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Parasite talks: What's your role?


Consider this quick guide to what you should - and shouldn't - say to lock in parasite prevention compliance.

Two little words. That's all you need to remember for an effective parasite prevention conversation, says Brent Dickinson, business manager at Dickinson-McNeill Veterinary Clinic in Chesterfield, N.J. Sound simple? It is—and that's why it works.

As a visual reminder, Dickinson printed the words "prevention products" on a bright orange sheet of paper and taped it behind the front desk. It serves as a constant reminder that prompts two questions at check-in. The first: "How often do you give your pet parasite prevention?" The second: "Do you need any more products at this time?" See "Sample script: Parasite prevention" for some ideas about how you can begin the parasite conversation starting at check-in. Then use these steps to boost compliance:

Sample script: Parasite conversations

1. Say it once, say it again

You may be sick of saying it, but that doesn't mean clients are sick of hearing it. "We've tried various methods over the years, and we've learned that repetition keeps pets healthy—and helps us sell more products," Dickinson says. "Every member of our team asks clients about prevention products. This works well in two ways: First, when everyone asks, even if one team member forgets to talk about parasite prevention, we know pet owners still heard the message. Second, the repetitive questioning communicates that parasite prevention is important."

When the conversation starts in the reception area, he says even if the client you're speaking with doesn't get the message, other waiting clients will overhear, which may spark a parasite conversation.

2. Open the product for compliance

It's a simple step: opening the package. But it's a great opportunity for client education, Dickinson says. For example, when you open the package you can show pet owners the stickers many preventives include for calendars to remind pet owners to administer the preventives at the same time every month. For tech-savvy pet owners, you can also suggest adding a smartphone calendar reminder. Opening the package also offers you the chance to show the instructions and walk through them with the pet owner.

"So often we use products without ever inspecting the packaging," Dickinson says. "Reviewing the instructions with pet owners shows that the directions are important."

3. Don't judge or reprimand

Criticism is likely to put the pet owner on the defensive. Ditch the negative comments and emphasize protecting the pet from this moment forward, Dickinson says.

For example, you can focus on educating pet owners about the benefits of a monthly routine. Remind pet owners that prevention is much less costly than treating an expensive and dangerous condition such as heartworm infection.

In many cases, Dickinson says the pet owner will respond with a comment like, "I know, I know." Don't say, "Well, if you knew you should have given it already." Instead, keep it positive by saying something like, "That's great! We'll get off on the right foot starting today to keep your pet protected and healthy."

4. Use social media marketing

Social media can be a huge help to meet your goals. Dickinson recommends adding a sentence in your clinic's monthly e-newsletter or on social media sites. Keep it simple: "Another month, another dose! Is it time for your pet's monthly preventive?" Just as you've advised clients to add a reminder to their own calendars, you can add a reminder to your own calendar or smartphone that triggers you to post prevention reminders for your clients.

"If you follow these steps, your compliance should rise and you should see an increase in sales as well," Dickinson says.

Portia Stewart is a freelance writer in Lenexa, Kan.

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