You’re probably up-to-date on all the latest medical advancements, and of course, you have excellent animal handling skills, but what about working with your clients? Communication is a fundamental component of long-term profitability in the veterinary industry, yet many animal health care professionals struggle in this area. For example, you may clearly understand a patient’s symptoms and condition, but can you effectively relay that information to that pet’s owner in a way that is easy to comprehend?
Simply put, if you can’t make your clients understand what you’re saying or convey the message that certain information is important, you cannot provide the highest quality of care. What’s worse, poor communication can lead to client turnover – something that could prove costly to your practice’s longevity. If you’re among those who struggle with client communication, you’re not alone. More importantly, here are a few tips to consider.
Skip the Jargon
Medical terminology may make perfect sense to you because, well, you work in the veterinary medical industry. To a client, on the other hand, medical jargon can be confusing, which can lead to frustration and potential misunderstandings. What’s more, when a vet speaks in terms that a client feels is over their head, they may be reluctant to ask questions for fear of sounding uneducated. This scenario isn’t good for the client, it isn’t good for you as the provider and it most certainly isn’t good for the patient.
First things first, before explaining a patient’s condition or discussing potential treatment options, take a step back and place yourself in the shoes of the client. Then, try to word and phrase things in a way that is easy for a layperson to understand. Watch for signs that a client may be confused and open the doorway for two-way communication by inviting questions. Never assume that the client is on the same page as you. Encourage them to open up and get clarification on any uncertainties they may have.
Leverage Visual Aids
The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. You can use these statistics to your advantage by incorporating visual aids when communicating with clients. There are plenty of different options for this, whether it’s using a diagram, a digital image or a video.
These tools can help clients to visualize what a particular treatment or procedure entails. For instance, you might show a quick video clip demonstrating how a dental cleaning is performed. Whatever type of media you choose, pairing it with an easy-to-understand, jargon-free explanation can work wonders for ensuring that everyone is on the same page before moving forward.
Encourage (Appropriate) Use of Smartphones
Most vets prefer that clients turn off their mobile phones, as they can serve as a distraction in the exam room. But when used properly, they can actually be a valuable tool for improved communication. For instance, let’s say a client is having a hard time describing a certain behavior or symptom her dog has been exhibiting. Asking her prior to the appointment to record a quick video that she can then replay while with the vet can eliminate the guesswork and make reaching a diagnosis easier.
A smartphone is also a great tool for aftercare. For example, a client could record a video of the vet providing instructions on how to administer medication or clean/redress a wound. That video can then be used at home as a guide or to convey the important care instructions to others in the household who weren’t present during the exam or procedure.
Utilize Digital and Take-Home Material
The last thing you want your clients to do is turn to Dr. Google for their information. To avoid this, keep the lines of communication open by utilizing as many avenues as you can to connect with clients in their homes. Start with a quality website that features a list of vetted external resources as well as an up-to-date, educational blog. Send out email newsletters with valuable content and leverage social media. The more you proactively answer the questions of your clients, the more they’ll come to trust and rely on your expertise.
If you’re not comfortable with the Internet or you have some clients who aren’t very tech-savvy, consider providing physical educational materials, such as take-home brochures, detailed treatment plan documentation and instructional handouts. Not only will your clients find this helpful, but it’ll also ensure that your patients are receiving quality care even when they’re not with you.
In animal health care, just as with human medicine, honest and open communication is the key to retention and growth. In fact, good communication underpins every aspect of your practice. If this is an area you admittedly struggle in, the tips above should help make connecting with clients and building those all-important relationships a little bit easier.
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