How to handle weird client requests

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Oct 01, 2010

It's hard to keep a straight face when a client asks if you can clone her dog or if she's somehow responsible for her cat contracting herpes. But composure is a must. "Take each request or question seriously, because the client does," says Julie Mullins, veterinary assistant and staff training coordinator at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., who fielded both of the aforementioned inquiries.

Clients want to feel listened to, so ask questions and offer suggestions. Stay away from standard answers that write off clients' concerns such as, "Don't worry about it," or, "It's nothing." Instead, take the time to find out why they're asking. In the case of the clone inquiry, the owners said it was because he was the best dog they ever had, and they wanted another one just like him. Knowing the background makes it easier to respond.

When clients are satisfied with your answer, you don't need to fulfill the wacky request, Mullins says. For example, after the would-be cloners heard that they'd have as good a chance getting a dog with the same temperament by staying within the same bloodline, the owners no longer pushed cloning.

Of course, it's hard to keep your cool when caught off guard. So Mullins suggests role-playing responses with other team members. Make a list of common quirky questions or completely out-there requests and quiz each other on how to handle them, she says. To get you through in the meantime, here are some of Mullin's favorite go-to responses:

"You know, I've never been asked that question before. Let me check with the doctor and get back to you."

"My medical training is with animals. I hate to offer you advice that is wrong. You should really ask your doctor."