Today's Veterinary Business

DEC 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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39 December 2018/January 2019 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM What happened in this sce- nario? The team members were cordial and efficient. They pro- vided excellent medical care and client education. That's great, you might say. But wait, let's look at the missed opportunity to connect with this gentleman. The visit described is made up, but the pet owner is real. The gen- tleman is my father, Dr. E.J. Donnelly, who goes by the name Gene. Before retiring as a veterinarian, he had a military career, first as a Marine navi- gator and later as a Navy pilot. If the fictional team had invited Gene to share a story, he would have said his 14-year-old cocker spaniel recently died and his wife is in memory care. This made for a lonely household, so Gene is happy to spend time with his new affectionate companion. The team members also would discover that Gene knew he needed to adopt this shelter kitten because of its name. The cat's foster family called him Gunny at the suggestion of their son, who was going into the Marine Corps. The name Gunny is short for gunnery sergeant. When Gene's friend, the shelter director, suggested changing the kitten's name, Gene replied, "Heavens no, that's one of the reasons I got him!" You might have heard about the value of storytelling as a marketing strategy. Businesses can attract customers and create brand loyalty through good storytelling — why they should buy a service or product. Likewise, encouraging a client's storytelling can increase loyalty, too. Let's explore why. Listen to Their Story Unfortunately, veterinary practic- es that fail to engage pet owners in storytelling can miss out on opportunities to build trust and gain relevant information. Practice teams demonstrate compassion and learn more about a pet when they invite people to share a story. Clients might not volunteer a story when they are distracted or trying to be respectful of your time. Using the story of Gunny and Gene as an example, here are questions that help to elicit pet owner stories: • How did you decide to name him Gunny? • Tell us what you know about Gunny's history? • What are his best qualities? • Tell us how he is adjusting to your home? • Has it been awhile since you've had a kitten? • So, you're retired. What did you do for a living? • How familiar are you with the ways to enrich an indoor cat's environment? Imagine an older gentleman visits your practice for the first time with his newly adopted gray kitten, Gunny, who is due for a second set of vaccines. The veterinary team asks about the cat's age, which vaccines were given previously and whether he was neutered. The veterinarian examines Gunny and brings up preventive care. She asks the pet owner if he has any questions and he responds, "No, everything is great with Gunny." Communication TALK THE TALK By Amanda L. Donnelly, DVM, MBA Listening Boosts Compliance Asking questions that lead to sto- ries about a pet and client not only signals you care but also helps to position the team as trusted advis- ers. Teams that form trusted part- nerships with clients can increase compliance. Here are three ways that listening to a client's story help pets get veterinary care. Stories uncover possible barriers to care. Clients are bonded to their pets but don't always say "yes" to health care recommendations. Learning why is critical. Sometimes the barriers involve misinformation or flawed beliefs. One example is a client who reads false information on the internet or hears erroneous facts from a friend. Unfortunately, the client now has misconceptions about the value of certain veteri- nary services or products. Once team members under- stand the client, they can approach the conversation in a manner that hopefully avoids putting the pet owner on the defensive. In fact, 1 What's in a story? Encouraging clients to talk about their pet or lifestyle will help bond them to your practice and improve compliance.

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