Little things such as bothersome tunes in the clinic audio system created problems for this practice
Editor’s note: All names and businesses in this dilemma case are fictitious, but the scenario is based on real occurrences.
In its 4 years of operation, City Animal Hospital has grown to have 3 veterinarians and 14 support staff members. The owner, Dr Jill Tom, quickly learned that excellent veterinary care was not enough to make her practice continue to expand. Other elements were required for client satisfaction: high-quality medical care, superior customer service, compassionate care, and the “little things.” One of those little things recently reared its ugly head and resulted in a challenging dilemma.
Several clients complained to the hospital manager, as they were unhappy with the music being circulated by the clinic’s audio system while waiting to be seen for their appointments. One reported that there was an annoying bass sound in the music that had a vibrating effect. Two others commented on the contemporary genre of the music, and that it was just “annoying.”
Dr Tom and the hospital manager had worked hard to ensure the clinic environment was comforting to the clients and pet patients. They hoped the clinic’s background music would ease pet owners who were often stressed because of their animals’ medical issues. Further exploration led them to discover that staff members often altered the music playlist to suit their own taste, so they felt it was time to discuss the role that music was intended to have in the clinic. A staff meeting was called so that everyone could literally “face the music.”
Dr Tom informed the staff on the role that music plays in the clinic. Ironically, it is not for entertainment or listening pleasure. The music was in fact a tool. A veterinary clinic visit can be stressful and certain music is relaxing. Musical white noise in the background can be pleasant to accompany treating animals and during staff discussions. Seasonal clinic music during the holidays often sends a subtle message; many facilities have retail sections where this music can be a reminder that pets need gifts as well.
Dr Tom added that clinic music can be a double-edged sword. Certain genres of music can irritate and even agitate sensitive clientele, which is what recently happened at City Animal Hospital. Some staff members very innocently changed the music playlist for their own personal entertainment without understanding the ramifications. She went on to say that music can make a significant impact on the mind and mood of clients. Once music is introduced into the workplace, it can be productive or destructive. Recent client complaints made this abundantly clear. The takeaway message was to handle the use of music in the clinic as carefully as one would with any other medical tool.
The difference between an average client experience and an excellent client experience revolves around the little things. Many individuals bringing their pets to the veterinarian are under a degree of stress. Along with this stress comes a hypersensitivity to the clinic environment. Judgments— whether fair or not—are often influenced by how the staff is dressed, the smell detected in the clinic, the lighting, and the music. When all these factors are carefully attended to, clients feel they are in a clean, professional, and relaxing facility. They are then ready to hear what the veterinarian has to say without any distractions. Hopefully the doctor’s message will now be music to their ears.
Marc Rosenberg, VMD, is director of Voorhees Veterinary Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. Although many of the scenarios Rosenberg describes in his column are based on real-life events, the veterinary practices, doctors, and employees described are fictional.