Stop saying this to veterinary clients!

Article

Tweak your turns of phrase to stop sabotaging your exam room conversations before you even start.

If you'd like to focus anew on wellness or preventive-care visits at your veterinary practice, you know client education is key. Now, I want you to consider a few changes in your turns of phrase when you're deep into exam room visits or talking on the phone or sharing information with clients on social media. Try changing a few of these today. When clients understand the purpose and value of preventive services, they're more likely to be compliant pet parents. Here's what we've found helpful at our clinics:

Say "preventive care," not "wellness care." Clients understand prevention is important. When you say wellness, they seem to think, "If it ain't broken, why fix it?”

Say "intestinal parasite exam," not "fecal." The phrase intestinal parasites conjures up a real picture of the dangerous-and graphic-problem you're helping to prevent. Some clients just aren't familiar with the term “fecal.”

Say "heartworm health screen," not "heartworm test." Many clients think we're doing more than just heartworm testing when we pull a blood sample. We find that it's easy to get clients to agree to an annual blood screen by packaging it with the heartworm test. We use the verbiage above and present the combination price on our treatment plan. Charge a moderate price for a basic blood screen-in our case, roughly $40. Our clients have long heard us recommend "blood screening," and at this price point they can have both a heartworm test and screen for $60 to $70. Compliance is very good.  

Ask “When did you give your last heartworm preventive?” not “Are you giving the heartworm preventive?” This gives you more accurate information with your very first question, and you can educate accordingly.

Say “Here's the cost of your 12-month supply of heatworm preventive,” not “How many months of preventive do you want to take home today?” Set the tone in the conversation by emphasizing for the importance of year-round prevention from the very beginning. When you start by offering clients a choice, they'll usually default to a small amount-less expensive-amount. Then when it runs out, they're often done for the year.

Say "dental cleaning," not "dental prophylaxis" or "prophy." Layman's terms are less medically correct, but they often provide far more meaning to the layman (or laywoman). And don't forget to show a dental report card with pictures of the different grades of dental disease to help support your recommendation for dental cleaning.

While these examples may seem like subtle differences, they can make a big difference day in, day out for client buy-in. In the above cases, both phrases or questions or statements are true, but one is stronger and more likely to lead to greater client compliance and, more important, better preventive care. 

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of the Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.

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