Clients are not your friends

Clients are not your friends

Keep your distance, stay professional, and don't take their comments as personal attacks
Aug 01, 2011

Friends and family bring a lot of great things into our personal lives, but they also bring stress. For example, my wife is days away from giving birth to our second child. While she has been amazing through the past nine months, the reality is that spending time with a pregnant woman can be a bit like spending time in a field full of landmines. I recently explained this to the manager at the grocery store when I found the entire ice cream section off-limits after a freezer malfunction. He was about 18 and had no idea why I was so upset. He'll learn someday.

I care deeply about the anxieties and problems of my family and friends. The exhaustion and discomfort my wife experiences daily are things that I internalize and carry around with me. Her happiness and her perception of me affect how I see myself as a person and a spouse. When my friends struggle or ask for advice, I take their concerns on my shoulders and roll them around in my mind as I cook dinner, brush my teeth and read princess stories to my daughter. I take these stresses on because I love these people and because they are important in my life. But when a client causes that stress, that's another story.

A client with two faces

Recently, a client started visiting the clinic on a regular basis. She had brought home a new puppy, and I helped her work through her puppy wellness visits, a few behavioral bumps, a spay and some inappropriate urination problems. She has a great dog, treats the clinic's staff well and follows recommendations religiously. She lives near one of our technicians and always talks to her and high-fives her children when they're out in the neighborhood. I like this lady and I'm happy when she walks in the door.

This client was in the clinic recently, and we were addressing her pup's new affinity for urinating on expensive furniture. We laughed, she let her dog lick her mouth to the point that I got a little queasy and we generally had a good time. She elected to start a common antibiotic while awaiting diagnostic results.

Things changed a bit the next day. My receptionist came to me five minutes before closing. She said the client was on the phone, she wasn't happy and she wanted to come in. I asked the receptionist to tell her that I'd wait for her if she came right away. I was wrapping up the last of my paperwork when I heard her walk in and say: "Yeah, the pills Roark gave me yesterday f***ed up my dog!"

"Surely she's joking," I thought. "She can't be swearing at the front desk about anything an antibiotic did to her dog." I expected her to high-five me for waiting for her rather than blow up in the waiting room.

The exam went fine, other than the fact that she refused to look at me and swore that nothing could've caused her dog's behavioral change besides the single dose of antibiotic from the previous night. I did everything I could to pacify and educate this concerned and angry client before she walked out of the clinic without paying for the exam or any of the supportive care we provided. Three days later she called to mention that the dog was doing much better and that she remembered the patient might have fallen out of a van and landed on her neck shortly after receiving the antibiotic.