24 Mar 5 types of difficult clients. Do you meet them in your veterinary practice?
Is it any sense to enter into a polemic with troublesome clients? Trying to explain something to them? Do you often encounter aggressive, rude, surly or malicious clients in your practice? When comes the moment, that you have to ask someone out the door or let someone leave? Nobody is teaching us this at veterinary studies. Nobody tells us how to deal with such situations. Can these people be changed? Well, sometimes yes, sometimes not. Maybe it is worth trying to interact instead of bothering and accepting their behavior?
Who is a difficult customer?
Difficult customers are those who always complain, have a claiming approach, exorbitant requirements, are impatient, ignore recommendations, forward information or undermine our authority. Regardless of how offensive their behavior is, it is worth considering what it may be caused. Maybe they are under stress, have personal problems, difficult life situation? Or maybe their fear of a pet’s life paralyzes them and that’s why they behave irrationally? The only way to find out is to simply ask an open question. It’s best to do it while showing understanding or compassion, for example, “I know this is a very difficult situation. Please tell me how you feel?” or “I understand your frustration. How can I help?”
If we try to classify difficult customers, it may turn out that the most difficult are:
- “I know everything”
Each of them requires different approach, but we are notunpaired against their behavior. Below are some tips on how to deal with specific situations.
Meet the requirements
For the demanding customer, the health of the animal is the most important thing. He asks a million questions, wants to run all tests, uses twice as much time as we have for him, regularly calls with reports on how his pet feels. As long as we meet his expectations, he praises us and tells everyone how great we are. If, however, we do not find time for him… How to deal with him?
You can not allow him to take control completely. When you meet such a client outside of practice, do not be unkind, wanting to send him off and knowing that he will start his story. Tell him that you will be happy to hear about Lola, but you ask for a phone during working hours. Remember to choose the right time for the duration of the visit and to calculate it accordingly. Say that your consultation usually takes 20 minutes, but you can offer an extended service to make sure you answer all your questions. If the client agrees, do not forget to remind once again that such a visit involves additional costs. Arm yourself with patience. Ask to prepare a list of questions at home. This can help reduce the number of calls and your time on the line.
We are not a charitable institution
The miser expects the animal to be treated for free. He waits until the end of the visit, blood tests, consultations and surgery to announce that he has no money to pay for all this. He promises that he will pay in the future and either he never does, does not appear again, or pays in installments in pain, telling how difficult the situation is. Some time later he returns to the clinic for further treatment or when he has already benefited from cheaper clinics in the area. When we refuse to treat his pet for free, he denigrates the clinic on the Internet or accuses us of exposing the animal to death, and even the desire to kill his pet and complete lack of heart.
Such a client feeds on our sense of mission and medical oath. He sucks all energy and good will. For him, money does not matter anyway, because he has no intention to pay from the beginning. There are several ways to remedy this. However, we must be consistent and firmly stand by our side.
Do not change the price of your services, do not give discounts – miser will not appreciate it anyway, because he thinks that everything belongs to him free. When you lower the price, you reconsile with the veterinary profession. Is your hard work, a few years of demanding studies and gigantic debt, huge investment costs in the practice worth so little and not worth of being paid back? Do you need such a client? A miser always means a problem, so do not take his charges personally. Probably several of your colleagues in the area have already met him. The owner is responsible for the health and welfare of the animal and it is him who decides about it. Repeat the number of treatments and price of the services before his visit and request written permission for payment. This is your only security, unless of course you want to support such a client. You can then go to court in the future to collect debt. But for a good reason – why all this?
Clash with the tyrant
The tyrant is pure malice. He is not smiling, he is rude to the personnel and other customers. He often ialso has something of a miser or has absurdly high demands. He is a master in looking for guilt, from having to wait for a doctor, to the cost of food sachets. He comments loudly and sometimes vulgarly, about everyone and everything, he hates other opinions. As in the case of miser – it is better to avoid him than to try to change him. However, if you have contact with him, there are some tips on how to deal with him.
First of all, do not be upset. Secondly, do not try to please the tyrant or meet his abstract expectations. Thirdly, do not get into a discussion with him, you will not change his point of view, so it’s a waste of time and energy. Fourthly, do not take his offensive comments personally – he treats everyone in this way. Finally, be cool and professional at all times – the tyrant senses every irony, a change in the tone of the voice. Therefore, speak calmly, with dignity and like an expert.
Express your expectations clearly, treat the tyrant with respect and expect the same. Do not let yourself get lost and do not let him take over. Make it clear that if you do not stop behaving this way, you will no longer cure his animal. If he does not change his attitude – stop talking, stop the visit and ask him to leave the office. It’s difficult, but it’s the only solution. You have to ask yourself – is this client really worth my nerves?
My breeder says that …
The “I know everything” client comes with a ready diagnosis. He found a matching diagnosis on the Internet and expects a specific treatment. Possibly, he talked to a neighbor whose brother-in-law had a dog with identical symptoms, or listened to his breeder who knows everything. He knows that his animal needs only a prescription or a specific drug, so he came alone. By the way, he often does not want a veterinary medicines, because there are cheaper, human equivalents, what he also found on the web. “I know everything” is impatient, refuses to bring an animal for an appointment and does not understand that it is impossible to prescribe a drug without examination and correct diagnosis. What’s more, it is also a medical mistake.
Such a client in the waiting room gives advice to others, refuses additional tests, because he is convinced that his animal is all right. He does not allow himself to think that his animal has diarrhea because it may have worms or poisoning. On the forum with dog tips he read that garlic is the best for deworming and he has already given it.
You may not believe it, but this client can be a real gift for the clinic. Therefore, take advantage of your chance, because it can be your best, walking advertisement. But how to deal with him?
First of all, you can not allow him to dictate the standards for your clinic’s health care. If you agree for the release of medicines only so that you do not stay with nothing and lose the client, you can expect such behavior in the future. Do not get involved in resisting in his arguments and diagnoses – it is rude to question someone’s point of view 😉 Do not forget about important medical recommendations, even if he refuses to listen to your advice.
At the same time, educate this client. The all-knowing loves to know best, so why not from the best source right from you? This will allow him to make better decisions in the future. He does not believe his dog has fleas? Show them to him under the microscope. When he finally believes and looks at your eyes and agrees to start the treatment, praise him for the best decision for the animal’s health. Take notes of all recommendations, and if he refuses to use them – also make a note! If such a client appears in your waiting room, find time for him to minimize his contact with other clients. If you manage such a client well, he will start listening and will be even more satisfied with the fact that he knows so much.
Why we should cure him, he will die anyways
The pessimist has just acquired a new puppy and everything goes wrong. He barks too much, bites everything, destroys the flat, pee everywhere. He has already seen the behaviorist and the trainer, but only now comes to you because their recommendations do not work. Show that you can solve his problems. If it works, it will become your loyal customer.
Do not let him think that things are hopeless. You are an expert and you know your stuff. The pessimist exaggerates the problem, does not want to fight, surrenders and has a negative attitude. Sometimes he also has something of a miser in himself. Then it’s difficult to argue with him – if someone refuses treatment, because it is a pity for money. However, it is worth emphasizing in this situation that the improvement of his animal’s health or comfort of life is possible only with his cooperation. Do not offer alternatives, it means you lack confidence. Hold on to your opinion and focus on the task. “We have extensive experience in treating chronic renal failure in cats and many of our patients have given us a chance”.
Looking for an agreement
People are looking for a contact and want to be heard. They often come to our offices from the need to get up. Many of us nod and listen, which makes the visits last for several dozen minutes. Clients appreciate doctors who show empathy and compassion and listen to their stories. However, listening is an active process, requires proper facial expressions, posture and eye contact in order to show interest. It is helpful to formulate messages in such a way: “We know how difficult it is for you, but we do everything in our power to help your dog.” Also in difficult times, like euthanasia, it helps to share your own experience: “I also went through the process of putting my dog to sleep, so I understand your pain. I know how difficult it is.” The words of encouragement act on the owners soothingly and build our image of a doctor full of compassion and goodwill. In situations when we make a mistake, it is worth apologizing at once, which usually eases the nervousness of the client.
How to solve problems?
If the customer is dissatisfied with our service, the last thing he wants to hear is our explanations. He wants to solve the problem immediately. Even if you are not sure you can do something for him, start with the phrase “Please give me a moment, I will see what I can do for you”. This diplomatic answer gives us a chance to think about it, ask for help from the boss or colleagues or phone to ask for advice from a colleague. One should not be upset because our actions will be doomed to failure. Also uncertainty will be immediately noticed by the customer and used against us. Thank for his opinion and express your willingness to help. Never promise things you can not do, such as a quick call back, when you know you have a queue in the waiting room. Customers are very sensitive to our promises and will certainly remind you that you did not call.
Do not get upset
Everyone has worse days, this applies to our clients, but also to ourselves. Our professionalism is demonstrated by the ability of a cool and analytical approach to the matter in such moments. We must be able to put aside our problems and focus on the needs of the patient and, above all, on the needs of its owner. Because although we treat an animal, we work with a human being. So a customer with a “difficult” label can turn into “great” through our behavior and the understanding offered to him. Nevertheless, clients who notoriously behave inappropriately or offensive should be confronted because they sometimes do not realize that their behavior is unpleasant or inappropriate. Let’s do this by formulating sentences: “Ma’am, I’m really trying to help your dog, but I’m very sorry about the insults I just heard” or “It’s very hard for me to do anything when you raise your voice at me. Can you lower the tone of voice? ” You should never accuse or reply in a similar tone, as this will only exacerbate the situation and make us lose the position.
Clients show bad behavior usually towards younger doctors. For this reason, it is worth emphasizing the status of each team member or – if we work alone – expect a general respect for our profession. If the client wants to visit you and clearly set a border, he will eventually understand that he will have to change the behavior to use your services – “I care very much about you as a client, but your behavior makes me very sad and I feel uncomfortable. If you want us to continue to treat Bob, I am asking for more respect for my work. Are you able to do this? “
Our customer, our master
Unfortunately, some hospital owners adhere to the principle “our customer, our master” and therefore accept a number of poor customer behaviors, recognizing that they are always right. This introduces a difficult atmosphere in the team and makes customers use the situation for as long as they can. In the times of the Internet, we are afraid that an attempt to confront such a customer will end with aggression on-line and a false or offensive opinion about our practice. In extremely unpleasant situations, it should be remembered that this type of behavior is punishable, so if we know who is behind this activity, we can report the matter to the appropriate services or moderators of the social media we use.
If you work in a place where customers do not respect you, it is worth discussing with the boss or colleagues about the consequences of this situation for the functioning of the practice. Staff morale and its well-being can be destructive to the work of the entire team and customer satisfaction. Ask your boss if he would like to hear your version of history and would be willing to help you solve the problem. It will strengthen the relationship between you and him and make you rely on him in the future. When you are unable to resolve a conflict with the client in person, ask for help and show respect to all parties. Never show him that you are upset. When emotions take over, it’s difficult to think rationally. The client will use it, and our authority will suffer.
Keep in mind that not every difficult customer can turn into a great one. If his behavior is unacceptable or offensive, politely suggest that he can search for medical help to his pet somewhere else. Let him respect our profession and respect each other. Do not let yourself be offended, challenged or accused. It should be stressed to such a client that we will be very happy to send him to another clinic, where his animal will receive the care he expects.
The above article “How to deal with difficult customers?” appeared in the magazine Veterinary No. 4/2016. [ORIGINAL IN POLISH]
Author: Natalia Strokowska DVM MRCVS
1. http://veterinaryteam.dvm360.com/5-most-difficult- veterinary-clients.