It's happened to all of us. We check the schedule and notice that Gabby Blahblah is dropping off her limping Labrador, Bowser,
for radiographs. Gabby can talk for hours about the simplest nail trim, and all of Bowser's ailments present with a detailed
narrative she'll repeat to anyone within earshot. Without the right approach, not only will your schedule spiral out of control,
but Gabby may get the impression you don't care about Bowser or her concerns.
Successful practices do more than sell products or services. They offer high-quality, caring customer service that exceeds
clients' expectations. But some clients make offering high-quality service difficult. If we don't handle these clients with
care, they won't return. And worse yet, they'll warn off potential clients.
The good, the bad, and the truly poopy
So what turns a good client into a difficult client? The issue generally comes back to clients' expectations about your services—how
long the appointment should take, the outcome they want, or the price they believe they should pay. Most of their expectations
are probably reasonable, but sometimes they're not.
For example, clients who walk in and expect the doctor to drop everything and see them immediately don't have reasonable expectations.
The hard part is that you need to handle these clients just as carefully as you do clients with reasonable expectations that
your team hasn't met.
Support your special clients
Here's a look at a few classic types of dissatisfied clients and how to handle their complaints:
Stuart Steamer: "I'm going to tell everyone I know not to come here. You're just trying to get my money!" It's critical to keep your cool
with these clients. You might say, "Mr. Steamer, you know we're trying to give Fido the best possible care. To do that, we
need to run some lab tests that will give us an overall picture of Fido's health. The equipment and supplies necessary to
run these tests aren't cheap, but the results will help us help Fido."
Ms. Can't Hardly Wait: "My appointment was at 10 a.m., and it is now 10:10! I need to leave soon!" A good response: "We usually run pretty close
to schedule. Let me check with the technician to see if there's a problem." If there's a delay, give Ms. Can't Wait some options.
For example, "It looks like an emergency has put us a little behind. I can reschedule your appointment for another time, or
if you can wait a little longer, I can credit your account $5 for the inconvenience." If you don't have an agreement with
your supervisor or hospital owner to offer a credit, talk about the benefits of this gesture. You may even want to offer the
credit before clients complain to build goodwill.
Mr. Bigstuff: He calls in for a last-minute wellness visit and you're booked solid. "I'm a personal friend of Dr. Smith's, and I know he
would see me!" Your response: "I understand you would like to be seen today, but Dr. Smith has no open appointments. You can
drop off Max and Dr. Smith will try to see him between appointments, or we can schedule you for an appointment tomorrow at
10. What works better for you?"
Mrs. Gabby Blahblah: "Blah, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada. And then ..." You might say, "I see you have several concerns about Bowser's health.
I want to be sure you see Dr. Smith on time, so let's get the basic information first. Then Dr. Smith can ask you additional
questions about Bowser's condition." Keep the client moving in the direction of the exam room so the technician can start
the appointment on time.
Ms. My Way: "I want to be sure Roscoe gets his walk exactly at 10 a.m. and he gets his special treat at 11:30 a.m." What to say: "We
will check with the doctor to be sure that won't be a problem or interfere with Roscoe's treatment plan."
Mrs. Hemenhaw: "Well, I just don't know. Do a lot of people neuter their cats? Is it expensive? Maybe I should. But I don't want Shadow
to feel any pain. Does the medicine really work? How do you know?" The best way to handle these clients is to answer their
questions completely and go over each item in a treatment plan. These phrases might help: "We use this because ...," "Studies
have shown ...," and "This is the best treatment for your pet because ..."
Nellie Nothing's Right: "Last time Iwas here Iwanted Dr. Jones to see Prince, but Dr. Smith saw him. Iknow Dr. Smith didn't check Prince's ears the
way Dr. Jones does. And Dr. Jones doesn't listen to Prince's heart carefully during exams."Because you know Nellie's difficult
to satisfy, anticipate her objections and verify her requests when she visits with Prince. For example, you may smile and
say, "Nellie, you seem to prefer seeing Dr. Jones. Would you like me to note on your file that you always want us to schedule
Prince with Dr. Jones?I know how carefully you take care of your pets, and we want to be sure you both get the care you need."