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The call of the client
Giving clients quotes over the phone can be challenging-but that's what makes it worthwhile.
I love a challenge.
One of my favorites is telling pet owners who call why I can't give them an estimate over the phone. I'm not talking about price quotes on routine spays or neuters here. No, I mean the big ones like mass removals or dentals.
Ahh, dental estimates. They always bring joy to my adventure-seeking heart. The fun part is when clients are sure that the good information they gave me is enough to allow me to look into my crystal ball and provide an accurate estimate.
Did I explain what the "good" information is? How's this: The dog's breed, eye color, and where the client got it. If I'm lucky, I'll get a size reference—"He's about a foot tall." One of my best-loved examples of this is a woman who called recently and asked for the cost of fixing up a dog with "one black tooth." Surely I've established a canned estimate for that, right? Wrong.
Howling for better numbers
When situations like these arise, they test my customer-service skills. So how do I respond? I usually cave and give these phone-shoppers a price range. But the range never seems to be quite good enough. So I kindly explain—again—why I can't provide an estimate over the phone. Then clients usually act flabbergasted that I'm not able to give them a more specific quote.
Now I really get excited when I make the mistake of adding in what these callers refer to as "the extras." That's their view of preanesthetic blood work, an IV catheter, IV fluids, and such. Of course, to us, these "extras" mean quality veterinary care. But many pet owners just see them as more money. And so help me if I add on possible extractions, injections, antibiotics at home, and so on.
So begins what I call the badgering/haggling/I-can't-believe-you-charge-that-much process. (Thanks to this back-and-forth, I'm sure I could've made it as a used-car salesman.) The questions start rolling: "Why do I need that?" "Is that really necessary?" and everybody's all-time favorite, "Why does it cost so much? My dentist doesn't charge that much." I explain that people's dentists aren't required to put patients under anesthesia, but this usually doesn't matter.
Taming pet owners
At this point, most pet owners begrudgingly agree that I can include the "extras," but only if I'm going to let them pay in installments. They finalize this thought by stating they just want their pet to get a "regular dental cleaning." How much does that cost?
Sigh. I just can't win for losing.
One last time, I outline the need for a physical examination. I remind the caller that this exam would be a general check up too, so they'll get important information about their pet's overall health. Some of these clients will schedule an appointment, some won't. But at least I know I didn't compromise anything by giving in to their request. And that's why I adore the challenge. The clients that listen and follow through eventually realize that I did what I did because it was in the best interest of their pet.
No matter the estimated cost.
Receptionist Rachael Hume works at Southway Animal Clinic in Lewiston, Idaho. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org