This was my second article published in print. I feel safe putting this one out there, because those of you who read Riley and James and are clients ARE the Best of the Best. I used to put the following on every blog post, I dunno why I quit. It is still true…
You are awesome, and I love my career because of you.
This article could be helpful to anyone in a service business I suppose, not just veterinarians. And it could be an interesting peek into my views on clients. I realize I have a rosy glasses sort of view sometimes, but I am telling you, my clients really are this great. Every time I get established at a veterinary practice (In as much as it depends on me, I am staying here. I love where I am right now.) Anyways, every time, my team members remark on how nice the clients are on the days I work. I was asked so often why that is true, that I tried to explain it in this article. The short answer: you. The long answer…
Building a Best of the Best Clientele
by Shawn Finch, DVM
Imagine if our clientele consisted entirely of clients we love to see, clients we know well and clients whose trust we have earned. Picture how this would transform your attitude, your day and even your career. The majority of us probably have mostly satisfied clients. A few clients drive us crazy. Let’s call them “meanies.” A few very special clients, those we would handpick if we could, we will call “best of the best.” Starting from this assumed demographic, I believe we can shape our clientele to be almost exclusively best of the best, and that will make our careers more rewarding.
Our interactions with these clients will make for a pleasant day for our team and for our clients, and we will meet our goal of maintaining and restoring the health of pets. If we have a client base that consist mainly of satisfied clients, we are probably doing pretty well.
However, our colleagues at other veterinary hospitals are probably pretty good, too. Clients may wanter off to another veterinary clinic – not because of malice toward us, or a bad experience. They are simply sticking around until the next best thing comes along.
Perhaps we can use this window of opportunity to overwhelm them with our excellence. This “window” may be only the length of the office visit, or we may be fortunate enough to have several months or years to earn their trust.
Clients need to be exceptional to fit into this category! I only classify clients as meanies after severe infractions, such as cruelty to my associates or extreme rudeness or profanity. These clients need to be either cut loose or given a chance to change their behavior. It is never ideal to let them coast, because they are the ones whose cats will live twenty-five years due to your awesome care. That is a quarter of a century that you and your team will have to put up with them.
Whenever possible, give meanies the opportunity to rise to your expectations. Often these clients are not aware they are being rude. They may be having a difficult day, or even a difficult season. Having a sick or injured pet or dealing with the expense of a veterinary visit may also cause or compound anxiety that can manifest as inappropriate behavior.
Calling clients on poor behavior can actually become an opportunity to care for them. Some of my most heart-wrenching conversations have been after some great empathetic comment on my part, such as, “Wow! I haven’t heard that one in a while! Where did that come from?” Clients are then free to share what drove them to such behavior or at least apologize and start fresh.
Do not “hold on” to a meanie for the sake of avoiding a conflict, not hurting feelings or losing revenue. Consider changing your goal from retaining every possible client to building the clientele you would love to work with for the next several decades. You and your team are worth being treated well. And a good client having a bad day is worth being cared for and called on for inappropriate behavior.
The Best of the Best
When I started in veterinary medicine, my best of the best consisted of my family and a few friends. And if you have the support of those closest to you, you are well on your way to success.
If you have earned the trust of another person, remember that it is a gift someone has chosen to give you. Value and nurture that relationship. Treat their pet the way you hope someone would treat your pet. Treat the client the way you would want to be treated. If clients could be in our best of the best group, the ones who can trust us with anything, they would love that almost more than we do.
The entire team should be intentional about building new relationships and strengthening existing relationships. Transforming satisfied clients – and even meanies – into best of the best happens on purpose. Does an associate enjoy client communication? Put him in charge of sending a welcome card to every new client. Is someone especially empathetic? Put her in charge of ensuring that clients who are grieving are well cared for. Figure out what your team members love and do well, and let them do it. Over time, you will see your existing clients become best of the best, and they will refer clients who also become best of the best.
Working toward an entirely best of the best clientele is a win-win-win situation for clients, pets and the entire veterinary team.
This was first published in Banfield, Achieving Success in Practice as Seeing Our Favorite Clients, November/December 2009.