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Issue: 67 - Jul 15, 2014
9 ‘Golden’ Tips for Better Client Service
By: Maureen Blaney Flietner
Mavourneen LLC/MBF Communications

 

The idea of the “Golden Rule” goes back thousands of years and has its roots in a range of world cultures. The saying still holds true that, basically, you should treat others as you want others to treat you.

So before fretting over your next blog or Tweet, review whether you are putting the idea of the Golden Rule into practice with your present clients. After all, research shows that it is less expensive and more profitable for businesses to retain existing clients than to acquire new ones. Consider these nine suggestions for improving service.

1. Ask your client what name they prefer to be called and follow that preference.

It sounds so simple, but it’s so often ignored. Instead, in many of today’s modern interactions, staff members call clients – especially older ones -- “honey” or “dearie.”  While some people may not mind it, others can find it condescending, patronizing, or just irritating. It’s the same situation with names. Your friend Charles or William may go by the name of Chuck or Bill, but not everyone does. Ask your clients their preferences, mark it on their charts, and follow their preference in interactions.

2. Go beyond the initial greeting.

Many businesses today have standard welcome and farewell lines that lose their effectiveness in the generic repetition. Have your reception staff not only greet clients with their preferred name and their pet’s name but stay attentive to them after the initial greeting. Consider a checklist specific to your business. It might include making clients aware of refreshments available, asking if they need assistance, letting them know where their pets might relieve themselves, or offering them your latest print newsletter to read.

3. Make a follow-up call the next day.

A follow-up call of a few minutes by the attending veterinarian or staff member can make such a big impression on a client. It demonstrates concern for your patient that has had more than a routine check-up. Besides allowing a check on progress, it offers an opening for any reluctant client to ask questions or to review instructions that might have not been clearly understood in the appointment wrap-up.

4. Keep a record of complaints and praise. Review and act on it regularly.

A daily log is a low-cost and easy way to track what’s working and what’s not. From kind words for a staff member who helps a client struggling with a cat carrier, to repeat jokes about the bad coffee in the waiting room, to complaints about a slippery floor, these comments can help you tweak operations for continued customer satisfaction.

5. Work with a client’s use of the Internet.

Many healthcare professionals often tell people not to look up information on the Internet. But to expect a client to not do that would be about the same as telling them not to ask their family and friends for their thoughts or experiences with problems. Instead, take the opportunity to expand on a client’s willingness to learn more. Ask clients to bring along and share what they have learned. Ask them which websites they visit for information. If needed, redirect them to the many reputable ones available. Include your own website if you have educational material on various conditions.

6. Review each patient’s file before beginning the appointment.

It’s your personal connection with your clients that often keeps them returning. Remembering what had and has happened with clients and your patients since you saw them months ago can be difficult. Review their file, including notes on contacts with the office since the last visit, before greeting the client. The effect of having a veterinarian or staff member well informed and up to date on a client and patient can provide comforting reassurance.

7. Check attitudes at the door.

If you’ve got a thriving business and good word-of-mouth bringing in new clients, you won’t have to worry about this one. But if clients move on or new ones aren’t referred by present clients, check your attitude. While you can’t change your basic personality, if you can become aware of your demeanor and work to improve it, you may see a difference in client numbers. Some people give the impression that D.V.M. or other professional initials behind their names are a license to be overbearing and viewed as all-knowing. But if you were a client comparing two professionals, would you choose the one that was reassuring, friendly, and offered to answer questions? Or one that was domineering, talked down to you, and did not welcome or appreciate questions?

8. Understand your clients’ perspectives.

It’s too easy in today’s world to make assumptions about people. Instead, ask questions. Don’t pretend to know what a client is willing to do for or spend on their animal. Offer all of the options for treatment. Ask the client about how their animal fits into their lives. For some clients, an animal may play a more important role than you think and they will find ways to fit needed treatments into their time or budget.

9. Admit mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes. But it seems that, in today’s culture, no one wants to admit to any. Yet it’s often more upsetting to a client when someone does not admit to a mistake then when they admit to one and apologize. If a veterinarian is mistakenly double-booked, for example, explain the mistake rather than leave the upset and uninformed client fuming and pacing. Offer a discount for services that day. If the lab is behind on tests and the client has to wait a long time to get results and the needed medication, arrange to have a staff member or delivery service bring the medication to the client’s home.

Maureen Blaney Flietner, (www.mbfcommunications.com) is a former news journalist and now fulltime freelancer for more than 14 years. She handles writing, editing, and design/graphics projects for a variety of clients across the country.