The dilemma: Seven common complaints

dvm360dvm360 June 2024
Volume 55
Issue 6

Clinic staff acts swiftly to improve clients’ experience



Boro Animal Clinic is a companion animal facility that has provided pet care assistance to the community for 22 years. Periodically, the hospital director has a staff meeting that she has titled “Preemptive Troubleshooting.” This is a staff discussion about complaints that have been mentioned by clients that could be corrected before they rise to become points of contention. The following 7 complaints and possible solutions have been mentioned for consideration:

1. Clinic music

Clients have often complained about the genre as well as the volume of music in the clinic. It is agreed that soothing music at a lower volume will play in the waiting area. Staff will no longer have access to changing the music to their liking. Clinic music was never meant to be entertaining but rather a relaxing tool in an often stressful environment.

2. Appointment punctuality

Often, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, clients have been kept waiting beyond their appointment times. In the future, when an appointment is running late, staff will immediately approach the client, explain the situation, and provide any accommodations that might help.

3. Client greetings

Pet owners who are longtime clients have commented that they are not recognized or are being asked generic questions about the appointment as if they are newcomers. In the future, all upcoming appointments will be previewed so that the reception staff is aware of the client status, pet’s name, and reason for coming.

4. Upselling

There is a fine line between strongly suggesting products or elective procedures during a routine visit and simply informing clients of additional pet care options. Some clients have complained that they feel pressured. If this is the case, the fine line has been crossed. In the future, staff members will ask clients whether they can take a moment to discuss new products, and if they resist or say no, it will end the discussion.

5. Pet restraint

Agitated pets often have to be physically restrained during an examination visit. Some clients have remarked that they are uncomfortable with the restraint or feel it is too rough. When it is necessary to restrain a pet for the safety of the staff, a discussion with a client will be necessary. Permission will be asked to restrain the pet, an explanation and description of what is to be done will be provided, and client participation will be offered. If the pet owner feels this is unacceptable, a medical form of sedation can be discussed.

6. Hazardous waste fees

Clients have commented that the hazardous waste fee added to the invoice seems to be a petty charge in view of the overall visit fee. The hazardous waste fees will be rolled into the overall professional care fee and not itemized on the invoice.

7. Difficulty speaking to a veterinarian

Clients have often complained about getting timely access to a veterinarian for a conversation. They have often been told to speak to a technician or management personnel instead. Going forward, the veterinarians’ time management schedule will include increased ability to talk directly with clients who specifically ask to speak to the case veterinarians.

The hospital director thinks it is important to address reasonable client complaints to improve service and prevent pet owners from leaving the practice. When clients become unhappy or change practices, they often do it quietly and without notice. The director goes on to say that gold standard practices pay attention to all client input. Simply paying lip service to complaints is not a recipe for success.

Rosenberg’s response

It should never be forgotten that the pet owner is the veterinarian’s treatment partner. It is not the technician, the receptionist, or the management, although they are all valuable members of the assistance team. It is the pet owner who gives permission for the treatment and treatment protocol. It is the pet owner who is responsible for at-home treatment adherence. And it is the pet owner who ultimately lends credibility to the professional staff. When a client makes a suggestion or a complaint, address it seriously, just as was done at Boro Animal Clinic.

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