Veterinary Customer Service Ideas: 10 Client Communication Tips

Outstanding customer service is paramount for any business, but even more so in a veterinary practice. Not only do pet owners see their animals as beloved family members, veterinary care is generally a substantial investment and one that pet parents don’t take lightly. And, according to a recent statistic, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company — so you want to make it a top priority. Here are 10 ideas for improving client service that you can implement right away.

Veterinary Customer Service Ideas You Can Use Right Now

1. Provide veterinary client handouts

Why you should do this

The volume of information your clients receive at each appointment can be fairly overwhelming, especially with a new or sick pet. Information on multiple vaccines, new puppy and kitten schedules, and post-operative pet care can all be somewhat daunting to busy pet owners.

By supplying handouts, you’ll help pet owners process the plethora of information and give them a resource to refer to after they’ve left your clinic. You’ll also likely save your staff valuable time, as brochures and handouts can answer frequently asked animal health questions that multiple owners may otherwise call to ask about.

How to put this into practice

Meet with your team to compile a list of topics that clients often find confusing, or those that staff receive the majority of questions about. Draft documents for each and review with your team to gather feedback. You can then work with a graphic designer or utilize free online design programs (like Canva) to design handouts for each topic. Display them prominently in your waiting area and exam rooms, or hand them out to clients as needed.

Helpful tip: Print your handouts in multiple languages to accommodate a wider variety of clients.

2. Learn how to deal with abusive or difficult veterinary clients sooner rather than later

Why you should do this

Emotions are often running high in a veterinary clinic, and difficult — sometimes abusive — clients are inevitable. Decide what you will and will not tolerate at your practice and educate your staff accordingly. High stress situations can escalate quickly and may become dangerous for your team, so it’s important that everyone knows which procedures to follow, how to act, and what steps to take in any given scenario.

How to put this into practice

Meet with your team to review the scenarios most likely to occur in your particular practice and go over how you expect them to respond. As a general rule: As difficult as it may be in a situation where a client is irate, it’s important to listen to the pet parent’s concerns and understand what they’re trying to communicate. Try to remain calm, as it’s likely not personal, and do your best not to interrupt. Be as empathetic as possible and acknowledge their feelings, as they’re likely distraught over their pet’s health. By finding common ground and offering a solution, you can often de-escalate the situation. Of course, in a scenario where you feel that your team may be in physical danger, or if there is any indication of drug-seeking behavior, the best course of action is to get authorities involved as soon as possible.

3. Keep your team happy

Why you should do this

Working in a veterinary clinic can be an emotionally draining experience, as most veterinary providers know, and compassion fatigue and burnout are extremely common. It’s best to manage difficult situations and emotions as they arise rather than putting them off and hoping they’ll improve on their own. Not only will it affect your staff on a personal level, their unhappiness will impact client experience as well. Your staff’s general well-being and attitude will reflect in their work, and as such should be a top priority for practice management.

Team members at the front desk, for instance, are every new client’s first impression of your veterinary practice, and their initial service experience will often determine if they’ll stick around or search elsewhere for future patient care.

How to put this into practice

It’s important for practice managers and practice owners to keep communication honest and open, and that team members feel comfortable coming to you with concerns. Check in with your staff both individually and as a group periodically to ensure that everyone is feeling valued and respected, has a good work-life balance, and is able to effectively deal with the complex emotions involved in veterinary medicine, and health care in general.

4. Make sure your staff are knowledgeable/well trained

Why you should do this

Pet owners want what’s best for their pets and are generally very particular about how their animals are handled and cared for. Maintaining a positive client relationship by answering questions politely and handling pets correctly will reassure owners that your team members are competent and well-informed veterinary professionals that can adequately care for their beloved family members.

How to put this into practice

Along with hiring the right people, offering opportunities for continuing education is of utmost importance for veterinary staff. Take advantage of free continuing education courses and webinars, and “Lunch and Learns” allow businesses to provide education on new products or medications in exchange for free lunches, which are always appreciated. Benefits and bonuses for those that pursue continuing education are likely to get your team more involved.

5. Use your bulletin board to communicate

Why you should do this

Bulletin boards are an excellent way for practice managers to relay important information and provide timely announcements to both staff and clients. New and evolving topics like pet food recalls, veterinary industry events, or emergency updates can be posted and changed as needed.

How to put this into practice

A bulletin board can be placed in both the waiting room for clients and in a break room or near the front door for veterinary staff. Simple cork boards are cost effective while digital bulletin boards offer a more high-tech solution.

6. Provide waiting room “entertainment” for children and adults

Why you should do this

One unexpected emergency or even a routine check-up appointment that runs over can knock your schedule off track for an entire afternoon. By providing reading material or even a TV, you’ll give your clients something positive to focus on rather than watching the clock. Additionally, clients with children will undoubtedly appreciate a designated area for reading or play, as it’s often difficult to keep kids occupied in a health care setting.

How to put this into practice

Offer a television, games, or a variety of magazines in an easily accessible space in your waiting room. Providing coffee, tea, or water is another simple but kind gesture that will make pet parents feel valued and welcome at your veterinary hospital.

7. Make payment processing simple & painless

Why you should do this

The more streamlined and simple your payment processing is, the happier your staff and clients will be. Team members will likely be processing payments a good portion of the day and will appreciate an uncomplicated procedure.

Pet owners are often faced with a stress-inducing hefty bill, and generally have an anxious dog on a leash or howling cat in a carrier.  The more efficiently you can complete their payment, the better.

How to put this into practice

Simply offering multiple payment options, including a credit card processor and accepting digital payments, can improve customer experience significantly. You’ll also likely find that most clients prefer an itemized receipt. For more insight, read our recent article on the benefits of simplifying payments.

8. Create a customer feedback loop

Why you should do this

Gathering and implementing feedback from your clients is imperative; it makes them feel heard and valued and will almost certainly improve client retention. Not only that, your practice as a whole will benefit from accommodating your client’s needs, as other pet owners are likely looking for similar things.

How to put this into practice

There are several effective ways to gather feedback from your clients. Surveys can be offered online through veterinary marketing such as social media, your website, email, or right at your veterinary hospital. If you have a Facebook or Google My Business account, you can receive and respond to reviews easily online. Excellent reviews online will also help potential clients find you more easily and make it more likely that they’ll go on to schedule an appointment.

Helpful tip: When possible, obtain the pet owner’s contact information so you can follow up with them at a later date.

9. Appointment reminder phone calls

Why you should do this

While this seems simple, a quick reminder call for an upcoming appointment or surgery is generally greatly appreciated by pet owners living already hectic lives. Doing so will likely help you decrease the number of missed appointments, and also gives staff an opportunity to reiterate important information to pet parents, such as the need to withhold food and water in the hours before surgery.

How to put this into practice

Staff can utilize quieter periods of the day to call the following day’s clients to remind them of their appointments.

10. Sign displaying when an owner is saying goodbye to a pet

Why you should do this

Saying goodbye to a pet family member is one of the most difficult and emotional events your client will face while at your practice. Providing a sign at the front desk stating that a fellow owner is saying their final goodbyes to their pet is a heartfelt gesture that will almost certainly be recognized and appreciated. And, if the grieving pet owner exits through the lobby or front door, other owners waiting in the area are then aware and can be empathetic to the situation.

How to put this into practice

Display a small sign or symbol (a candle burning, for instance) that readily shows that an owner is saying goodbye to a pet. For example, text could read:

“If this candle is lit, someone is saying goodbye to their beloved pet. We ask that you speak softly and with respect during this difficult time. Thank you for your kindness and compassion.”

Signs can be designed and printed by a staff member or ordered online.

Our conclusion on our veterinary customer service tips

Even the smallest conveniences and gestures can go a long way in making your clients feel welcome, valued, and appreciated. Treating your clients as valued friends, and treating them as such, will almost certainly lead to word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals. To learn more about what pet owners are expecting for veterinary service in 2021, check out the statistics from our blog here.

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