Veterinary clients are just people like us. They all have different personalities, expectations, and pets with a variety of issues.
Identifying certain traits in clients can be helpful in how we manage their appointments, interaction, and also our stress levels, especially for new graduates.
1) The Worrier.
This client comes in frequently because they are concerned about their pet. If their dog sneezes the wrong way, they are on your doorstep. Realize that people know their animals better than anyone else. The worrier is deeply in-tune with their pet so it is important to hear them out completely.
Luckily, most of the time, you can calm their fear after a good physical exam and conversation. Never dismiss concerns of a client. As small or simple as they may seem, they still deserve every ounce of attention when they come in for evaluation. These clients pick up on subtle changes in their pet that can be very important early on in disease.
2) The Demand Maker.
This client makes many demands, and you can never determine what those demands are going to be. The staff is on edge in anticipation of their arrival, or dreads returning their phone calls. They demand that they only pay half the bill for today’s visit. They demand that they will only see a certain doctor, but don’t want to wait to be seen even though they are a walk-in. They demand a certain brand of vaccine because their breeder told them to.
They demand a call back within 15 minutes because their dog has been scooting its rear end for the past 3 days, while you are knee deep in appointments and emergencies. With these clients, just be patient, kind, and take a deep breath. Try to get them into an exam room as soon as possible when they come in. Have a nurse return their call if you can’t do it right that minute, letting them know you will call back as soon as you have a moment, and offer for them to come in to be seen.
With these clients you have to be kind but firm and set boundaries so that the demands don’t escalate or become unreasonable. The longer you are in practice, the easier this will become. It doesn’t mean you have to cater to the demands, and definitely don’t bend the rules! Use your good communication skills to address their concerns, make sure they are heard, find a solution when possible, and make a very clear plan. I have dealt with ALL types of clients, and in almost 14 years have only needed to fire a few. That’s not too bad!
3) The Complainer.
This client feels they are owed something, or feels the need to complain about the practice in some way, shape, or form. The parking lot is too small, they waited too long to be seen (even though they came early and were actually seen on time), the treats too hard, the prices are too high, you didn’t trim the nails short enough (even though the quicks are showing), and why can’t you diagnose their pet without any diagnostics?
Take a deep breath; working with clients is an art-form you are sure to get down very soon if you are a new graduate. The way you speak to clients and present things to them is key; you catch more flies with honey. You may need to schedule an extra 15 minutes for these appointments. These clients just want to be sure they are heard and validated. Realize that these clients likely do this everywhere they go- it isn’t just your hospital.
This is a personality trait. For these clients use detail and explain things very clearly. Turn the negatives into positives:
- “I know our parking lot is small, and can be stressful when we are busy, but we are glad you made it in!”
- I realize Benji’s nails still look long, but let me show you his nails so you can see how long his quicks are. You can try walking him more frequently to help wear them down further, and let us trim them more frequently to make sure the quicks do not grow out any longer. The nurse did a great job trimming them as short as she was able to today.”
- “I wish I could tell you what is wrong with Benji just on his exam alone. As we discussed, there are 3 main things I think could be going on. The bloodwork would really help us to try and determine what is happening with him by checking his liver and kidney values, checking for diabetes and other diseases, and checking his blood counts.”
- “Hi Mrs. Jones! So nice to see you again. Sorry about the wait! You got here a little early today so I was trying to get in here as soon as I could to take a look at Benji.”
- "I am sorry if those treats are too hard for Benji. We use these because many of our patients have food allergies. I can break one up smaller so it is easier for him to eat, or if you want to bring softer treats next time we can give him those as a reward. Since he loves his belly rubs this can be his treat for today (while giving extra attention and belly rubs)." Clients just want you to love their dog as much as they do sometimes.
4) The Saint.
This client is always very patient, kind, and thankful during their visits. They are understanding during emergencies when they have to wait an extra 15 minutes to be seen. Never take these clients for granted and never take advantage of their patience. Most clients would rather wait, knowing that they are going to get your full attention when it is their turn.
Don’t forget to show them they are appreciated and never short clients on their exam time and conversation. These are the clients that make us smile, make our blood pressure go down, and remind us why we love our job! Luckily, this is the majority of clients! Sometimes it seems the other way around, but most clients really are Saints!
5) The Always-Late client.
It is not uncommon for certain clients to “always” be running 15-20 minutes late. Until I had kids I did not understand how anyone could be late for anything. We don’t know other people’s lives and should not make judgment.
Many clients may drive from far away, have un-anticipated traffic, or have medical issues. If there is a repeat-offender, just schedule their appointment, and tell them it is 15 minutes earlier. Works like a charm!
What other types of clients do you see and what are your tips on interaction with them?