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Protect your staff, DVMs advise
Private practitioners contacted by DVM Newsmagazine say that conflict in many cases is about money.
Private practitioners contacted by DVM Newsmagazine say that conflictin many cases is about money.
Therefore, one important strategy in dealing with clients is to be veryupfront about the costs of veterinary care.
Dr. E.L. Edwards, a small animal practitioner in Lancaster, Calif., says,"We are very careful about using estimates and letting people knowin advance what they are facing because I tend to dislike conflict, bothfor myself and my partner, as well as for my office staff."
Edwards does not buy into the notion that the customer is "alwaysright." She adds, "I do not feel that we are obligated to be allthings to all people, and I am very diligent about protecting my staff andnot allowing them to be abused verbally."
She says that a security camera records the reception area as anothermeans of protection against a person who may become violent.
The practice's primary receptionist had been an operator for a policestation, Edwards explains. "So, she understands how to deal with irate/hystericalpeople. The receptionist attempts to discover the source of the problem,can speak very diplomatically and understands when a situation gets volatileto request the presence of the practice owner."
Edwards adds for those people "we are unable to come to a resolutionwith are invited to find another practice more suited to the type of veterinarymedicine that they are interested in for their pet."
Dr. Colleen M. O'Keefe employs a tactic that the experts also recommend."First, I try to get them in a room by themselves. I let them rantor express their problems without interruption until they start to quietdown," O'Keefe explains.
Not having interruptions is an important part of this strategy, she says.
At that point, you can address client concerns and come to a reasonablesolution.
Edwards explains that advice she received from a client school teacherhas been effective. The strategy is to repeat over and over, "I cansee how you could feel that way." She adds you should never admit guiltor appease clients by promising things just to get them to calm down.
Few and far between
Dr. Nelson Stone, a mixed animal practitioner from Jackson, Mo., sayshe has had very few cases of dealing with an irate client.
Stone says the best strategy is to be honest and forthright in dealingwith the client and his/her problem.
In many cases, mixed animal practitioners are the first and last lineof defense with limited veterinary care available to a rural area. Mixedanimal practitioners are called on to treat animals that might be betterreferred to a specialist if one were available.
Stone says, "When asked to deal with a situation that was unfamiliarto me, or that I felt was beyond my expertise, I made certain that the clientknew my feelings about the matter. The client was never given false expectationsof my ability."
Sometimes a seemingly difficult client can become your best one if youtake the time to resolve the problems. In other cases, some people may neverbe satisfied, he adds.