I've been a veterinarian almost 18 years, but must admit I still haven't entirely figured out clients. I went to veterinary school to learn how to treat animals. Until I started practicing, I hadn't stopped to consider that every animal comes with an owner attached, and that these owners - not the animals - are the real challenge.
I've been a veterinarian almost 18 years, but must admit I still haven't entirely figured out clients. I went to veterinary school to learn how to treat animals. Until I started practicing, I hadn't stopped to consider that every animal comes with an owner attached, and that these owners — not the animals — are the real challenge.
Experience has taught me that many clients/owners fall into one or more of the following seven categories, based on personality types:
1. The questioners
These clients seem to have an endless stream of questions that defy common sense. No matter how thorough or precise your instructions, they'll usually come back with "What if..." And then they make things still more challenging by rattling off the next question before you've finished answering the first. It's almost as if they don't care about the answers — to them the question is everything.
2. The argumentative type
Members of this group are primed to take issue with your answer to any question they pose. It's almost as if their objective is to make you feel stupid. Once you've answered a question, they're almost sure to say, "I've already done that and it didn't work." Or, they'll tell you about another veterinarian's method and why it's much better than the approach you had in mind.
3. The odds-makers
These people insist on a guarantee. No matter what course of treatment or procedure you suggest, they want to know the odds. If you offer them three options, they'll ask the percentage of success for all three and want you to write that in stone somewhere so they can come back later and quote what you said in case things don't go the way they wanted.
4. The doubters
Ever notice how some clients cock their head to one side and squint a bit while you are giving them your diagnosis? They have a subtle way of making you doubt yourself. They give the impression they don't believe a word you say. More than once they'll ask, "Are you sure about that?" They seem to take pleasure in visibly showing their lack of confidence in you, and want you to realize they'll be "keeping a close eye" on everything you say and do.
5. The know-it-all
Why do these people even ask questions? Before you've uttered a word, they've already come up with the answer. I don't know if they're trying to show how much they know, or if this is just their way of organizing their thoughts while it flows out of their mouths.
6. The stenographers
It isn't hard to recognize these clients: They always carry a pen and notepad into the exam room and write down every word that comes out of your mouth. That notepad is now the law in their eyes. When I see someone taking notes, I start my biochemistry spiel. I tell them that animals are not like cars. You can't simply replace a part and make everything the same. There are no replacement parts for horses or dogs, so when a part is broken (like maybe the left eye), it might not return to use, or at least not to full use. If you don't explain that, they'll return in a week, quote all your words back to you and tell you why you were wrong.
7. The penny pinchers
These folks are concerned with little more than what everything costs. Given three treatment options, they'll always pick the cheapest and then complain that even that one is priced too high. I've even known some of them to go into the waiting room and call other veterinarians to see if they can find a better deal before allowing me to work on their animals.
I've mellowed a bit over the years in dealing with clients of all types. They don't drive me as crazy as they used to, but now and then I still meet one who makes me wish that animals would just show up at the clinic alone.
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.