Theresa Time-Consumer: she overruns consults & pesters staff non-stop
Katy: Know-it-All who refers everything to ‘Dr Google’ or the breeder
Charlie: Cheapskate who wants it all but isn’t going to pay for it
Terry: Tyrant who has zero tolerance for everyone, everything and lets us know it
Susie: Sceptic who says she has tried it all before, but none of it works
How can you deal politely, professionally and effectively with these clients so that everybody gets a positive outcome?
Generally speaking, setting boundaries and being polite and respectful works wonders with most people. However, sometimes you need extra tools in your kit to handle five of the most difficult client personality types you’ll encounter…
Contact your client and say that “We do normally run our consults for  minutes, however we’d like to offer you an extended  minute appointment to make sure you have enough time to cover everything you need to ask” [Apply as appropriate for your practice/client]
Ensure your client understands that there will be an additional cost for this; however if they aren’t willing to pay for your extra time then they need to understand that, as a general rule, they must keep to your standard consultation time!
Ask your client to write down their questions and bring the list with them to the consultation. This should keep them on-track. Or, better still, email them to you before their consultation appointment, so that you can be fully prepared. It will not only streamline the consultation it could reduce the number of telephone calls they feel they need to make to you.
Ask for, or take, photo’s of their beloved pet for your social media site and seek their feedback on the service you provide. Your client will appreciate the fuss, attention and should certainly be a positive contributor when their demands are met and handled well, (with you at the controls).
Diagnoses what is wrong themselves – “Bert has got XYZ–I’ve seen it on the internet”
Double-checks everything – “I’ll check with the pet shop/breeder/internet/greengrocer”
Refuses a vet appointment – “It’s not necessary; I know what’s wrong with Bert”
Not so special – “No that’s expensive rubbish [e.g. a special diet] I’ll feed them tripe”
Not an expert – “I did the bandage myself”… [Oh-Oh!! Leg is badly swollen as a result]
No debate – an RVN cannot diagnose so we cannot agree or disagree with what your client attests is wrong with Bert. We can’t prescribe most meds without VS approval.
Don’t enter into a debate. It’s a non-starter!
Take charge of the conversation – politely but firmly state that a vet-check is required for a confirmed diagnosis and especially if they want medications prescribed. Leave it up to the client to decide whether or not to continue.
It is important you record all recommendations given and declined.
Educate – offer nursing advice such as that for patient care, nutrition, wound management, behaviour, the action of preventatives… about anything that isn’t a diagnosis!
Your client clearly wants to be knowledgeable so give them the correct information, e.g. a bandage management hand-out or preventative leaflets.
This should allow them to make better choices next time.
Praise – if your client insists their pet’s condition is caused by ‘X’ then tell them that you accept that this “might well be one reason” but as you can’t diagnose that they have “done the right thing” by bringing them into the practice to check.
Client feels supported and is more likely to take your advice to refer them for a vet check because you haven’t disagreed (even if they are wrong).
Success! You can try to get the pet the right treatment.
Free – tries to avoid vet consultations whenever possible to avoid paying fees. Always scouting for samples and discounts.
Won’t pay –
Guilt-trip – pulls out the ‘guilt trip’ card on you because they know you know their pet will benefit from whatever has been recommended. You love animals so you’ll do it for free…
Extreme case: will accuse you of letting their pet suffer or die if you don’t help financially.
Don’t back-down – reducing your price under threat diminishes the value of the service you provide and could seriously weaken the practice profitability. Moreover, as the Cheapskate can’t help but crow loudly about the success of beating you down in price, you run the risk of upsetting other full-fee paying clients.
You will clearly encounter life-threatening cases and this is one of the hardest things to deal with. When the client has no funds but the animal desperately needs treatment your only recourse is to refer them to your vet (or boss) to discuss other options. It is definitely not up to you to decide.
Water-off…a ducks back. Don’t take the (shrewdly delivered) guilt-trip personally. The ultimate responsibility for their pet’s well-being lies completely with the client
State, repeat, confirm – at the beginning of the consult or conversation, state how much the client will be expected to pay. “For ‘X’ that will be £xxx. Confirm: Would you like to go ahead?”
At the end of the consult or conversation; repeat the statement “That will be £xxxx”. I’d like to confirm how you’d prefer to pay today please?”
Tip: Ensure payment has been made/agreed before you hand anything over, perform the procedure or promise anything!
Have any questions or thoughts on this blog? Send them over to Alison – firstname.lastname@example.org