Today's Veterinary Business

AUG 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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54 Today's Veterinary Business Leadership Leadership TAKE CHARGE By Abby Suiter, MBA, CVPM Reception-area rant? Slander- ous online review? Arming your team with the knowledge, language and authority they need to quick- ly and effectively address client conflict in its early stages can be the first line of defense against uncom- fortable situations devolving into public perception nightmares. Mastering effective conflict resolution is a lifelong process, one continually fine-tuned through each experience and inevitable misstep. The difficulty with training is that it calls upon soft skills like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, con- fidence, communication, respect and empathy. Through education, guidelines and safe opportunities to train, however, your team can devel- op a competency that will not only serve the practice today but could forever mold their professional and personal relationships. Prioritize Prevention The easiest way to manage client conflict is to prevent the valid rea- sons a client complains in the first place. Clients who explode in anger typically encounter a history of in- conveniences that build over time. The mantra coined by Louise S. Dunn of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting — "Every client, every patient, every record, every time" — comes to mind as the best practice for conflict prevention. I estimate that each reception- ist has about 10,000 client interac- tions a year, with each conversation giving the hospital an opportunity to meet, exceed or fall short of expectations for satisfactory client and patient care. The methods and factors behind getting things right as often as possible could be an article by itself. In short, standardized, mutual- ly agreed-upon policies, processes and exceptions, a good attitude, and clear, confident communica- tion will take a practice far. I have found monthly team meetings to be a great opportunity to work through minor issues that need reiteration, clarification or new solutions to best serve our hospital. The Red Line Employees want and need to know the boundaries they are operating within. Here are three situations that we do not want the support staff attempting to mitigate: • When safety is at risk, such as during a robbery or threat- ened violence. Give the per- son what is demanded, get yourself and others out of the building, and call police. • When verbal abuse is being committed. Isolate the client and immediately hand the situation to management or a doctor. • When a medical mistake is made. Again, isolate the client and immediately notify man- agement or a doctor. Mediation and Resolution The wide zone between prevention and the red line is where tried-and- true conflict management tech- niques can be taught and applied. While allowing a client to cool off is sometimes warranted in an effort to ensure a productive con- versation, committing to a timely response is important. Letting a cli- ent's emotions fester while you pro- crastinate over making an uneasy phone call is counterproductive. If time allows, gather as much information as possible so you are fully informed before you approach the client. This means reading the chart, talking to the people involved, knowing the facts of the matter and understanding the options for moving forward. Hold the conversation in a quiet, private area where both parties can concentrate and where no audience can incite theatrical behavior. Most importantly, con- jure up the ability to approach the client with your emotions in neu - tral and with an open mind. Strike a balance of compassion and confi - dence. Defensiveness has no place in productive conflict resolution. When it comes to the client conver- sation, do this: Let the client know that you are up to speed on the situation but that you would like to I will not go so far to say that I enjoy handling client complaints, but the assignment is something I have developed a knack for over my years in management. The less time I spend in the practice, however, the more I realize this is a skill the entire support staff should possess at some level in the interest of best client service and satisfaction. 1 Continued on Page 56 Resolve to solve Client relationships can fracture if you and your staff don't address complaints properly.

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