Stop judging your new consumer

Stop judging your new consumer

Confess: Are you frustrated by the high-demand, Google-happy discount divas and snapchat skeptics who ask everyone before they consult the veterinarian? Here's help.
Feb 01, 2016

We’ve all done it. We walk into an exam room, take one look at the clients and figure we’ve got their type pegged. Or maybe it takes a bit longer—you start taking a history and then something comes out of their mouths that’s got you mentally rolling your eyes. Here are some of the types of clients we meet on a daily basis­­—and ideas for how to talk to them.

“But Google says … ”

This client comes armed with pages he’s printed off from different Google searches. He’s spent a ton of time looking up clinical signs and already has a diagnosis in mind.

Mr. Google: “Mittens has been urinating outside of his litter box for several days now. I looked it up online, and he has a urinary tract infection. I’m going to need a prescription of Orbax from you.”

What you want to say: “By all means, don’t let my (or my doctor’s) medical degree get in the way of your Google search.”

What you should say: “That’s great that you did all this checking on your own. It shows me that you really care about Mittens and want the best care possible for him. Let’s discuss the tests he needs so we can get the right diagnosis and get him feeling better.”

Remember: You and Mr. Google are on the same team. Don’t let yourself get caught up in sarcastic thoughts the client may pick up on.

“I can’t afford that … ”

This client comes in carrying a Michael Kors bag, wearing Jimmy Choos and sporting a fresh manicure, but she claims to be unable to afford even the most basic veterinary care.

Ms. Gucci: “The price of those tests is way too high. I just don’t have that kind of money.”

What you want to say: “You can afford $1,200 shoes, but not $150 for radiographs?”

What you should say: “I understand. Let’s prioritize Fluffy’s needs so we can tackle them one at a time and stay within your budget.”

Maybe this client was given those shoes and that bag as gifts, and maybe she did her own manicure. Resist the instinct to judge clients based on their appearance.  

“Do you offer low-cost neuters?”

This client is looking for any and all cost-cutting measures available­—and then some. He may have no problem asking if you’ll give him special discounts or even throw in some services or products for free.

Mr. Notalottabucks: “I need to get my cat neutered. The clinic down the street will do it for $50. You’ll match that, right?”

What you want to say: “Yeah, no. If they’re so cheap at that clinic, go there.”

What you should say: “Our neuter surgery includes a comprehensive physical exam, preanesthetic labs that will ensure that Tiger is a good surgical candidate, hands-on anesthetic monitoring by a credentialed veterinary technician, an IV catheter and fluids and pain medications for his recovery. The price for everything is X dollars. If you’d like, I can help you complete a third-party payment application if you’d prefer to make payments.”

Concerns about the cost of veterinary care come from all avenues. You might find yourself in an exam room with a client dressed in thrift store finds holding a cat with a broken leg. Don’t assume he can’t afford gold standard care because of how he looks. After all, maybe he's dressed that way because he spent all his money on his pets.

“But first, let me take a selfie … ”

This client is so absorbed in her smartphone that she can’t tear herself away long enough to talk to you.

Mrs. Phoneface: “ … Huh? Oh, yeah, that’s fine … whatever. Is he what? Eating? Oh … hang on a sec … um yeah, he’s fine.”

What you want to say: “Seriously? Your Twitter feed is more important than your dog’s health?”

What you should say: “It looks like you’re very busy. Would you like to reschedule your appointment for a time when we’re able to speak more about Max?”

It may seem like this type of client is just being rude, but maybe she’s so distracted because her mom is having emergency surgery and she’s texting a family member for an update. Don’t let your anger flare—you never know what might be behind this client’s behavior.

“I don’t believe in that … ”

This client has been listening to everyone’s opinions … except those of a veterinary professional.

Ms. Anti-everything: “I don’t believe in vaccinating or feeding anything with grain, gluten, soy or byproducts.”

What you want to say: “Oh for pete’s sake. If those things were bad, I wouldn’t be recommending them.”

What you should say: “It sounds like you have some concerns about Chloe’s care. Let’s address those concerns one at a time.”

This client wants to do the right thing for her pet. She may just be confused by all the information coming her way. Take the time to deal with each of her concerns. This client wants to feel heard and be taken seriously. Since she's seeking more information than the average client, give her a list of reputable websites to search. Pointing her in the right direction can often assuage her fears and get her on board with your treatment plan.

It’s easy to get frustrated by clients. You’re trying to do right by your patients and give them the care and attention they need, and you feel like these clients are cutting you off at every turn. Always remember: You and your clients have the same goal. Work with them, not against them. When you find yourself getting upset, put yourself in clients' shoes. Think about all the things that could be influencing their behavior. Then take a deep breath and show them their pet is in good hands.

Julie Carlson is a freelance author and a certified veterinary technician. She is the winner of the 2015 Hero Veterinary Technician Award from the American Humane Association and the founder of Vets for Vets’ Pets, a nonprofit organization providing supplies and medical care to the pets of homeless and at-risk veterans. Carlson has five cats, two Chihuahuas and one fish and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.