Setting out to delight your clients - Veterinary Practice
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Setting out to delight your clients

Liz Watkins introduces a new series with a discussion of the ways in which excellent customer service can help a practice keep existing clients happy and also win new ones

WE all want to ensure that our
veterinary practice has highly-
skilled staff and the best equipment
and facilities to treat our clients’
pets – but should this be our only

Of equal
importance to
our business is
ensuring excellence
in customer service
across all members
of our team.

This is the first
thing a client will notice either from an
initial telephone enquiry or a visit to
the practice.

Having a team that excels in
customer service will both win new
clients and ensure that your existing
clients stay with you.

Importance of
the receptionist

Never underestimate the importance
of the receptionist! Receptionists have
the ultimate power to make or break a
veterinary practice. They are the point
of contact for the public, and in their
eyes the receptionist is the practice.

If your receptionist is smart, polite
and caring, then the client perceives the
practice’s whole ethos as smart, polite
and caring. However, if the receptionist is scruffy, off-hand and unreliable, then
in the eyes of the public the practice
must be the same!

Of course, these attributes are highly
relevant for all staff: your clients must like, believe and trust them. Managers
make this possible by leading by
example and where necessary coaching
the receptionists (and all staff) to a
high standard of personal behaviour
and client communication.

You can help your whole team
delight your clients by focusing on a
few simple areas:

  • First impressions;
  • The needs of the client;
  • Delivering excellence.

First impressions

We decide on a person’s character
within a few seconds. It is vital to get
this first impression right. A pullover
full of dog hair, or a face half covered
by unruly hair gives a poor impression.
Similarly, the reception area must give the same message – tidy, smart,

Think about a business you like, and
one you don’t like: when in a place
you like, you tend to notice the good
things, and vice versa. So an initial
great impression sets the scene for the
creation of a loyal client.

The needs of the client

Clients come to their vet with needs,
and leave with solutions. They judge
the practice on the way they are led
from one to the other. Many qualities
affect this judgement, but the key
ones are leadership, relationship, transparency and wow

The most important
behaviour a client wants to
see is leadership.

Great leadership

  • educates,
    • guides,
  • confers understanding,
  • leads by example,
  • welcomes constructive
  • acts on valid criticism.

Poor leadership

  • gives orders,
  • fails to explain reasons,
  • imposes decisions,
  • discourages feedback,
  • discourages constructive criticism,
  • is defensive if challenged.

In essence, and in the context of a
professional business, leadership gives
others the tools to make their own
decisions correctly. Clients will be led
to make the correct decision for their
pet. In this context, receptionists and
vets alike must consider themselves

The second most important need
of the client is relationship; clients like
to feel “part of the practice family”.
Are they welcomed within seconds of
walking through the door (if only with
a quick smile of acknowledgement if
staff are busy with other clients)?

Do less reputable-looking clients get
the same strong welcome as others?
Is there a system for remembering
facts about clients? If you open the
conversation with a fact remembered
from a previous visit (“how did Annie
get on at her first day at school?”), the
client will feel a closer relationship and
loyalty is fostered.

Thirdly, transparency. Never have
a situation where the client will say
“I wish you had told me that earlier.”
Transparency includes full and frank
openness on all sorts of subjects, the most important here being clinical
outcomes and costs.

And finally, wow factors. We all
remember the company which wowed
us, and this shouldn’t be left to chance.
Practice policies must encourage and
acknowledge staff who go the extra
mile. An example may be sending flowers to a client who is justifiably
disgruntled (after you have resolved the
original problem, of course).

Delivering excellence

Excellence is achieved when it is
ingrained in the practice culture.
Excellence will naturally occur when
every staff member is engaged with
practice goals, when every staff
member strives to fulfil the needs of
clients and pets, and when every staff
member has a “can-do” attitude and
says “yes” as the default answer to
client requests.

Creating client delight

None of the above happens by
accident. Training in the above skills
must run alongside clinical and
management training. To achieve the
best results, a training programme must
be inclusive, i.e. undertaken by every
member of staff.

If your management lives, breathes,
talks and trains excellence, then
excellence will fall naturally into place.

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