When it comes to communication, the words we choose to use can make a significant impact on how an interaction is perceived. The right words, spoken at the right time and with the right attitude can build and foster lifelong connections with clients. Veterinary teams can employ the power of good communication to deliver an exceptional client experience and strengthen relationships with pet owners for more consistent and sustainable success. Below are a few tips on how to make client communication more meaningful.
Small changes can make a big difference
Much ado has been made about the way certain brands adopt especially friendly responses. Chick-fil-A, for instance, requires all employees to respond with “It’s my pleasure” whenever a customer thanks them. While this is a great concept, it’s not necessarily interchangeable with the veterinary field. In fact, implementing such a cookie-cutter communication policy could actually do more harm than good in our field, as it could eventually come across as rote and inauthentic.
The good news is, there are plenty of other ways for veterinary team members to adopt a more professional yet friendly and engaging communication style. One way to do this is to personalize your interactions with clients and speak in full sentences. So, rather than a quick “no problem” when a client is booking their pet’s follow-up appointment, your employee could say something like, “I’d be happy to take care of that for you. It was great seeing Bandit today!”
Shortened communication should especially be avoided when speaking with clients over the phone. So, rather than a curt “please hold,” saying something like “would you mind if I placed you on a brief hold” would be a much warmer and therefore more well-received way of speaking. It may seem like a very minor change, but trust us – over time, it can make a tremendous difference in how your clients feel they are being treated.
Begin and end on a positive note
It’s been said a million times that first impressions are critical. We believe that last impressions are equally, if not more important. After all, it’s the most recent interaction with your staff that a client will ultimately remember, not the initial one. As such, your communication improvement strategy should focus heavily on how your team makes clients feel, both when they are coming as well as when they are going.
Callers and visitors should always be greeted warmly and personally. This will set the tone for the rest of the client experience. Your receptionist team should use positive phrases as well as a tone of voice and/or body language that makes people feel welcome and at ease. Mentioning both the name of the pet and his or her owner throughout the conversation is a great way to make the interaction more engaging.
When it comes time to check out and pay for the visit, team members should be trained to shift the focus more toward patient advocacy than the financial aspect of things. In other words, rather than beginning the conversation with, “you owe” or “your bill is,” the person checking the client out should start with a brief summary of the visit. So, something like, “I see Fluffy had an exam and will be going home with some flea and tick prevention meds. Her preventative care total for today is…”
Not only does this create a more positive and meaningful experience, but it also reiterates the value of your services by reminding the client about the comprehensive care his or her pet just received. Once the bill is paid, a personalized farewell greeting that again uses the names of the client and pet is strongly recommended. “Thanks, Mrs. Jones! It was great seeing you and Snickers today. Feel free to give us a call before your next appointment if you have any questions or concerns!”
Always use positive statements whenever possible
One of the simplest yet most impactful communication changes a person can make is to consciously avoid the word ‘no’ and other negative statements from their vocabulary. Additionally, putting a more positive spin on things is also a powerful way to improve a client’s experience.
For instance, let’s say a pet owner calls and requests a same-day appointment for her cat. Instead of saying, “no,” “we can’t do that,” or starting a sentence with the word “unfortunately,” your team could respond by providing the next available option: “Dr. Lucas can see Snowball tomorrow morning at 9am if that works for you!”
Here are a few other ways to spin a potential negative answer into a more positive response:
“I’m happy to look into that for you.”
“Here’s what we can do for you.”
“While we were unable to … we were able to …”
“Let me check to see what other options are available for you.”
Changing communication habits is something that takes time, commitment and buy-in from your team. Those who are willing to make the effort will ultimately be rewarded with a more positive client experience, which will translate to higher retention numbers and a better bottom line for your practice.