Back in April of 2015, the periodical Veterinary Economics ran a survey asking pet owners why they left their former veterinary practice for a new one. The responses covered a wide range of topics, from post-euthanasia horror stories to rambunctious dogs running loose through the hallways of an undisclosed practice. As I read these reader responses, I was left with the impression that these seemed rather far-fetched stories. What I mean by ‘far-fetched’ is, if I were reading these as a veterinarian, my thoughts after reading might best be summed up as, “Those stories could never happen in my practice!” And sure, it’s only natural to assume that your practice is a well-oiled machine, efficient in treatment and outstanding in customer service. But then I got to thinking: how often does one consider their practice from a client’s perspective?
Now, you may think this is a ridiculous question. “Of course I do”, you might say. “Customer service is of the utmost priority at my practice.” But that’s not really the focus, at least not directly. Taking a moment to step back and consider your practice from the client’s perspective means taking stock in both the macro and the micro; seeing both the big picture and the minutiae. From this perspective, you must go beyond the basics – like greeting clients as they walk in the door (although that is nevertheless important) – and try to see what the client sees. For instance, what is your post-euthanasia protocol? If it’s anything like one client had to experience before they left their old practice – “One morning I sat next to a couple and their dog in the waiting room. They were called into an exam room, then emerged several minutes later crying and carrying the euthanized dog in a black garbage bag.” 1– then you have clearly not taken the time to consider things from the client perspective. Another example might be cleaning stray hairs off the exam table in-between exams, or knowing when to bend the rules to accommodate potential special needs for clients.
Another way of understanding this may be to consider tapping into the client perspective as a way of redefining customer service. We look to customer service as a means of understanding how we actively shape a client’s experience into a positive one. But that understanding places the emphasis solely on the caregiver-to-client relationship. What about the client-to-caregiver or client-to-practice relationship? What about the protocols and routines you currently have in place within your practice that don’t necessarily take the client into account, yet may directly or indirectly affect them? I’m not suggesting some radical shift in how we look at or define customer service within the veterinary realm. Rather, I’m suggesting we take time to gain a little perspective, step into the client’s shoes and see how they view your practice. Raise these questions at your next staff meeting and see where the dialogue goes. Perhaps previously unforeseen problems or challenges will arise, or, at the very least, your employees and co-workers will gain a fresh, nuanced perspective on how they interact with clients. At the end of the day, engaging with the client perspective – trying to see what the client sees – is a lesson in the little things, the subtle nuances that make your practice unique. Your client may never notice these little things, but it can mean all the difference when it comes to making your practice a comfortable space for your clients and their pets.
1 Veterinary Economics. April, 2015