My dog, Cotton, has an autoimmune condition that prohibits her from being vaccinated. Despite that, when we checked in for a follow-up veterinary visit last week, the client service representative reminded us that Cotton was overdue for her vaccines.
“Would you like us to update those while you’re here?” she asked.
I politely reminded her that the doctor told me Cotton can no longer receive vaccines.
When the technician came up to take Cotton back for her blood draw, she and the client service representative discussed what type of test she needed, neither one instilling much confidence that they knew what to run.
I left the veterinary practice feeling confused and concerned that my girl was not getting what she needed.
The following day, I received an email from my vet’s office asking about my visit. I had debated voicing my concerns, but there was an easy click link to give feedback, so I shared my thoughts. I left my contact information, and the practice manager followed up with me the next day.
While chatting with the practice manager, he asked me multiple questions about my experience and asked what he could do for me to resolve the situation. He assured me that they would amend Cotton’s record immediately to delete all reminders for vaccines and mark her file so that moving forward everyone would know she can’t receive vaccinations. He also assured me he would follow up with the staff to improve communications moving forward.
There were many aspects of this interaction that turned a negative experience into a great opportunity for my veterinarian:
1. Make it easy to give feedback
For every interaction that occurs in your clinic, there is an opportunity for improvement. Do you have a suggestion box, a note on your report cards or discharge orders asking for feedback, or an automated text or email system that requests feedback from clients after a visit? You will receive far less feedback from your clients if you aren’t asking them for it often and making it easy for them to submit it to you. Find a system that works well for your clinic and offer incentives for feedback if necessary.
2. Act quickly
When you receive feedback, whether positive or negative, respond quickly. This tells your clients that you appreciate their comments and are committed to resolving any issues. It will also encourage your clients to provide more regular feedback to you if they see that you’re willing to follow through on your end.
3. Keep calm
The practice manager who contacted me did not turn our conversation into a competition of “who wins” the argument. He was non-confrontational, seemed to be really interested in improving the practice’s customer service, and wanted to understand the experience from my perspective.
4. Listen well
At the conclusion of my conversation with the practice manager, I felt that I had been truly heard. He asked a lot of questions, clarified his understanding of the complaint, and was empathetic to my concerns.
5. Acknowledge the problem
I knew that I had been heard when the manager repeated the concern back to me in an empathetic way. “I understand you’re concerned that Cotton’s care may be compromised due to lack of communication and documentation on our end, is that right?” I truly knew that he had heard what I was saying and would create a plan to resolve my specific concerns moving forward.
6. Offer solutions
During our conversation, the manager and I were able to come up with solutions that would work for both of us. The practice manager had solutions readily available and was willing to work with me to make me comfortable with our plan moving forward.
7. Keep your promises
At Cotton’s next visit, I confirmed with the front-desk staff that her record had been updated. The technician and the receptionist were in close communication with the doctor about all recommended tests, and I knew that everyone was on the same page. The practice manager had followed through on his commitments and kept his promise to Cotton and me.
8. Follow up
After our next visit to the clinic, the practice manager called me to see how everything went. We discussed the details of our visit and how I was feeling about Cotton’s care. I felt that the manager was on my team and looking out for my girl’s best interests.
Although all of this started because of a poor experience at the clinic, I will continue to trust my pet’s care to this team. I feel that I’m making the best choice for my girl because of the way my concerns were handled. I also believe that the manager used this interaction as an opportunity to create a better relationship with me as a client, and I feel more comfortable voicing my concerns with them because of it. I encourage you to be another shining example of customer service excellence in the veterinary community!
Katie is a CVT, wife, mother, manager, and adventurous chef. When she’s not working at VSS (or being a mom – work in progress), she’s hiking, traveling, reading, or trying out a new hobby to see if it will stick.