5 ways to make clients feel welcome

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Oct 01, 2005

A new client hands you a runny, grass-covered fecal sample in a plastic grocery bag. You offer him a friendly smile, a bottle of juice, and some hand sanitizer. The phone rings. It's Mrs. Anderson again. Could you move her appointment to 2:30? She's having a hard time getting Tuckleberry out from under the bed. "Why don't you try opening a can of tuna, Mrs. Anderson?" you suggest.

Your teenage kennel worker taps you on the shoulder. Her co-worker just barfed on the floor. (It must have been a parvo mess that did it!) Would you mind fetching Mr. Finkle's poodle from the boarding area while she cleans it up? You walk over to the new client, lend him some reading material, give his dog a pat, and tell him you'll be right back.



A little extra effort goes a long way toward helping clients feel recognized and welcomed. The five steps that follow will help you offer the highest quality service—and help clients feel at home in your practice.

1 Play the name game



Calling the client "ma'am" or "hey, you" just doesn't have the personal touch that lets clients know you care. Clients might not expect you to know their names, but imagine how good they'll feel if you do. And, it only takes a minute to look ahead in your appointment book so you know who's visiting today.

Don't forget to give pets a friendly, personal greeting, too. You might even include a quick pat or an ear scratch if the pet seems receptive. "We kiss, we hug, and we cuddle—unless we see teeth!" says Karen Sabatini, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a receptionist at Ardmore Animal Hospital in Ardmore, Pa.

Of course, you can't forget the basics: Make sure you check the pet's gender. You may undo the goodwill you earned if you greet Rambo with a friendly, "hey girl!" To avoid this blunder, team members at Windsor Veterinary Clinic P.C. in Windsor, Colo., mark female pets' charts with a pink dot and males' charts with a blue one. If you're a paperless practice, you may be able to set up your software to show a pink or blue background on the patient's record.

If your hospital is large enough, consider appointing a designated greeter to make sure each client gets a personal welcome. For example, Bowman Animal Hospital and Cat Clinic Inc. in Raleigh, N.C., employs a full-time greeter who offers everyone a warm welcome and helps new clients fill out forms, says Hospital Administrator Monica Dixon Perry.

2 Give new clients extra care



Clients may come up with some pretty strange ideas about the back areas of your hospital if you don't take the time to show them where you take their pets when you disappear on the other side of the exam room door. Sharon DeNayer, a board member and the practice manager at Windsor Veterinary Clinic, suggests giving new clients a tour. "I don't want clients to think that the back area of the hospital is a scary place," she says. "I want them to feel comfortable in any part of the clinic."