6 heated situations: Say this, not that

6 heated situations: Say this, not that

Is conflict leaving you hot under the collar when you need to be cool as a cucumber? Put those feelings on ice to extinguish the flames.

How can you calm the volcano in your stomach when there's a lava of hot words burning its way up your throat? When conflict happens at your veterinary practice, you may struggle to find the right words to cool the angry flow before you erupt. But before you blow your stack, refocus on your target, says Debbie Allaben Gair, CVPM, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a management recruiter and coach with Bridging the Gap in Sparta, Mich. "It goes back to your goal," Gair says. "What's the primary reason your practice is in business?" Most will say that their goal is to take good care of pets and people.

When you make pets and clients your first priority, you hone in on how to offer the services they need, Gair says. This makes it easier to shift your attention from your communication woes to getting things done so you can help pets.

Julie Mullins, a veterinary assistant and staff training coordinator at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., agrees. "It's positioning yourself in the mindset that they're not out to get you," she says. "Don't allow bad feelings to escalate because you're upset."

Let's take a look at a few of the most common scenarios that make your temper spike and examine the right—and wrong—thing to say during these situations.

Case 1: Hot diggity discount

Mrs. Spendalot strolls in on her Prada-shod feet waving her Kate Spade clutch and complains your veterinary services are way too spendy—and she wants freebies or discounts for Ginger the Wonderdog.

Heat it up: "Who are you kidding? You can easily afford it."

Cool it down: "I'm sorry, Mrs. Spendalot, we don't offer discounts. To give you a discount we'd have to cut corners on patient care, which no one wants."

"A client who hears the second answer says, 'OK, I'm asking for something that cuts care, and I don't want that,'" says Paul Camilo, CVPM, practice administrator at All Pets Dental in Weston, Fla., and managing partner of Veterinary Consultation Services. "So the discount all of the sudden isn't that important."

Sometimes you may find clients are more aggressive with their requests. In these cases, Mullins tries to keep her response positive and explain what she can do for them.

"If they're combative, I try to point out the things we offer that are free or discounted," Mullins says. For example, if any companies offer a free parasite prevention product with a qualifying purchase, she'll explain those offers as a way to save money. She'll also mention senior wellness programs and other practice offers that apply. You can also explain the payment options your practice offers (for more on this topic).

Finally, our experts agree that it's critical to be confident when you speak to clients about cost. Projecting an air of confidence demonstrates your competence. "We can't be ashamed of what we charge," Mullins says. "Don't be apologetic. What you're doing is worth what you're charging."