When to D.I.T.C.H. a Client


In theory, the more clients a practice has, the more success the practice is. But some clients, sad to say, just aren’t worth the time and effort.

What do you do when a client refuses to pay an invoice or treats your staff poorly? Dan Travieso, an expert in organizational and individual performance at DT Squared Consulting Services in Fayetteville, North Carolina, recommends that you D.I.T.C.H. your bad clients. The D.I.T.C.H. acronym helps you identify five types of clients you should get rid of and why:

1. Debtors

It’s a classic scenario. A client comes in with a “parvo puppy” that is dehydrated, listless and hypothermic. As the technician takes the pup to the treatment area, the owner begs you to “do whatever you can to save him! I love this little guy!”

Based on this statement, you request full blood work, a parvo test and IV fluids. Meanwhile, the owner tells your receptionist that he has no money. The puppy has never been to a veterinarian and was never vaccinated. It’s a terrible ethical and emotional dilemma. Only you can decide how much care you are willing to provide for free. Then it’s time to say farewell to this client.

2. No Integrity

This client used to love you. But as soon as her 15-year-old cat’s kidneys start to fail, she blames it on you. No matter how you try to explain the situation, she doesn’t understand that you did not cause kidney disease. The client starts to spread rumors about you and your practice, both in person and online. You can fulfill your mission and treat the cat to the best of your ability, but then it’s time to say adios to this client.

3. Time eaters

Needy clients can be draining, not just physically but also time-wise. They constantly need to talk to you.

For example, you might spend 45 minutes explaining a new treatment protocol to a client in the morning. Sure, the treatment is involved and a bit complicated, but you are very patient and explain everything three times. Then you type everything up so there will be no misunderstanding.

However, by lunch time, your receptionist gives you a long message with multiple questions. The client is demanding a call. After appointments are over, you call the client and spend another 30 minutes reviewing what you had explained and typed up this morning. It’s time to decide if you want to keep such a client — or if it’s time to say auf wiedersehen.

4. Cranky

This client behaves like a wolf with the staff and turns into a sheep as soon as you show up. She makes a scene in the waiting room, making other clients uncomfortable. Then she is condescending to your receptionist, who was merely trying to make sure all of her information is still up to date. Then she yells at your technician because she mispronounced her dog’s name.

But as soon as you walk into the exam room, she acts like she’s your best friend.

Abuse and disrespect should not be tolerated. It’s time to say ciao.

5. Hustlers

Some clients have the money to spend on their pet but choose to spend it on something else. Rather than paying a fair price, they want freebies, discounts and handouts. They’re not thankful and can never be satisfied.

These clients won’t magically decide one day that they want to pay full price and follow all of your recommendations for their pet. No matter how much you do for them, they will never be loyal clients. It’s time to say sayonara.

Ah, the Relief

As a profession, we tend to want to please and serve everybody. Yet it’s important to accept the fact that we cannot cater to every client’s needs. When you encounter problem pet owners, consider firing them so you don’t waste your time and money. It may be a tough decision, but your staff, your other clients and, in turn, you will love the end result.

Kelly Serfas, a certified veterinary technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com and www.VeterinariansInParadise.com.

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