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How Should You Respond to Crazy Clients?

Exam Communication Skills, Receptionist Skills

Clients will seek pet-care advice from friends, family, groomers, retailers, Dr. Google and anyone with perceived expertise. Don’t let quirky questions catch you off guard. Be prepared with savvy answers that position your veterinary team as medical experts and the No. 1 trusted source. Remember, you both want the pet to be protected and get preventive care.

When clients share comments that alarm you, respond like a professional. Here are two crazy client situations and how to respond:

Crazy Client: “I can get my vaccines cheaper at a shot clinic or the feed store.”

Your Clinic:

A receptionist calls a client about her pet’s overdue preventive checkup. The client shares that she plans to get her pet vaccinated at a shot clinic, which advertised $10 Rabies and $25 Distemper/Parvo vaccines. How should you respond and communicate value for your professional services?

Low-cost vaccine clinics entice pet owners with discounts, but savings may come with a trade-off. Pet owners may select vaccines like a drive-thru menu rather than having a veterinarian tailor the vaccines after performing a comprehensive physical exam, taking a thorough history and asking risk-assessment questions. Sick pets might be vaccinated if exams are not included. The low-cost clinic may not use vaccines with the latest technology, duration of immunity or safety improvements. If the pet has a vaccine reaction, can pet owners seek medical care at the low-cost vaccine clinic?

To respond professionally, use the “acknowledge, probe, answer and close” technique.

Acknowledge:

Indicate that the pet owner has an interesting point. Confirm your understanding of her concerns. Say, “I understand that you want to protect your pet while also saving money.”

Probe:

Ask questions to determine the true reason for the pet owner’s choice and ask clarifying questions. Probing questions might include:

  • Will your pet receive a comprehensive physical exam from a veterinarian before vaccinations to make sure your pet is healthy?
  • Will the vaccines be given by a licensed veterinarian?
  • Will a veterinarian ask thorough history and risk-assessment questions to select appropriate vaccines for your pet?
  • Will the veterinarian use one- or three-year vaccines?
  • Will the veterinarian provide medical care if your pet has a vaccine reaction?
  • Will the vaccine clinic remind you when your pet is next due for vaccines and other medical services?

Answer:

Use the “feel, felt, found” technique to gracefully tell a pet owner that you have a better solution. Respond with information to be considered.

  • Feel: The “feel” technique is designed to deflect the ego.  Say, “I know other clients who also appreciate saving on veterinary care.”

  • Felt: The “felt” technique shows empathy. Explain that you have felt the same way. Say, “I have felt that our hospital wants to make veterinary care affordable, too.”
  • Found: The “found” portion provides your response. By explaining what research you have found, you offer your answer with the least amount of confrontation. Rather than bad-mouth the vaccine clinic, explain your standards of care and prices. Describe preventive care plans with monthly payments or packages if you offer them. Say, “Our veterinarian will perform a nose-to-tail exam to make sure your pet is healthy and it is safe to give vaccines. During the exam, you’ll have an opportunity to discuss any health or behavior concerns with the veterinarian. The doctor will ask you questions about your pet’s lifestyle and activities so he can choose only necessary vaccines. We use safe, guaranteed vaccines with the latest technology and research. We offer vaccines with one- or three-year protection, and some vaccines are combined to protect against multiple illnesses in one shot, which is more comfortable for your pet. Your pet’s medical record shows that he is due for <describe vaccines>. For the comprehensive exam and vaccines, our fee is $____.”

 

Close:

Lead the client to make an appointment using the two-yes-options technique. Say, “Have I given you enough information to make a decision on your pet’s vaccinations? (Client responds.) When do you want to schedule your pet’s appointment? The doctor can see you today at 4 p.m. or tomorrow at 10 a.m. Which choice works for you?”

 

Crazy Client: “My indoor cat doesn’t need flea medication.”

Your Clinic:

A veterinarian examines a 5-year-old cat and asks the client, “Which flea/tick preventative do you use, and when did you give the last dose?” The pet owner explains that her cat lives indoors, and she feels flea medication isn’t necessary. Use the “acknowledge, probe, answer and close” technique in your response.

Acknowledge:

Indicate that the client has an interesting point and confirm your understanding of her concerns. Say, “I understand that you feel your indoor cat isn’t at risk for fleas.”

Probe:

Ask questions to determine the true reason for her choice and ask clarifying questions. Some pet owners may assume their screened porch, deck, patio or fenced backyard is “indoors.” Probing questions might include:

  • When was the last time your cat went outside?
  • What other pets do you have at home? Do those pets go outside?
  • Does your cat hunt mice or has it ever found a mouse in the house or garage?
  • Does your cat like to nap on or play with your shoes?
  • After placing your cat in its carrier, do you ever put it on the ground?
  • Does your cat groom other pets in the home?

If the client answers yes to any of these questions, explain these are ways that fleas can get on indoor pets and into the home.

Answer:

Use the “feel, felt, found” technique to gracefully tell a pet owner that you have a better solution. Respond with information to be considered.

  • Feel: The “feel” technique is designed to deflect her ego. Say, “Many of our clients with indoor cats feel their pets aren’t at risk for parasites.”

 

  • Felt: The “felt” technique shows empathy. Explain that you have felt the same way. Say, “I have felt that it’s easy to assume fleas may not be a big risk for indoor cats.”

  • Found: The “found” portion provides your response. By explaining what research you have found, you offer your answer with the least amount of confrontation. Say, “I have found that flea prevention is easy and affordable compared to the expense and frustration of a flea infestation. Flea infestations may take several months to bring under control because fleas can be found in carpets, beds, furniture, rugs, and on every pet in the home. Female fleas can produce 40 to 50 eggs per day, and adult fleas survive two to three months. Fleas also carry diseases that can be passed to people. Every pet in the home must be treated for several months before fleas get evicted, and it could cost hundreds of dollars.”

 

Close:

Explain your medical advice. Say, “Our hospital follows guidelines from the Companion Animal Parasite Council, which has dogs and cats—including indoor cats—on year-round protection throughout their lives. This prevents flea infestations on pets and in your home. Let me tell you about the flea product that would be best for your indoor cat and savings for year-round protection. (Explain product.) Are you ready to decide to protect your indoor cat from nasty fleas?”

When you communicate with confidence, share research and explain your professional services and products, you will guide clients toward smart healthcare decisions for their pets.

 

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