How to Be The Apple Of Your Vet’s Eye

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2016-10-03T15:22:06-04:00Updated: September 29th, 2016|Pet Care, Pet Newsletter|0 Comments
  • Vet speaking with clients

I love my career. I’m a chatty extrovert, and I enjoy the social aspect of interacting with clients. Nonetheless, I had a couple of episodes in my vet clinic this week that gave me an idea to write a newsletter on client personalities that tend to get better service than others. You get more flies with honey as they say. I adore 99.999% of my veterinary clients. Some are just so fun and enjoyable that my staff need to pull me out of the exam room so I don’t run behind. Today I’m offering some lessons on how to be your vet’s favorite!

Lesson Number 1: Be the Fun Client!

When a client is enjoyable and friendly, I’m much more apt to give them my cell phone number. If the pet is ill or having problems, I’ll open my practice to meet with them on the weekend. For my darlings, I give them access to my precious free time should they need me. Like many vets, I already work about 60 hours per week. Most vets don’t really want to meet folks after hours for emergencies. If you are a fun and appreciative client, you will get better customer service. If you are the grouchy client who can’t seem to find anything nice to say, you are more than likely going to have to go to the emergency clinic after hours.

Lesson Number 2: Always Be Nice to the Vet Staff

I’ve been in the vet business for 29 years, first as a kennel kid then vet student then veterinarian. I’ve been on both sides. It always surprises me when clients are unpleasant to the vet staff and then act sweet as pie to the veterinarian. Don’t they know the employee is going to turn right around and tell the vet? We all understand how stressful it can be when a pet is ill. It causes fear and worry. We have pets, too! Nonetheless, I have a strict policy (and a sign stating this policy in my practice lobby) that if a client is rude or disrespectful to my staff that they will be dismissed from my practice. Since I live in a wonderful small town I’ve only had to enforce this rule once. Not only will vets give you better care if you are nice, the staff will be more willing to forego their lunch break, squeeze you in, or stay late after work if they adore you.

Lesson Number 3: Please Don’t Trash Your Former Vet

I get new veterinary clients each week. My practice is only 3 years old and growing rapidly, probably because my stellar staff and I genuinely try to be kind to clients and practice quality medicine. I’m always happy to get new clients. Nonetheless, sometimes that means I hear grumbling stories from clients about why they have left their prior veterinarian. I briefly listen, but then try to shut down any bad-mouthing of other veterinarians. That’s just not nice! Furthermore, I figure if someone is so quick to say unsavory words about the prior vet I might just be the next target of those unkind words. Trust me, we veterinarians don’t like hearing bad stuff about the other vets in our town. There’s a good chance we may be their friends!

Lesson Number 4: No Doctor is Perfect, but Most of us Try Our Best!

Even with my Type-A personality, I occasionally have medical or surgical failures that make me want to crawl in a hole. Sometimes it is a pet chewing out sutures. Sometimes it is a client not understanding my directions. Just this week I had a failure when I felt I had done everything right. If I had to do it over again I probably would have done the same. A surgery apparently hadn’t healed by the time I took the sutures out 11 days post-op. I fixed the situation (essentially replaced the sutures) at no charge for the second surgery, but I felt badly that the pet had to be anesthetized a second time. Luckily this is a client of 3 years. She knows I’m a good doctor and gave me the opportunity to make things right rather than going elsewhere and grumbling about me. The lesson here: Give your vet a chance to make things right!

Lesson number 5: Be Patient and Understanding.

Even the best run clinic will occasionally run behind. This is usually due to squeezing in one or many sick pets into the schedule. This may manifest as scheduled appointments waiting longer for a routine exam or not getting a prompt return of a phone call. Don’t get grouchy over this. Understand that someday we may have to squeeze in your sick pet which may inconvenience others. If my clients ever have to wait, I try to comp their exam or make some effort of good will to show them I appreciate their patience. Then when the rush is over or at the end of the workday, I will call the clients to make sure I answered their questions and they didn’t feel slighted.

Grace and understanding are a sure fire way to become one of my fave clients.

Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at [email protected]. I always enjoy hearing from my readers!

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn

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