Ask your veterinary clients the right questions

Use this advice to get the most valuable information from clients and learn the truth about how pet owners perceive your service and care.
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Jul 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

No matter what part of the country you live in, it can often be a challenge to get people to tell you the truth—especially if they feel you will be hurt or take offense. Here's a simple yet effective way to dig down to the truth.

First, it's important to realize some of the reasons people avoid telling the truth. Consider these common reasons:

  • We've all been trained from early childhood that if we can't say something nice, we shouldn't say anything at all. Unfortunately, not all truthful statements are nice, so we learn to avoid telling the truth by saying something nice instead.
  • Almost no one enjoys confrontation, and telling the truth often feels confrontational to people.
  • Telling the truth often takes a little more time, since we have to pause to determine what the truth actually is. Many times, people just want to take the easy and fast way out by just saying something nice.

With these points in mind, the next step is to help clients feel safe so they can share the truth. Start by letting them know that you really do want the truth and that you won't be offended or hurt by it. Promise to use their input in a constructive and positive way to help improve matters in the future.

Once you hear even a little bit of truth that's not completely couched in niceties, reward the person by thanking them for sharing their truth, and then dig a little deeper for the next rich vein. Something like, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I really do appreciate it and will take your comment to heart. What else could you share with me about the situation?"

Remember, don't try to defend your point of view or talk people into changing their minds. That will only serve to shut down the truth telling. If you feel yourself growing defensive, take a few deep breaths and remember the promise you gave them.

Once you feel like they've shared everything, sincerely thank them for having the courage to speak so honestly, and once more promise that you will use their comments constructively. Then, be sure you do so.