Flip a veterinary client's frown upside down


How to turn a bad veterinary client experience around in 15 minutes or less

In a way, seeing pet owners in the exam room is like speed dating. You have about 15 minutes to get a new relationship off to a positive start with a new client or cement the bond with returning clients. But, what happens when it seems the pet, the owner or both are treating you like you've got extreme halitosis?

While you might have done something off-putting in the opening moments of the encounter, you probably didn't. What's more likely is that pet owners came into the hospital already worried:

> "Is my pet frightened?"

> "Will this exam reveal some dreadful, previously unknown condition?"

> "How much is this going to cost?"

Or maybe distracted or frustrated pet owners are troubled about something in their personal life, and it has nothing to do with the pet—or you—at all.

Whatever the reason, there will be days when you step into an exam room with a smile, fresh from an emotional high with a kinetic bunch of kittens, only to be met by apathy, grumpiness or anger.

As soon as you realize that's what's happening, don't get distracted by playing the "What did I do?" game. You may never know, and you can't change the past. Instead, "start with the heart."

Stop the rehearsed spiel. Stop! Now, start over, focusing only on the emotions of your patient and client. Sit on the floor, get out some treats and start chatting while making friends with the pet.

Do a show-and-tell about different parts of the pet's anatomy. Or show the owner the most pleasurable places to massage a dog or cat.

Better yet, get pet owners talking and just listen. Ask more questions and keep listening. Talking about their pets and your mutual love of animals turns most exam room flops turn into positive pet experiences.

While you can't fix a bad marriage or solve financial woes in 15 minutes, you can turn a client visit into an experience that leaves the pet owner feeling appreciated and the pet pampered. Positive associations turn a trip to the veterinarian into something to look forward to rather than dread.

Dr. Marty Becker, Veterinary Economics Practice Leadership Editor, is the author of 21 books. He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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