Today's Veterinary Business

APR 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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Page 43 of 67

42 Today's Veterinary Business Communication warning triggers and escalating anxiety before the veterinarian even walks into the room. These chemical and other noxious stimuli, such as strong perfume, anal gland secretions and blood, need to be neutralized and removed using a hy- drogen peroxide-based disinfectant. While a dog's sense of smell is superior, a canine also has a very strong acoustic range. In fact, ac- cording to Louisiana State Univer- sity, the acoustic range is almost twice as wide as a human's, and sounds in the upper frequencies can be irritating to dogs of all breeds and ages. The louder the sounds, the more a dog may whine or try to flee from the source. This is why newer philosophies call for avoiding high-pitched baby talk when work- ing with a canine patient and add- ing a soft, lower frequency music source inside the exam room, such as with a portable music player. Use Pheromones I have touched on pheromone therapy before, but I cannot stress its importance more than I do now. Canine-specific phero- mones can be used as diffusers in the exam room, be sprayed on the veterinarian and exam room assistants, and be impregnated on towels, stethoscopes, scales and other exam room accessories. An important point to re- member, however, is that calming pheromones should be diffused or sprayed on towels, clothing and tools at least an hour before the exam. A client service representa- tive can ask clients to start the pro- cess at home by spraying a pher- omone inside the car, on a dog's bandana or in the carrier at least 30 to 45 minutes before arrival. Who Wants a Treat? Positive reinforcement is a key element in the reduction of fear, anxiety and stress. My hospital has created a protocol in which high-reward treats such as frozen cream cheese cups, cheese slices and squeeze cheese with pretzel sticks are placed in a small cooler in the exam room. Frozen peanut butter cups are kept in a freezer in a treatment area and brought into the exam room only upon request and after ensuring that the client and family members do not have a peanut allergy. High-reward treats are essen- tial during the introductory phase of the exam, both for rewarding appropriate behavior and for dis- traction. The client should be able to request and choose the treat and should be involved in its hand- out during the exam to promote a team approach. This partnership helps to create a ladder of rewards that is based on the level of patient anxiety and the animal's need for restraint or diagnostics. What is important to note is that some dogs prefer toys or being brushed rather than a high-reward treat. This is true with patients that are not motivated by food in a re- laxed home setting. In patients that are food motivated, we ask the client to not feed them before the ap- pointment so that they will be more excited about a high-value treat. Separate the Species If space and time allow, try to des- ignate feline-only and canine-only exam rooms. Separate rooms not only help tailor what is specifically needed in the exam room, they also create a more personalized experience for the client. Building a relationship with your patient and client that avoids fear, stress and anxiety involves so many aspects. The client prepar- ing to take a pet to the clinic, the actual travel and the time spent in the waiting room all lead up to the invaluable time you spend with the patient in the exam room. It's im- portant that we do everything we can to make our time together as positive as possible so that we have many more visits in the future. Fearless columnist Dr. Natalie Marks is co-owner of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. She is Fear Free certified. Communication FEARLESS What You Can Do Let's look at how to reward our best brand advocates and show them the love they deserve and consider a strategy for dealing with less-than-stellar reviews. Remember that any reviews you receive come from a cli- ent who took the time to find you online and share their experience with you and the world. This fact makes it all that more important to acknowledge a positive review and thank the pet owner for both visiting and leaving the review. You can follow up with a phone call, respond directly to the Google Review or even go a step above and beyond. Employees at one practice told me they plant a tree for every client who leaves a positive review. A tree? Yes! This is how they show appreciation in a sincere and meaningful way. If this article has 1 a primary takeaway, that's the one. Support brand advocates in ways that work best for you and your practice. Cookie-cutter techniques fail if they don't come from the heart, so look holistically at your practice to appreciate your clients in ways that feel right and are in line with your brand. While replying to positive reviews is important and an incredible way to show pet owners that you appreciate their feedback, not every client visit will be a smashing success. Sometimes expectations aren't met, and some- times clients won't be satisfied no matter what. If clients are setting unreasonable expectations and leaving an outlandish review, leave it alone. Try to engage offline if you see fit. If the client seems reason- able and has a true grievance, consider calling or responding personally to offer to correct the issue. Sometimes this extra gesture can turn a bad experience into a positive relationship. Plant a Seed Love it or hate it, the digital age and our online reputations are here to stay. The faster we adapt and learn to thrive within this landscape, the better off we'll be and the more opportunities we'll create to win new business and enhance the veterinary practice in the process. Supporting your brand advocates, espe- cially clients who take the time to support you publicly, is imperative if you want to bolster your online reputation and create meaningful and lasting relationships with pet owners. What's also just as important is to deal gracefully with negative reviews. Learning when to offer to correct the situation and when to ignore a poor client experience is an important distinction. You don't have to plant a tree to show your clients that you care about them. A simple "Thank you" or phone call can go a long way. So, next time you see a five-star review with your vet- erinary practice's name on it, remember to ask yourself, "Are we show- ing enough love to our brand advocates?" As long as you support clients who publicly promote your practice and as long as you attend to reviews with a personalized and intentional response, you'll contin - ue to thrive no matter what type of review comes your way. 2 3 Socially Acceptable columnist Eric D. Garcia is an IT and digital marketing consultant who works exclusively with veterinary practices. Learn more at If clients are setting unreasonable expectations and leaving an outlandish review, leave it alone. Try to engage offline if you see fit. (Continued from Page 40)

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