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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40 Today's Veterinary Business Communication any client who seeks out medical information should be praised for being dedicated to the pet. Client stories also might reveal feelings or personal situations that affect the willingness to accept treatment recommendations. Perhaps a client tells you about a bad anesthesia experience the pet had 10 years ago. You now know the fear needs to be addressed. Another example is a client concerned about how to take care of a cat newly diag- nosed with kidney disease. In this instance, the team knows to provide educational resources and assuranc- es that treatment is possible. Stories reveal what's important to the client. Teams sometimes fall into the trap of lecturing clients. Have you ever heard or said, "Gosh, I gave the flea talk to all my clients today" or "I gave her the senior care talk"? The problem with this approach is that you miss finding out what's import- ant to the client. You need to hear stories about the pet's nutrition, lifestyle and medical history. If you ask clients how they spend time with a pet, their stories will guide the team to provide focused client education. For exam- ple, a pet owner who talks about hikes with her dog Jake likely will be receptive to information about tick protection and joint supple- ments. On the other hand, a client on a paleo diet who feeds her dog Daisy a boutique food brand won't be receptive to a lecture about premium senior diets. But she will be open to discussing what's important to her regarding Daisy's nutrition. The best way to engage this client is to discuss specific in- gredients that will benefit her dog, her options for natural foods and how to choose a diet based on the latest research. Stories help teams provide personalized recommendations. Here's an example: "Mrs. Smith, I love your stories about Daisy. Thanks for letting us know more about how you spend time together. I can see how much she means to you. The information you've given me, along with the physical exam, help me make the best recommendations for Daisy so that she can be happy and healthy as long as possible. It could be that the slight weight decrease is be- cause she misses Buddy, who you told me passed away last month. But I'm also concerned that she's drinking more water. We need to check some laboratory values to as- sess all her internal organs, includ- ing her kidney and liver function. This will give you peace of mind and help me outline the best treat- ment plan. How does that sound? What questions do you have?" This type of customized health care plan helps to build trust. Pet owners are more likely to accept a tailored treatment plan as opposed to a general recommendation that the client thinks you provide to everyone to generate revenue. Next time you talk with a pet owner, consider this: Who doesn't love a good story? Taking the time to listen to a client's unique story not only makes for a more interesting day, it helps build loy- alty and gets more pets the care they deserve. 2 3 Talk the Talk columnist Dr. Amanda L. Donnelly is a speaker, business consultant and second-generation veterinarian. She is the author of "101 Practice Management Questions Answered" and serves on the Today's Veterinary Business editorial advisory board. Continued from Page 38 the education, allows convenience and keeps product sales in the hospital. If a patient with car ride anxiety could benefit from a ThunderShirt, I fit one in the exam room and ask the client to comment on its suc- cess after she gets home. If a cat owner is reluctant to try Feliway, I show the benefits of having a diffuser in the exam room and what an impregnated towel can do during the exam. I send home complimentary wipes for use in the carrier at the next visit. If a cat responded favorably to catnip, many clients will purchase it. There are many other exam- ples of products that can be kept in the exam room, either in or out of sight, and brought out during a discussion. Much of our clientele today consists of working or stay- at-home moms, so giving them the opportunity to select as many solutions as possible in one place is truly life changing. Don't Forget That Every Cat Carrier or Leash Is Attached to a Human If you polled veterinarians about why they entered the field, the majority would point to their love of animals. However, in order to be successful in gen- eral private practice, a veterinarian needs to like, respect and build relationships with people. This requires the ability to interpret body language, listen reflectively, demonstrate empathy, and be flexible and creative. When a cat or dog shows signs of anxiety or fear, the own- er might demonstrate myriad emotions herself — from shame, embarrassment or confusion to nervousness, anxiety or even fear. If we choose not to acknowledge both the patient and client, we lose the team approach and will not be as successful in creating an outstanding experience. If a pet owner's body language communicates one or more of the emotions above, take a minute to re- group. Does the client need a break? A drink of water? Would the client prefer to wait in the lobby? Does the client have a pressing question? If a patient's fear, anxiety or stress starts to escalate, I check to see if the owner's anxiety is rising, too. An anxious client might have a hard time remembering a recommendation or thinking objectively when making a deci- sion. Now is a good time to pause and discuss the situation. This approach allows the client to ask questions, understand why the exam strategy has changed and learn about the new plan. At this point, I reassure the pet owner that fear, anxiety and stress is multifactorial, common and not the client's fault. The body lan- guage of many clients will instantly change, and they will become more engaged and relaxed. This rebuilds rapport and the team approach. A veterinarian who acknowl- edges how patient anxiety can affect a client will gain the owner's trust. This small step can lead to new clients who desire the same type of "family" treatment. Fearless columnist Dr. Natalie Marks is co-owner of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. She is Fear Free certified. 3 Much of our clientele today consists of working or stay-at-home moms, so giving them the opportunity to select as many solutions as possible in one place is truly life changing. Communication TALK THE TALK Teams sometimes fall into the trap of lecturing clients. Have you ever heard or said, "Gosh, I gave the flea talk to all my clients today" or "I gave her the senior care talk"? The problem with this approach is that you miss finding out what's important to the client.

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