All you have to do is ask


Enhancing your delivery of feline veterinary care isn't complicated.

A number of years ago I interviewed for a job (not this one) and, not long afterward, received an offer. The salary was lower than I would have liked, but this was a not-for-profit organization, so I knew there wasn’t a lot more my potential employers could do for me.

A friend, however, suggested I request an extra week’s vacation time in lieu of more money. So I did. And the company agreed-readily, almost like they were expecting to be asked for something. (Yes, I was green to the workforce.) Soon I had a new job.

During my first couple of weeks, I filled out the usual paperwork and sat through the normal orientation meetings. And I experienced something that surprised me. My new managers kept referring to the extra time off I’d “negotiated.” Really? All I did was ask. There’d been none of the hardball back-and-forth I associated with the word “negotiation.”

With more experience, I’ve come to learn that’s really all negotiation is: asking for what you want. The other party may say no or suggest an alternative to your request, but by asking, you at least open the door to more possibilities than the initial scenario involved. The process doesn’t have to involve bluster, bravado, or a poker face. You just ask. And if you don’t ask, you almost certainly won’t get.

I think some of the same concepts apply to the practice of veterinary medicine, especially to feline care. While we’ve put together a whole issue emphasizing how you can enhance this area of your practice, I want to say here that there’s a danger in overthinking it. Yes, you can study the art of educating clients about wellness care and the finer points of handling feline patients with finesse, just as you can examine the tougher aspects of negotiation in the business world and read books about “getting to yes.” But to start with, all you have to do is ask. Here are some examples:

> “I see it’s been more than six months since you’ve purchased any flea and heartworm control for Chloe-can we send you home with a fresh supply today?”

> “Now that Rosie is 7, I’d like to see her twice a year to keep an eye out for age-related issues. Why don’t you schedule a visit for six months from now when you check out?”

> “We’ve been seeing your dog Buddy on a regular basis and he’s doing great. But it’s been a while since your cat Max was in. Can we schedule a checkup for him?” (Or, to simplify it further and steal a bit from Dr. Karen Felsted’s story on page 28: “Do you have any cats at home?”)

> “We’ll need to check these ears again in two weeks to make sure the antibiotics are effective. Why don’t you schedule a follow-up visit with Jill at the front desk?”

Now, the gurus would tell you there are even more effective ways to ask these questions, but hey-you’ve got to start somewhere. As people in the advertising industry know, you must include a “call to action.” You invite a response. You just ask. When you do, you might be surprised how many cat owners simply say yes—almost like they were waiting to be asked.

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