Get your priorities straight

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Mar 01, 2008


Mary Ann Vande Linde
Q When the phone is ringing, there's a client to be checked out, and a technician has a question, how do I prioritize?

"Take a deep breath and remember that customer service is in the eye of the beholder," says Mary Ann Vande Linde, DVM, a consultant with Vande Linde and Associates in Atlanta. "All clients are important. And you communicate their importance through your words, tone of voice, body posture, and facial expressions."

First, indicate you're aware each client has a need. "Acknowledge the client in front of you with a smile, her name, and her pet's name, if possible," Dr. Vande Linde says. Let her know you'll address her need shortly.

Then, answer the phone with the four-part greeting: "Good morning, ABC Animal Hospital. This is Mary Ann. Is this a pet emergency? May I place you on hold for a moment?" Keep your face and body posture positive. Clients on the other end can tell how you're carrying yourself by the tone of your voice.

Next, address the technician and ask how you may assist her—and remember to keep that positive tone, she says. You also can ask if her question is an emergency or if you could assist her when you've served your clients.

When you return to the client in front of you, thank the person for waiting and begin the checkout process, Dr. Vande Linde says. Make sure you maintain your positive attitude and don't let your frustration with a hectic situation show. You can help keep your stress level under control by breathing deeply and smiling.

If this scenario occurs frequently, ask your manager to evaluate your practice's job structuring, staffing, and work flow needs to find opportunities to improve the situation, she says.