room” or the “receiving room.” No one these days should be waiting long enough to call it waiting.
2. Refresh your refreshments. A coffee maker and a small refrigerator stocked with bottled water or juice boxes is a real smile maker. Often, an early appointment means a client was rushed out the door. Bring a nice cup of coffee to that earliest appointment.
3. Make things convenient and safe. A fair number of veterinary clients are elderly or have limited mobility. While it's common to help someone out to the car with their pet or dog food, try to anticipate these clients' arrivals and assign someone to greet them in the parking lot and help them in from the car with a friendly, “We were expecting you, and we're so glad you came!” Remember that walkers, canes, crutches and wheelchairs offer people a great deal of independence and mobility, but those clients may still need special assistance with steps, ramps and doors. Ask if you can help.
4. Reward proper restraint. If you expect that a pet will need to be restrained, show clients you appreciate when they're thoughtful enough to bring a pet in a transfer carrier. Carry the carrier for them and say, “Thank you.” Also, make a few cat and small dog carriers available. When a client calls for an appointment, ask, “Would you like to come by for a transport carrier?”
5. Carry their purchases. This should go without saying, but you should always offer to carry bags of pet food or cat litter to clients' cars. When a friend of mine learned that his client lived in a third-floor walk-up, he told that client to leave her purchases in the car and he would send a staff member to her home to carry them up the stairs for her. That's exceptional and unforgettable service.
6. Charge up your clients. We are all way too dependent on our mobile phones. And did you ever run off without your battery or have your phone die at a bad time? Keep a universal charger in the client service area so you can offer to charge dead batteries. Or have a prepaid cell phone to loan to people if their phone is dead. They can return it “later today or tomorrow.”
7. Be a bad-weather friend. Install umbrella stands at entrances and exits. Provide umbrella bags like they do at department stores. Offer an assortment of inexpensive collapsing umbrellas for unexpected showers. It's one thing to hand a client an umbrella; it's another thing entirely to walk her out and give her the umbrella for when she gets where she's going. Again, she can drop it by when the rain stops, pay it forward to another wet friend or stranger, or, better yet, keep it and think of your kindness every time she uses it.
8. Show globe-friendly guidance. Increasingly, our practices serve clients with a variety of cultures and languages. At a minimum, provide reading material and brochures in other languages.
9. Help the hearing- and vision-impaired. Provide pet owners who are having trouble hearing with a pad and paper, an erasable mini-whiteboard or even an iPad to type on. Also, make sure you offer to escort vision-impaired clients to and from exam rooms and to and from their transportation outside.
10. DIY client service. Do not delegate everything. When you can, you as the veterinarian should be the one to help and carry and welcome. Sure, you're busy-that's what makes it so special in clients' eyes.
I know that client service creates real bonds. Recently, I got an email from a client I last saw 20 years ago. We had both relocated over the years, but she told me she always appreciated my going to her home to vaccinate her father's dog. It took maybe an extra half-hour but stood out in her mind as exceptional service. That could be you.
Dr. Mike Paul is a nationally known speaker and columnist and the principal of Magpie Veterinary Consulting. He lives in Anguilla in the British West Indies.