How to be more direct with your veterinary clients

December 16, 2020
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP

Emily Shiver, CVPM, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.

Find out how to stop asking closed-ended questions and discover the power of “telling” your clients what their pet needs.

Do you beat around the bush with pet owners? Instead of asking them “yes” or “no” questions, I’ve learned that you have to be assertive. At my practice, we uphold an inherited standard of telling our clients what their patients need as opposed to offering a recommendation or asking questions. Changing the way in which you address these conversations can improve compliance and increase revenue.

What is a recommendation?

By definition, a recommendation is a suggestion or proposal as to the best course of action, especially one put forth by an authoritative body.

Our clients look to us for direction, so when we make numerous recommendations, it causes them to have to navigate the situation on their own. Eliminate the guesswork and start telling them what their pet needs to live a happy, healthy life.

Why asking questions can be overwhelming

Put yourself in your client’s shoes for a second. Imagine walking into a veterinary practice and being offered 4 different heartworm prevention options and then being asked, “Would you like to get heartworm prevention for Nox today?” Overloading clients with information makes it difficult for them to make a clear decision, thus causing them to sometimes delay treatment. Unfortunately, this path hinders your patient from receiving the best possible care.

For sick pets, it is customary to create a treatment plan based on diagnostic and treatment needs. Once you present the plan to the client, you may proceed to ask if they would consider moving forward with the treatment. This can sometimes cause a bit of a hiccup, as your client is still processing the emotional pain of their pet being sick. In my experience, I have heard clients say things like, “You guys are all about the money, not trying to help me save my pet’s life.” or “I will feel so guilty if I don’t move forward with this treatment plan.”

When presenting your next treatment plan, instead of saying, “Would you like to move forward?” Try this: “This is the treatment plan the doctor has put together for Nox. He needs some diagnostics and treatment. Let’s go over it together. Please ask any questions that may come to mind.”

Practice makes perfect

Here are 3 easy steps to help your team properly educate clients about their pets’ needs.

Step 1:

Have the team assist with making daily recommendations to clients about the following services:

Vaccines

  • Heartworm/Flea prevention
  • Rechecks
  • Wellness exams
  • Dental exams

Step 2:

Make learning fun! Engage your team and create buy-in by:

  • Roleplaying.
  • Playing interactive games.
  • Creating 90-day challenges (Remember anyone can do anything for 14-30 days. Make it 90 so it becomes a habit).

Step 3:

Stay connected with your team by:

  • Updating them at least weekly on their challenge.
  • Giving feedback in the moment.
  • Celebrating the little victories!

The bottom line

Measure compliance at the end of those 90 days. You might be pleasantly surprised by how many pets you and your team were able to treat. Our words are powerful, so use them to advocate for your patient’s needs, thus improving their quality of life, increasing owner compliance, and growing your practice’s revenue.

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.