Real clients reveal why they love their veterinary practices

Firstline surveyed real clients to find out what they loved, liked, and hated about their veterinary practices.
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Sep 01, 2009

We asked pet owners nationwide why they love—or hate—their veterinarians. A common denominator emerged: Clients want a veterinary team that seems to care about their pets as much as they do.

This shouldn't shock you. Besides the mounting research that illustrates an ever-expanding human-animal bond, you see the pet-people connection daily. It's evident in the wrinkled palm that gently strokes a graying dog and in the eyes of a child who cradles a tiny kitten. And it's a testament to your work and passion for pets.

But do clients get a true sense of your fervor and dedication to caring for patients? As you read pet owners' true accounts on the following pages, imagine whether your clients might utter the same words. (Maybe they already did!) Then consider the dos and don'ts to determine whether you could do more to let your loving service shine through.

Client comment
"My ferret, Scout, was bit by my roommate's dog. She took my pet to the closest veterinarian. When I arrived, the doctor let me hold Scout and gave me time alone with her before I left for the night. Scout didn't make it. But the doctor was so gentle and caring—the practice even sent a sympathy card—I've gone there ever since."

Give a fond farewell
End-of-life issues are heartbreaking for sure, and they're the life-changing experiences your clients will always remember when they think of your practice. Hopefully you'll be able to make the related experiences as pain-free as possible.

DO
1. Provide a comfort room for euthanasia.
2. Wait patiently. Allow clients to spend as much time as they need with the pet after a euthanasia. Grant this same time for good-byes following an unexpected death.

3. Operate discreetly. Usher the pet and clients to the comfort area as soon as they reach the practice. "They're usually very emotional at that point," says Pam Weakley, Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager at Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic in Battle Creak, Mich. "They still have to wait their turn, but they can wait privately and spend some time with their pet."

DON'T
1. Schedule appointments that are days away. "Once clients make the decision to euthanize their pets, they don't want to have to wait," Weakley says. "They've realized that they need to do this, and they need to do it now. So we work them in whenever and wherever we can."

Take your service to great
Get the lights right. "We have small lights on the counters, so when the doctor has performed a euthanasia we turn the overhead lights off, so the harsh brightness of the light is gone," Weakley says.

Offer curb-side service or home visits. "We don't do it often, but if clients want us to come out to their van or truck—not the back seats of cars—to perform the euthanasia, we will do that," Weakley says. However, she and her team members first encourage the client to let them assist with bringing the pet inside. For clients who want to avoid the clinic altogether, Weakley refers them to a mobile veterinarian in the area who makes house calls.

Show your sympathy. A simple remembrance, from a card to a planter, shows you're still thinking about clients after they leave your practice.