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The best way to diplomatically deal with gloomy veterinary clients

Posted in Client Service @ Dec 19th 2019 - By Dr Diederik Gelderman, Turbo Charge Your Practice
The Best Way To Deal With Gloomy Veterinary Clients Red

There’s a lot of negativity around, isn’t there? It’s hard to avoid on the news, in social media and in conversation.

These negative comments from clients aren’t necessarily aimed at you or your practice. Much of the time it is often more general gloomy client comments that get loaded onto us over the phone and face-to-face. These can range from negative comments about violence in society, to the weather and even local parking problems.

The easiest response is to agree with whatever these clients say.

When we agree we are developing rapport with our clients and getting on the same side as them, which is good. Yet at the same time we are subconsciously imprinting in the client’s mind that being with us is a miserable experience, which is not so good. And, each time we agree with them we are imprinting yet another doom and gloom message on our own mind.

Plus, people are more likely to 'buy' when they are in a positive mood (they focus on the benefits rather than the flaws). So, if you reinforce their gloomy comments you are creating the wrong atmosphere in your practice. They are likely to see a problem in every opportunity rather than the opportunity that your product or service offers to enhance their pet's lives or their own. 

How to not get caught up in the 'gloom trap'

The question then becomes, how do you avoid getting caught up in this gloom filled trap –

1. Without openly contradicting your clients or callers?

2. Without ignoring their comment?

3. While still establishing rapport with the person making the comment?

First, be clear in your mind that your overall intention is to make your clients’ day.

This involves helping them to feel better about themselves and their pet as a result of having phoned up or come in to see you.

Next, acknowledge their comment.

This is usually a neutral phrase that neither agrees nor disagrees with the comment.

For example,

  • “Yes it can seem that way.”
  • “Do you think so?”
  • “I’m surprised to hear that.”
  • “Sounds like you’re not in favour of...”

For example, let’s say that the client makes a comment along the lines of “Did you see the news last night? There’s so much violence in the world today.”

Instead of, “Oh, I know, isn’t it terrible?” you could respond with, “It can seem that way, can’t it? Especially with reports brought instantly to us on TV and social media from every part of the world. Still, I think we’re so fortunate to live in such a safe street/town/locality/country ourselves.” Then move on to the purpose of their call or visit.

Points to discuss with your team

It pays to get together with your team and come up with a list of the typical negative comments you get from callers and clients, and then share ideas on how you can better manage them.

Your goal is to:

1. Acknowledge a comment without getting caught up in the negativity, and then,

2. Come up with a positive response that doesn’t openly contradict what they have said.

There’s a lot of benefit on working on this together in a short guided discussion led by the manager or team coach. For some people, responses naturally roll off the tongue. For others it is learned behaviour and they need guidance to get started. Creating helpful scripts as a team can be great for raising awareness as well as giving everyone the confidence to deal with unpleasant or gloomy comments from clients and customers.

Then you need to record the range of preferred responses. Once these are captured and agreed upon they become great ‘cheat sheets’ to share with new employees so that they too can learn how to deal with customer negativity.

The same process can be useful in rehearsing responses to negative comments that are work-related. For example, when some change has been made to your processes or procedures that affect the customer or when your fees or charges are about to be increased. 

If you have a question for Diederik about dealing with negative clients - ask them in the comments section below.

About Diederik

On graduation I purchased a Veterinary clinic in Maitland, NSW and sold it in July 2009. At the time of purchase, it was a run down one person clinic with about a 90% mixed and 10% small animal component. The business grew well, so that at one stage there were 4 branches and 8 Veterinarians.  At the time of sale there were 5 Veterinarians, 16 support staff functioning out of a purpose built ‘A’ class Hospital with one branch.  In 2004 the practice won the Pfizer/AVA Practice of Excellence Award as well as coming 3rd in the Fujitsu Customer Service Awards. 

At this stage (and even slightly before), I started co-presenting at trainings and workshops and in 2007 I started developing and hosting my own workshops. In July 2009 I sold my practice so as to be able to concentrate fully on my coaching, training, speaking and workshop business – and to be able to move to Exeter (NSW) to be with my partner. I missed clinical practice, so in May 2018 I purchased a veterinary practice with the aim of building it up by providing a highly customer service friendly veterinary practice alternative to the local community. In 12m we have grown the practice gross fee turnover by 53.1% and trebled it's net take home profit. 


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