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Manage veterinary clients' requests for special treatment
Clients aren't kings and queens. React reasonably when a client insists on special treatment


DVM360 MAGAZINE


Understand the other side

Often, we think we know our clients' priorities, but we rarely know the entire story. I ask Ms. Nuñez why she doesn't want the surgery done at the E-clinic. She tells me first that it's because she feels so good about working with me (back to the flattery), and then that the estimate is very pricey. Finally, she tells me she just doesn't know these people, and she's scared. Now I really understand where she is coming from.

Slow down

Ms. Nuñez has thrown a lot of information at me at once. None of it has been verified by the veterinarian she saw last night, and all of it is emotionally charged. My next goal is to get off the phone, so I can think clearly and quietly. "Did the emergency clinic fax me your record?" I ask. "I'll review it as soon as I can and call you back in a few hours." She nervously agrees to wait, and now I have time to unclench my face and contemplate my options.

Think through the whole scenario

After a few moments of reflection, I am certain that, though I want to help, I won't be seeing Ms. Nuñez and Petie this afternoon. To do so would make my technicians work well past their scheduled shifts, leave my patient unsupervised after the procedure, and force me to do a solo surgery I am not comfortable with—not to mention strand my wife at home with a young child and infant. Rationally, I just can't agree to it.

Address concerns, offer options

When I have reviewed the record, I call Ms. Nuñez back. I tell her I want to help, and that her cat's health is my top priority in making a plan. I answer all her medical questions and then explain that I am not comfortable with the surgery, nor do I have the necessary staff available.

I tell her that I have great confidence in the E-clinic, which helps address her fears about dealing with unfamiliar people. I also tell her that I will support her in either having the surgery there or continuing supportive care until Petie can be transferred to me (and a more experienced surgeon) on Monday.

Step away

I have given Ms. Nuñez all the information she needs to make an educated decision on her pet's care. I tell her she can think everything over, confer with the emergency doctor, and then let me know how she wants to proceed.

An hour later Ms. Nuñez decides Petie should have the surgery and come home as soon as possible. With my endorsement of the E-clinic, she feels comfortable going forward with the procedure there. She tells me that she will plan to see me when Petie needs his sutures removed.

I have no doubt she will talk me into doing it for free.

Dr. Andrew Roark, MS, is an associate veterinarian, author, and speaker. He practices in Ijamsville, Md.


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Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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