For many clients, visiting the veterinarian is just another chore to check off their to-do list. It’s not good and it’s not bad; it’s just something that needs to be done.
But what if it doesn’t have to be that way? Clients who have a positive experience are more likely to keep returning to your clinic, giving you and your coworkers more opportunities to educate that client and provide optimal care for their pet.
While we often tend to assume that clients choose their vet clinic on the basis of price or convenience, that doesn’t appear to be the case. A study of 435 Colorado clients showed that the most important factor in choosing a veterinarian, cited by 74% of clients, was interest in the well-being of the pet.1 This factor was more important to clients than both medical knowledge and price, underscoring the importance of making clients feel valued in the veterinary clinic!
In an effort to improve the client experience, clinics are increasingly turning to in-lobby coffee bars and other high-end services to improve the client experience. While many tips for improving client experience require systemic changes and the buy-in of the entire team, there are also some simple steps that you can take to improve client satisfaction!
Keep exam rooms clean and inviting
At some point during their visit, most clients will spend time in an exam room. When you have free time, sit where the client would normally sit and look around the room. Can you see any clutter, cobwebs, or other unpleasant sights from that vantage point? Spending a few minutes decluttering or rearranging the exam room can have a big impact on client perceptions.
After each appointment, ensure that the exam room is fully cleaned and restocked before a new client is called into the room. Take the time to sweep up tufts of fur, clean up crumbs from treats, etc. Investing an extra minute or two in straightening up can have a big impact on client satisfaction.
Don’t allow your clients to feel forgotten
We all know how busy veterinary clinics can be. Although it’s hopefully a rare occurrence, there will be times that clients are taken to an exam room and then left waiting for a while before a vet tech enters the room. If you’ve ever been in this position yourself, you may realize how frustrating this can be!
Ensure that a client is never left waiting for more than 5 minutes without a team member entering the exam room. (Consider placing a timer on each exam room door to help with this!) If you’re still busy with another task at the end of 5 minutes, have someone (another vet tech or a receptionist) pop their head into the room to apologize and give the client an update.
Most clients are okay with a bit of wait, as long as it doesn’t happen at every visit and as long as they know that they haven’t been forgotten.
Instead of rushing into the exam room to collect a history, perform your initial assessment, and get out of the room as quickly as possible, slow down and get to know your clients a bit.
Introduce yourself by name, going slowly to ensure that clients hear your name and become familiar with you. Shake hands. Look for a way to be friendly with the client, by commenting on their pet, making small talk, or giving a genuine compliment on something you notice about them. Taking these small steps will make the client feel more welcome at the veterinary clinic.
Use friendly body language
You have probably heard that a large part of communication is non-verbal. When interacting with clients, pay attention to your non-verbal communication.
Consider the following:
- Use an open posture (avoid crossing your arms across your chest)
- Maintain eye contact
- Avoid fidgeting and other signs of impatience
Although you may be simultaneously entering notes in a pet’s medical record while speaking to the client, use your body language to demonstrate that you care about the client and their pet.
Proactively address client concerns
In many cases, you can tell that a client is concerned or dissatisfied before they verbally express their concerns. Perhaps you notice that they’re becoming frustrated as you present an estimate or you can tell that they are aggravated by their wait time. When you see those little red flags, take the time to ask clients what’s wrong. Addressing these issues proactively can increase client satisfaction.
In some cases, it might be helpful to offer a small “freebie” (with your practice manager’s permission) for clients who’ve had a long wait or an otherwise negative experience. This isn’t intended to appease an angry client who demands a free service, but as an unexpected gift to a client who is frustrated. Saying something like “I’m so sorry about your wait today; can we make it up to you with a free nail trim?” can sometimes reverse a client’s disappointment or frustration, by catching them off guard with a pleasant surprise.
Ensure that the client’s questions are answered
Whether you’re admitting a pet, discharging a pet, or performing an in-room visit, ensure that you answer all of the client’s questions. Encourage clients to ask questions, in order to maximize the likelihood that they feel comfortable with their pet’s visit
I hear a lot of vets and vet techs end their client conversations with a yes or no question, such as “do you have any other questions for me?” While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, a lot of clients seem to answer an almost-reflexive “no,” without really giving it much thought. Instead, consider asking an open-ended question, like “what other questions do you have for me?” This encourages clients to stop and think for a moment so that they can ask as many of their questions as possible.
Provide follow-up information
As the client leaves, remind them of your name and let them know how they can reach you. If you have a business card, give it to them!
Clients often feel more comfortable knowing that there’s someone specific they can reach out to with questions or concerns. Additionally, performing your own follow-ups will help decrease confusion among the other team members, who may not be familiar with a particular case.
- Osborne D. 2014. Veterinary client satisfaction in Colorado: relationships are more important than price. AAHA Newstat. Retrieved from https://www.aaha.org/publications/newstat/articles/2014-10/veterinary-client-satisfaction-in-colorado-relationships-are-more-important-than-price/