Notes on Integrity and Client Communication
The entwined relationship humans and animals share is fascinating. Currently, researchers are investigating the workings of octopus tentacles to develop responsive prosthetics for humans. And, as you may have heard, antibodies derived from llamas have been found to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus in lab tests.
As vets, we know that many clients love their pet as a member of the family. In fact, lockdown measures have meant pet owners are spending more time than ever with their furry family members, and whilst people are staying away from human hospitals, many vet practices are seeing an increase in demand!
The work you do as a vet is truly valuable. Not only to the animals, but to their human owners.
However, it is sometimes easy to overlook the true value of your work, especially when you are rushed off your feet, incomprehensibly stressed and are finding it hard to communicate with clients.
Complaints veterinarians commonly have are: ‘All clients are obnoxious, impatient and don’t understand anything!’, ‘clients are the root of all my stress!’, ‘clients have impossible expectations.’ Sound familiar? Well, some clients may come across as obnoxious, rude, and demanding because they are so anxious about the health of their pet. Think about it: they don’t understand what is wrong with their pet, the vet practice is unfamiliar territory, and they are eagerly awaiting answers from you, the vet.
Whether we like it or not, as vets a lot of our job revolves around client communication. Yet, few of us are actually good at this. We build up the idea that clients are obnoxious which then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy! In doing this we forget that, largely, clients feel deeply connected to their pets and want the best for them – just as we do.
It’s also true that many vets are worried about recommending treatment because they think they’ll come across as disingenuous, or will make the client believe they are being scammed. Ultimately, this is a fallacy. If you are anxious about recommending treatment, this will come across in your delivery and your client will be unlikely to adhere.
Our advice: be genuine. Remember, you and your client are in pursuit of the same goal: caring for the animal. If you keep this in mind when you are recommending treatment, you are less likely to feel anxious. This is all about delivery. Explain why the treatment is the best option for the animal’s health in a clear, concise manner. It sounds simple, but many vets skip this ‘explanation’ part because they forget that clients don’t have the same level of knowledge as them.
One thing that’s really helpful is to demonstrate why their pet needs treatment, if possible. For example, you could use a blue-light to show the levels of calculus build up in their dog. This is a tangible, physical explanation for treatment which will, no doubt, compound your level of integrity and build trust that what you’re recommending is needed.
Aside from this, working on your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) will drastically change the way you communicate with clients for the better. It will also help you to build genuine relationships with clients. An integral part of developing EQ is to consider how you would like the client to feel, and how you are going to make this happen. For example, you may want the client to feel receptive, aware, confident, trusting.
What makes you feel these things?
Perhaps you feel a bit jittery, unsure of your recommendations, and you end up explaining things in a confusing way. If it helps, imagine the client is an old friend who you haven’t seen in ages. Greet them in an open, confident manner and greet their pet too! Make sure you explain things properly, but remain gently assertive. Keep in mind that you and your client both want the best for the animal.
Finally, a lot of vets are anxious when it comes to the financial side of the business. Practically no one becomes a vet for the money! There seems to be a certain unease about finances when recommending treatment. However, what we said earlier still applies: both you and the client care for the health of the animal. The quality of care you give, the service you deliver, is inherently linked to the bottom line of the business.
This is to say: remain focussed on the quality of care you deliver, and the finances will fall into place. Getting caught up in the finances can take away from the true value you offer animals and humans.
Change your mindset: clients may seem obnoxious, rude, demanding, because this is how we’ve come to perceive them. Largely, clients want the best for their animal and are feeling anxious when they go to the vets.
Aim to build genuine relationships with clients – this will make it easier for everyone involved.
Explain to clients in a clear and concise manner. Use tangible methods if possible.
Work on your EQ by identifying how you would like the client to feel and how you can make this happen.
Don’t get caught up in the financial side of things. Remember, your recommendations are genuine and in the patient’s best interest.
We hope you have found these notes on integrity useful, and can start to develop genuine relationships with your clients. You may also like our webinar, 4 Steps to a Happy and Successful Career as a Veterinarian, which includes more tips and the three fatal mistakes to avoid as a veterinarian.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Water & Glass by Abi Curtis (fiction): a speculative look into a future where animals and humans become truly entwined.
Sealed by Naomi Booth (fiction): a pertinent dystopian novel imagining the human body’s reaction to a volatile environment.
Dark Ecology by Timothy Morton (ecocriticism): a critical exploration of the position of the human in their environment.