I once heard a colleague saying: ‘Veterinary medicine has become a profession that treats the clients, not their pets’. Well of course not literally, but as time passes by and the pile of pet-related information on the internet suffocates the owners with wrong guidelines and unhealthy products for their pets, face-to-face conversation feels like a maze without an escape for the veterinary professionals.
These psychological sessions with oblivious clients and I am afraid there are more and more of them can last longer than you expected and at the end, the outcome is poor because whatever a vet says, there is a web-article to deny that.
The situation with overweight pets went from funny and silly to wide-spread epidemic. Believe me that most of the clients having obese pets don’t actually see them as such, even after you discussed the body condition score with them. The problem lies in the fact that clients love their pets so much and think giving treats more than enough will make the pet love them even more. This is the way they strengthen the human-pet bond.
In order to solve this problem, you must understand their perceptions and work on your communication and empathy skills. Phrases like: ‘It’s a dog, it will love you anyway’ or ‘Suzy is fat, don’t feed her so much’ won’t work and will make your clients despise you quite easily. Instead, try to gamble with what you know best – scientific facts.
‘If you want to spend more precious time with your dog I will advise you to work on her well-being by reducing some weight. Did you know that obese animals live 2 years less than slimmer ones on average?’.
This is only an example of what might be said to address the weight issue the pet has. From their personal experience, owners are convinced their animals will suffer when on diet. This is the time when you say: ‘Overweight animals acquire illnesses earlier than slim ones, and that requires veterinary interventions, needles and unnecessary pain that can be avoided’. Of course, don’t forget to mention the vet bills’.
If the last part didn’t have any effect, it’s probably best not to bother, but if it did start working on daily calories plan. Make sure that the plans include some treats so that the owners can still enjoy rewarding their furry fellows.
Spay and neuter
Although widely accepted, and in some countries in the world regulated by law, many owners have difficulty understanding the necessity of spay and neuter. That’s mostly because of the myths regarding spay and neuter which tell the animals will get lazy and fat.
Animals get lazy and fat when they eat too much and exercise too little. It’s as simple as that. Spays and neuters reduce the risks of a handful of diseases, most of the time hard to treat. These proven facts you are well familiar with should be explained in settle and compassionate manner because this procedure seems scary for the client, even though you did it a 1.000 times before and you are well-experienced. So a little empathy while giving away facts about the benefits of spay and neuter and a charming ‘Everything will be fine, we are here for you and your pet’ will ease up the tension.
I read on the internet that…
Most vet professionals will agree that the moment they hear these lines they are experiencing severe hypertension. I am afraid that more and more clients prefer to Google symptoms first before making an appointment in a vet clinic. Some of them don’t even get to the vet and start treating on their own. We all know the consequences of that.
The situation is bad and there is little vets can do to change this. Instead, we can try endorsing it for our own advantage. There are tons of websites related to pets, and the majority contains bad information. However, there are the good ones. A good website doesn’t try to scare the clients and makes them buy their expensive pyoderma shampoo because apparently, the symptoms indicate this is the problem. A good website always states ‘seek veterinary professional’ in every written article.
Find the good ones and the next time a client explains what he read on the internet, accept his opinion, but also suggest the websites and reading the material you think it’s adequate. If you think it’s not a safe solution, you can always start running your own.
Hard to pay
‘If you can’t afford a vet, then you can’t afford a pet’. You will always have these types of clients and feel frustrated that your hard work won’t be rewarded. If you know a client has a snake in his pocket, make sure you mention the cost before-hand. Best case scenario, start working only if he/she leaves a deposit.
You offer your services at a certain price and it’s the owner’s decision whether to accept or not. If he/she thinks you are too expensive, there are a lot of other veterinary clinics where clients can seek veterinary services. Sometimes, partial payments or payment plans can be offered to clients. We only suggest you do that if the work is done and the client doesn’t want to pay; if you are discussing cost and payment at the reception before patient admission, we would suggest not mentioning other payment options other than pay-in-full.
Difficult and oblivious clients are one of the major factors that make the veterinary professions so stressful and hard. Team members must work together responsibly to deal with them in a respectful and affectionate manner, even though most of the times it’s impossible. Be prepared for any situation that can be harmful to the staff and the reputation of the private practice. Tend to avoid confrontations and settle things in a positive manner.
The list of types of oblivious clients is endless, so make sure you mention situations that get you stressed on daily basis and how you personally manage to deal with them.