When the going gets tough, stick to the basics of good communication and kindness to help improve the bond between you and those difficult clients.
luismolinero / stock.adobe.comHave you ever walked out of an exam room and wanted to bang your head against a wall? (Hand raise, right here!). Stubborn clients, whiners, complainers and those who think they know more than you are by among the most frustrating issues veterinary teams deal with on a daily basis. Can I get an amen?
But know this: You will never make everyone happy. I repeat, you will never make everyone happy. (I'm repeating this for myself, too!)
Coping with noncompliant clients
There will always be folks who claim their pet doesn't need heartworm prevention because “their dog never goes outside” (I guess they pee and poop in the house?!), and clients who refuse a fecal exam because “they never see worms in the stool?” Oh, and let's not forget the people who want to pay TJ Maxx prices for Louis Vuitton services. I know that I can't be the only one with clients who don't give their pet the medications prescribed, or administer them as prescribed, yet demand to know why their pet is not better. Oh, and what about this: “If it is going to cost that much, I would rather just put him down.” And my all-time favorite: “Can you just give it a shot and fix it, Doc?” I could go on and on.
Maybe I am the only one, but sometimes these situations really bother me! How do you handle them? Do they get under your skin? Do you let them ruin your day? I am certainly guilty of this!
Feeling discouraged? Remember your purpose
I got into this field because I love animals and I have a passion for medicine and surgery. I enjoy saving lives, meeting new people and playing with cute animals. But this profession is not always cupcakes and rainbows. We have to remember our purpose and why we joined the field in the first place. We can only do what we can do or are allowed to do. We cannot force an owner to perform the lab work we recommend. Pet owners are responsible for their pets financially as well as physically when they leave our clinic.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication can seem like a no-brainer because we do it day in and day out, but sometimes we could do better. We educate pet owners based on the amazing knowledge that has filled our brains from years of school and practice. If your clients see that you are passionate about educating them, maybe they will care about the topic as much as you do. Provide written information so clients have something to reference when they get home because they probably forgot half of what you told them. And work with your staff to help educate your clients, too. The more a person hears something, the more likely they are to receive the message and remember it.
Don't forget about doing this all with a good attitude and with a smile on your face. My dad always told me, “Kindness kills.” In your sweetest, kindest voice, remind your clients that in South Texas, mosquitos are pretty much a year-round concern; therefore, heartworm prevention should be year-round, too. Your clients will appreciate your efforts, and more than that, your patients will benefit tremendously.
When all else fails
As for the whiners and complainers, don't be afraid to set boundaries or even fire the clients who create stress and drama in your life. There is nothing wrong with drawing a line and letting go of the people who cross it. Verbal abuse, constant complaining or arguing about prices or change, bashing on social media, and refusal to follow clinic policies should never be tolerated. Life is too short to deal with people who aren't worth your time and energy.
Dr. Shana Bohac is the owner of Navarro Small Animal Clinic in Victoria, Texas. She has a passion for surgery as well as compassionate wellness care. She has a husband, Brandon, daughter, Aiden, three crazy cats, two dogs and a handful of horses.