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When clients blow you off


How you deliver information may be overriding your message-and preventing colleagues and clients from hearing you clearly. Learn how to improve your presentation and earn their respect.

Dress for success

“You're not in a fashion contest with Britney Spears,” says Dennis Cloud, DVM, a


Editorial Advisory Board member who owns several practices in the St. Louis area. “Your appearance is your first impression, and the neater and cleaner you are, the more clients will accept you.”    Debbie Allaben Gair, CVPM, agrees. “If you want to be a professional, you need to act and look like a professional,” says Gair, a board member and president of Bridging the Gap in Sparta, Mich. “This means wearing nice slacks and a dress shirt, not scrubs. Scrubs look like you're wearing your pajamas to work.”

    Are scrubs the uniform of choice in your practice? Gair says you can petition management to change the uniform. You can ask, "Can we reevaluate our dress code?" and provide rationale that supoorts the change and alternate uniform options.

    Also consider your make-up, hair style, nail polish, jewelry, and perfume. Is it really appropriate for work? Are the colors and styles flashy and distracting? And make sure you wear your name tag at all times, Gair says, so clients know who they're speaking with.

Watch your words

Never use inappropriate language, even with clients you've known for a long time. “Just because a client uses those words doesn't mean it's OK for you to do so,” says Paige Phillips, RVT, a board member and the assistant hospital administrator at Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas in Cary, N.C. “Cussing undermines the professional image you want to cultivate.”

    Also consider how you address clients and team members, says Gair. Unless a client has expressly asked that you call him or her by first name, Gair recommends using “Mr.” and “Mrs.” And never use terms such as “honey” and “sweetie.” “I know these terms are meant to be nice, but they can sound like you're talking down to a client,” she says. “And always, always, always call the doctor ‘doctor so-and-so,' not by his or her first name-especially in front of clients.”

Walk tall

Do you slouch, bite your fingernails, or avoid eye contact when explaining a treatment plan to clients? These actions demonstrate you're not comfortable with your message, and they undermine clients' confidence in you. Instead, stand tall, introduce yourself, wear a smile, maintain eye contact, and speak using proper English, Gair says.

Respect clients-no matter what

Let's face it: Sometimes clients make what you might think are goofy requests. For example, Phillips remembers when a client left his cell phone in a sick pet's cage while it was hospitalized so he could call and talk to the pet at any time. While this might seem odd, it's what the pet owner needed to do to cope with a stressful situation, she says.    

    “Sometimes we can be judgmental about the way clients relate to their pets,” says Phillips. “If that's how they express who they are, then we need to respect that. And if we don't, clients will notice and feel hurt-and that undermines our message.”

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