What's your team's client service IQ? (Proceedings)


All service businesses can be differentiated based on the level and type of service that is provided.

All service businesses can be differentiated based on the level and type of service that is provided. For example, the service offered by McDonalds and Motel 6 is vastly different than the service offered by Morton's Steakhouse and the Ritz Carlton. No one would argue that the quality of the food and lodging, the physical environment, the amenities and the quality of service provided by employees are at different ends of the spectrum for these businesses. Just like other service industries, veterinary businesses offer different levels of service. Unfortunately many owners, managers and employees don't consciously think about the level of service on a daily basis but instead make the assumption that the team is committed to providing quality service. Are you making a concerted effort to provide a specific level of service at your practice? If not, the service that clients receive is subject to inconsistencies and may not be what you intended.

Define your team's client service IQ

To define the client service experience you want to create and ensure consistency in the delivery of client service, it is helpful to begin by determining what I call your team's "client service IQ".

How knowledgeable is everyone on the team about what pet owners want? Does everyone agree on what constitutes exceptional vs. average client service? Do team members know what exceptional client service looks like? Have they experienced outstanding customer service for themselves? Facilitate a team meeting and create a dialogue among team members by discussing the following questions:

  • What are some examples of businesses that provide great customer service? What do they do to provide this level of service?

  • Think of a time when you experienced above average or exceptional customer service. What was the business and why was the service exceptional?

  • How do you want to be treated when you go to a service-oriented business? Be specific with your answers.

  • How do you decide whether you will go back to a service-oriented business?

  • Think of a time that you recommended a business to someone else. Why did you make the recommendation?

  • What have businesses done to surprise and impress you? What could our practice do?

  • What annoys you with respect to customer service?

  • If you could change something about the service our hospital provides, what would it be?

  • What is the practice vision? What client service experience do we want our clients to have each time they visit the practice?

  • What are our strengths and weaknesses related to service?

The advantage of taking the time to discuss the team's "client service IQ" is to ascertain whether team members fully understand, appreciate and agree on what it means to deliver exceptional client service. This exercise affords the team the opportunity to offer feedback about service challenges.

Formulate a plan to enhance client service

You will need to formulate a specific plan if you want to take your client service to a higher level. This plan may include the following:

  • Client surveys. To raise the level of client service, it makes sense to find out how clients perceive the current level of service. Are they unhappy, satisfied or wowed by your service? Surveys can help practices gain valuable information about what clients like or dislike and what additional services or changes they would like to see in service delivery.

  • Staff training. The need for staff training in certain areas may be evident as a result of the team meeting on "What's your client service IQ". A plan needs to be established to address gaps in training. Client service training never stops for practices that want to provide exceptional service. Without a focus on client service training, it is easy to become complacent and deliver mediocre service.

  • Brainstorm ideas to provide exceptional service. Team members are an excellent resource to brainstorm creative ideas to enhance client service. Routinely hold staff meetings to discuss service challenges and possible solutions.

  • Create service standards. Setting client service standards help to ensure consistency in the execution of service to your clients. Client service standards can differentiate your business from other veterinary practices in your area especially if the level of service provided is superior to that offered by competitors. When implementing service standards, it is helpful to develop standards for specific client interactions as well as general standards for the entire team. I recommend veterinary teams develop client service standards by starting with 3-5 standards for various categories of client interactions such as the phone, exam room or patient discharge. It is helpful to have different teams in the practice brainstorm on the standards and reach consensus. For example, the client service representatives can work on standards involving phone interactions and the technical team can work on standards for exam room interactions. Once the standards are agreed upon, they need to be written and distributed to the entire team so you can train the staff to the standards. (References: www.aldvet.com)

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