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Issue: 59 - Nov 15, 2013
Ultimate (But Cheap) Customer Service
By: Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

A recent discussion with some of my referring vets made me acutely aware of a fact that is so blatantly obvious, that I suspect it’s a common oversight.

Pop quiz: What is the best and cheapest form of promotion for yourself, your clinic and your services?

Turns out that the absolute best form of advertisement is word-of-mouth.  Can you think of a better way?  Word-of-mouth is more effective than the yellow pages, online ads or any other method. And it’s certainly cheaper.  Remember the story of the happy clients who tell 11 others about their experience?  That’s the concept.

If you accept this premise, then our goal should be to wow each and every client. This is true from the very first phone call to the final goodbye after a visit.

Here are a few examples of simple, cheap but unusually excellent client care used by some of our smartest colleagues:

  • When it’s raining, don’t complain about the weather or global warming.  Protect clients to and from their cars with a large umbrella.
  • Walk clients to their car.  For legal reasons, it seems that they may need to hold their own dog on a leash. The receptionist or technician or assistant is basically escorting clients to their cars. They can answer additional questions and bond with the client.  Don’t merely ask clients if they need help to their car, just do it by casually saying “Let me help you to the car with Fluffy.”
  • When clients have to wait, don’t just let them wondering as they are locked up in an exam rom.  Communicate with them. If you have an emergency, they will surely understand.  You can give them a list of nearby places to visit, or places to eat.  Local restaurants may be interested in offering coupons.
  • Give clients a brochure (or an information package or a fact sheet) about the hospital.  Clients may visit you for one service, but might need to use another one in the future. Or they could tell a friend.  If they don’t know what you offer, they sure can’t talk about it.

No matter what a popular book might say, sweat the small stuff. We can do the most perfect medical or surgical procedure.  But it’s the weakest link that gets us in trouble: forgetting to clip nails under anesthesia, making a mistake (however small) on the invoice, or misplacing the dog’s leash.

All senses should be taken care of, every time, in every part of the hospital, including:

  • Smell. We all know that our clinics should smell good. Yet I regularly walk into clinics that smell bad.  Interestingly, each clinic seems to have its own smell.  Strangely, only strangers seem to smell what “insiders” do not anymore. And some practice owners seem to have developed immunity to that very smell…
  • Sight. We all know that our clinics should look good. Yet if you look around objectively, you will start noticing blood on the floor, foot prints on the exam table and hair or dust bunnies just about everywhere.
  • Hearing.  It is important to be aware that clients can hear much more than we think when they are in the waiting room or an exam room.

Clients notice these flaws. Worse: the longer we make them wait, the more they have time to notice them.

Always remember what the wise man says: “The client is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.”

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (