You have worked so hard to get a client into the exam room.
You went to vet school, you started your own practice, you hired people to work
for you, you took on so many responsibilities and have taken so much risk. Now
you can enjoy the fruits of your labor; you have a client in the exam room,
needing care. You are eager to go to work; to make your diagnosis, your
recommendations and to have another interesting case to deal with and to be
You are overlooking one important detail though; the client
has to say ‘yes’ before you can take care of their pet. Do all your clients say
‘yes’ to your recommendations? This is impossible. But how many do and how many
do not? Do you even know? Did you know, most of those who say ‘no’ do so
because you did not show enough value in the service. If you don’t know all
this, you are going around in circles; you think you are working real hard and
going somewhere, but in reality you are going nowhere.
In this article I will therefore share a few useful tips that
if applied, will help you increase your client compliance. The good thing about
this is that even a small improvement in client compliance over a year, will
make a huge difference in your profit!
Tip #1: Asking powerful questions
Before clients can trust your recommendations, they need to
feel you understand them. We are all emotional creatures and we all make buying
decisions based on emotion, not logic. We only use logic to explain to
ourselves why we need the product or service we WANT to buy.
A big mistake most veterinarians make in the exam room is
bombard clients with facts and data. In other words, only speaking to their
logic. However, as people make buying decisions based on emotion, the doctor’s
logical approach falls on deaf ears. Are you beginning to see why so many of
your clients say they want to think about your recommendations, or some other
The best way to show you understand your clients is by asking
them questions which touch their emotional need. However, asking powerful
questions is not easy as we are used to only asking weak questions. Keep
reading and you will see what we mean, then you can decide if you want to learn
to ask better questions.
Powerful questions are questions
which send your clients searching inside themselves for what’s true for them. On
the other hand, weak questions stem from a belief that you already know what’s
best for the client. Just because clients come in to see you doesn’t
necessarily mean you know exactly what motivates them and what turns them off. Having
such a belief and asking weak questions will thus prevent your clients from revealing
to you what motivates them to say yes. Even though weak questions may give you your
desired results, more times than you care for, they will not.
What distinguishes powerful questions from “weak” questions,
Weak questions are close-ended; powerful questions are
Weak questions can be answered with Yes or No;
powerful questions cannot.
Weak questions keep listeners on the surface of the matter;
powerful questions send them searching deeper and in the direction you want
them to go.
Weak questions can make your clients “lose the purpose” of your
service; powerful questions will move them further toward realizing how unique
you and your services are.
When you ask weak questions, you usually are not really
listening; you are making assumptions, while when you ask a truly powerful question,
most likely you are listening to your client and can detect what matters to
Powerful questions will lead you to build a stronger trust
with your clients.
The best way to tap into your ability to ask powerful
questions is to trust your intuition. Your intuition and your ability to
ask powerful questions are incredible tools to give you what you want in life,
including better client compliance.
Typically, powerful questions start with: “What”, “How” or
Weak questions stem from listening to clients’ words;
powerful questions spring out from listening to clients’ words, tone of voice
and body language.
you learn to trust your intuition and listen to your clients on a deeper level,
it will be very easy for you to ask the right powerful questions.
Some examples of weak
Do you see how limiting these
questions are? At most they are directed to your clients’ logic, leaving their
Now let’s take a look at what powerful questions look like in
the exam room in various situations:
Some areas powerful
questions can improve client compliance are:
a) Making clients understand there
is a problem:
If she could talk, what do you think she would say about
He may have….. What do you think this may be doing to him?
b) Making clients see the impact
of the problem:
How do you think this is influencing her life quality?
How do you think this is affecting his ability to interact
c) Finding out the perceived
benefits of solving the problem:
What did you have in mind when you came in today?
How is my explaining you what the problem is going to affect
There is a very good chance, if we do…., that he is going to be back to normal.
How would that be for you?
d) Reiterating and removing
You want to prescribe a procedure requiring anesthesia but you’ve noticed with
your intuition that your client is concerned about it:
“I understand you are concerned about the anesthesia. What
else can I share with you about our rigorous anesthesia protocol that will
alleviate this concern?”
“How does the value of treating her condition stack against
the risk of anesthesia for you?”
Can you see how these powerful
questions come from a deeper emotional level of self?
Now, let me ask you a few powerful
- What do you need to let go of to ask powerful
questions in the exam room, and frankly, in your work?
- What would higher compliance rate give you?
- What still stands in the way of your ability
to ask stronger questions?
- Where do you begin?
Tip #2: Using the right words to increase client compliance
You see, the vast majority of your clients have no way of
telling whether your service is better than anybody else’s. That is why, if you
use stronger words, your compliance rate will soar. Your words always have a
significant impact on your clients whether you are aware of it or not. In other words, the words you use determine
the response you get from your clients.
How often do you use
scripts? Actually this is a trick question.
We all use scripts all the time. Our scripts are written down and
practiced or they are unwritten and casual. Scripts are defined as a collection
of organized words. If you think before you talk, you are using a
script. The only question is: How much thought you have given it? If you think
about it, most likely you have a specific way you introduce yourself when you
walk into the exam room, there is a repetitive way to how you begin the exam,
to the words you use when conducting the exam, to the words you use when
diagnosing a problem and in how and what you recommend.
Any idea how this
patterned script was formed? Most likely it
was formed by chance and by trial and error. Some of it was probably formed by
the way clients responded to your messages, by your beliefs and values and by
what you knew or didn’t know at the time. You will have also noticed how the
words you use have changed over the years as you gained knowledge and
confidence in your profession. That’s awesome, but this was still in reaction
to external circumstances.
Here, though, is a
great opportunity for you to turn things around; by taking more control of the
words you use in the exam room. Being on stage every time you communicate with
your clients, how do you then decide which scripts and which words to use for maximum
The best way to improve
your communication with your clients is to know exactly what you are going to
say BEFORE you actually speak with them. This is where planned scripts are so
useful in giving you better client compliance. Planned and predesigned scripted
words are easily done because the vast majority of what clients want is the
The greatest benefit of planned scripts is that they actually
allow you to be creative. As you grow more confident with your mental scripts,
you no longer have to concern yourself with which words to use; you just know
with certainty what you need to say. Like being on stage, though, you cannot
just blurt out your scripts mechanically. This is where good scripts fit in
beautifully with better listening and with an improved ability to ask powerful
questions. Doing so will allow you to find out exactly what it is your clients
really want. Then just open a mental drawer, pull out the right script and say
it in a way that will make your clients feel it comes from an experienced and
So, how do you create your own scripts?
Naturally I am not going to tell you what to say as we are
all different people. As such, we have a different value system, different
aspirations and drives. A good place to begin creating your own script, though,
is by thinking through what you would like to achieve from your communication
with your clients, with what you would like your practice to give you and,
mainly, from what your clients want. From our personal experience, 90% of what clients
want is the same. I discovered this by interviewing many clients, by taping
many office calls and by inquiring with other veterinary professionals as to
what their experience on the subject was. Putting this information together
with what I believe is important for our patients and through experimenting and
rehearsing our scripts, allowed me to develop an ironclad system to get
outstanding client compliance.
Also, think of what the common 90% of what your
clients want are and what they are most bothered with: cost of service, fear of anesthesia, trust in your ability to diagnose
and treat the condition, whether the condition will come back, etc. Give these points some thought and then write
down what you think and what you feel your answers should be. Combine what comes up for you with your
knowledge of the case in question and with an enhanced ability to listen, and
you will have your script. Once you have
a script you like and can work with, rehearse it with your staff members. You are now ready to improve your client
By Dr. Steve Kornfeld