How to Make Difficult Conversations with Clients Less Daunting
Learning to navigate difficult conversations in your clinic will increase the long-term success of your business
Having tough conversations is, unfortunately, a large part of the veterinary profession. Navigating these conversations will help ease your staff’s and clients’ minds. According to Julia Burke with DVM360, “Veterinarians talk with clients about things such as euthanasia, finances, and bad diagnoses, and talk with colleagues about things such as feedback and conflicts among team members. Veterinarians need to learn how to have these difficult conversations because if they don’t, it can lead to burnout or errors.”
Below, we have outlined the best ways to approach difficult conversations that will help assist you and your staff in these unfortunate but unavoidable situations.
Stay calm and open-minded
Sarah Wooten at The Vetiverse notes that difficult conversations can cause fear in your clients. “Fear and frustration may cause clients to speak and act in ways contrary to their intentions. When faced with these challenges, it’s important that you try to stay calm.”
Before you enter any difficult conversation, no matter how stressed you are, take a breath and get yourself in a good mental state before you start the conversation. If you go into a conversation in a negative headspace, you’re more likely to project those feelings onto your client, and the conversation will be much more complicated than it should be.
Showing empathy towards the client is another good way to de-escalate the situation and have a calm and open conversation.
Some conversations will be hard for the person on the receiving end; when dealing with these talks, practice compassion for the other person. Putting yourself in their shoes can help you understand their feelings and perspective about the conversation.
Try to avoid having a one-sided conversation. Instead, have an open dialogue.This will let them know that you have empathy for them and their situation.
Focus on a solution
Usually, these difficult conversations are tricky because they involve the well-being of a client’s animal. Many clients view their pets as a child, there is nothing they wouldn’t do for them.
Difficult conversations will only be productive if you and the person you are speaking with come up with a solution together that will help the client act on the advice given.
Asking open-ended questions can help you better understand the client’s goals. With this information, you can give the client the best possible recommendations for their pet.
Be open to feedback
Feedback directly determines the satisfaction of your clients and whether they will remain loyal or recommend your clinic to others.
OptiMonk notes that one unhappy client can ruin the potential customer base of 8 to 10 people. That is a large number for a clinic to miss out on or potentially lose.
Sending post-appointment surveys, reading them, and responding accordingly is a good place to start with feedback. You and your staff should be aware that not all this feedback will be positive, even if you think you did everything correctly.
How you respond to feedback is crucial and will show the client that you care and want to do better for them and their animal. If they have provided you with feedback and you make the necessary changes, the client will also feel like a more significant part of the process, and they have some control over the well-being and care of their pet. Being open to feedback is a great way to ensure the trust and growth of your clinic in the eyes of your clients.
Difficult conversations are, unfortunately, a part of a veterinary career. Learning to navigate these conversations will help you and your patients feel comfortable during visits and will only help the success of your clinic.