Why do your clients leave?
Jun 01, 1999
So I started to make calls—at least five every day. At first, people gave me only vague niceties. My business coach shook her head. "You need to get underneath that nice North Carolina talk and find out the truth—why they really left," she said. Sure enough, when I gave those clients more of my time and let them know I wanted the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, they delivered. Boy, did they deliver:
"I was your client for four years, but last time I was in, you didn't even know my name or recognize my pet. It didn't seem like you really cared."
"I was told that the charges would be $15 to $20, but when I picked up Elmo, the bill was $75. I was shocked."
It was tough to listen to those calls without defending myself or making excuses, but the information I gathered helped me turn around a lackluster practice. Using those nuggets of truth, my staff and I worked to heal the wounds that had my practice on the verge of bleeding to death.
Stay alert to potential problems
Clients often leave because of a communication problem with someone in the practice. Of course, such problems can take many different forms. Consider these common communication conflicts and the solutions you can use to repair the damage:
To head off such problems, make sure you educate your clients about what to expect. For example, if a client knows a pet will be droopy for a couple of days because of a procedure, she won't be angry with you because the animal seems unhappy.
It's also a good idea to ask clients at check-out if they're satisfied with the service and care you provided. If the answer is no, give the client an opportunity to voice all her concerns without interruption. Then ask her how you can remedy the situation. Apologize sincerely, assure her that you'll resolve the problem, then follow through. Keep in mind, you can't fix a problem if you don't know it exists.
Seize the moment
Confronting disgruntled clients isn't easy. If you're not ready to dive in and start calling inactive clients for advice, as I was instructed to do, take advantage of these other opportunities to glean valuable information from pet owners:
Receptionist: "Ms. Reynolds, we're sure going to miss seeing you and Lera. May I ask why you're planning to go elsewhere?"
Client: "It's just that Dr. Watson's clinic is a little closer to my office."
Receptionist: "I understand convenience is an important factor. May I ask if we did something that detracted from your receiving the very best care? We realize that sometimes, despite our best efforts, we make mistakes. If we did so with you, we'd appreciate knowing about it so we can correct it in the future. I promise that your comments will be well received."
When a client starts talking about the problem, listen intently. Don't defend, justify, or explain. In fact, try the opposite. Gently probe with comments like, "I understand, Ms. Reynolds. At any other time has your experience been a less than positive one for you or your pet?"
If you receive any negative feedback to surveys, follow up with a quick phone call. Thank the client for her honesty, and assure her that you'll correct the problem. You'll impress the client by quickly and professionally addressing her concerns.