How a coffee card can save the day


Make sure your veterinary clients small acts of kindness are noticed.


My office's phone rang the other day, and a bright and cheery young woman named Erin, who's brought her two dogs to us for years, was on the other end. “I was looking over my receipt from today's visit and I noticed you guys charged me $3.50, but the total was supposed to be $350,” she said.

“Oh,” I replied. “I see.”

I kindly asked to put her on hold while I grabbed some information to get to the bottom of things. As I did so, two thoughts came to mind:

1. “She probably thinks we're idiots.”

And …

2. “Wow, it was really great of her to bring this to our attention.”

I thought about the news stories you see from time to time where a kid finds a wallet stuffed with cash and takes it to the police station to turn it in. The owner takes a $100 bill out and hands it to the kid to return the act of generosity.

This particular client just happens to be a growing star-her career as a singer and songwriter has gained her national TV spots and local radio play. Despite all that, she's still a very humble, down-to-earth person. The kind of person who calls her vet to let them know she was undercharged by $346.50. I knew this was a wonderful opportunity for me to right the wrong and come out looking great.

Back on the phone I jumped. “Well, you certainly are correct. It seems we left off two very important zeros when entering this charge! I'd be thrilled if you wouldn't mind providing your card information over the phone so we could capture the missing balance.”

She kindly responded, “Well, yeah. I mean, I owe you this money.”

“We would have determined there was a discrepancy when we settled this evening, but we might have stayed late trying to figure it out if it weren't for your call. So that's much appreciated. We owe you, too,” I said.

To be honest, yes, she did owe us the money, but it was still a nice gesture.

“Don't worry about it!” Erin replied. We completed the charge and hung up. I dashed to my computer and whipped up a letter on the clinic letterhead, thanking her for her act of honesty that saved our team time and confusion and the need to bill someone unnecessarily. I put it in an envelope, along with her final receipt. Before sealing, I placed a gift card for a local coffee shop in the envelope too.

I'd like to think that the world goes 'round because of acts of kindness like Erin's. Letting those acts go unnoticed just might make people stop caring. That $5 coffee card won't change her life, but it might make her day. And it certainly made me feel like I was making a great customer service choice.

I suggest keeping a small stack of similar cards at your desk (in a secure place, of course). You can pick and choose when and where to use them, but I'd recommend one thing: Don't apologize with the card, because people will remember how you messed up when they're sipping that cup of joe. Use them, instead, to say thank you to customers. Thank them for being helpful, for picking up a piece of trash in your parking lot when “no one was looking” or for offering to wait outside when another customer's dog was just too excited to be with theirs in your waiting area.

With that same $100 the kid got back for returning the wallet, you could make the day of 20 of your customers.

That might just change your practice.

Brent Dickinson is practice manager at Dickinson-McNeill Veterinary Clinic in Chesterfield, New Jersey.

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