Veterinary receptionists: Anticipate clients whens, whys, and hows

June 8, 2016

We dont claim to be psychic, but we know what your clients are going to ask you (well, sorta). Read our tips to be better prepared for future questionsno palm reading required.

(Getty Images)There are four basic categories of routine questions receptionists face on a daily basis-both on the phone and in person: what, when, why and how.

While we dealt with the first category here, we've yet to cover the remaining three. Let us once again turn to the Veterinary Receptionist Handbook, 3rd Edition, for answers.


With more clients using social media and email, some pet owners may prefer to communicate via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Make sure you know your practice's policies for responding.

“When” questions

Example: “When should I neuter my puppy?”

Clinic policy will answer most “when” questions. If you've done a thorough job getting organized, you should at least know where to find these answers.

“Why” Questions

Example: “Why does my dog need to get a distemper shot?”


Honesty is the best policy, so don't be afraid to admit you are unsure but are also committed to finding an answer. If on the phone, say something like, “I want to make sure I answer your question properly. Would it be OK if I called you back soon with an answer?” Confirm the number to call and then write yourself a reminder. If the client is in front of you, either politely excuse yourself for a moment to locate the person or paper that has the information needed, or offer to call the client as soon as you're able to track down the appropriate answer.


People want to understand what is best for their pets and why they must spend their hard-earned money. In answering “why” questions, you must communicate the value of a service in a way the client can understand. Never become defensive or say that a certain procedure must be done because it is “hospital policy.” If you say, “It must be done,” many people will only dig in their heels and refuse. It's better to relate the value of a service to their own health and medical expenses.

For example, in response to the question above, you could say, “Unfortunately, distemper is still a real problem in our area. We see several cases of distemper each year, and we don't want to risk a possible fatal outcome if your pet catches it. For this reason, the doctor wants to maintain a high level of immunity in your pet. He achieves this by keeping your dog's vaccinations current.”

“How” Questions

Example: “How do I keep my cat from clawing the furniture?”

Your experience gained on the job and with your own pets will help you answer “how” questions. Did you have any luck getting your own cat to stop clawing your furniture? If so, pass the information along. People are eager to hear methods that have worked in real life and not just in theory.


“Why” questions offer an excellent opportunity for role-playing. Practice your answers with other staff members, and try to get the doctor involved as much as possible so everyone learns together.

Of course, you won't have experience with every problem that comes up (at least, we hope not). If your clinic has client handouts dealing with various pet problems, give clients the handouts that correspond to their needs. If you are talking to a client on the phone, offer to mail the client handout or email a link to your website.

“How” questions that cannot be handled by experience or handouts can often be answered by clinic policy. Refer to your clinic's guidelines for answers to many of these types of questions.

Check out the recently updated Veterinary Receptionist's Handbook for more tips and tools on handling common questions about medical problems, surgical procedures, diagnostic tests, vaccinations, parasite control issues and much more.