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7 Tips for Engaging with Non-Responsive Clients

Updated: May 4

Some veterinary clients are easy to engage with. They are naturally talkative. They genuinely enjoy friendly banter and are open about their pets. Unfortunately, not everyone is this easygoing. Some people tend to shy away from engaging in conversation. This can make it incredibly difficult to obtain the information you need about the patient you are treating. The problem is, what a pet parent doesn’t bring up could negatively impact their companion’s health, not to mention the rift it can cause between them and your practice.


If you’re stumped for how to draw quiet clients out of their shell, here are a few tips for doing so that can produce meaningful conversation in the process.


Be personable


Some people need to warm up before they’re comfortable entering a conversation. Make your veterinary clients feel welcome and at home. Even if you’re having a busy day, make an effort to slow down and make a personal connection. This may mean coming out of your own comfort zone, but if you want to build those relationships, it’s something you have to do.


Find a common ground


It’s much easier to connect with someone you have something in common with than with a complete stranger. Talk about yourself a little. Share some stories about your own pets, hobbies or passions. You’re bound to find something you can both relate to and when you do, it’ll open the door to much more natural and comfortable conversation.


Make the exam room a judgment-free zone


Often times a pet owner feels embarrassed to reveal the reason they’ve had to bring their pet in. For instance, perhaps something the owner did ultimately led to his or her pet’s illness or injury. Regardless of who is at fault, the fact is the pet is there for treatment now, so in the end they did the right thing. Encourage clients to be honest by reminding them that after many years in the industry, you’ve seen just about everything. And when the client finally does open up, don’t judge.


Dig deeper and be specific


A client may not be purposely withholding information, but instead may simply not realize it’s pertinent. The deeper you dig and the more detailed you get with the reasons why you’re asking certain questions, the more details you’ll get in return and the more likely you’ll be to get to the root of the problem. Asking the right questions and encouraging open, honest and in-depth answers may spur additional related information that can be helpful in treating the patient.


Be gracious and thankful


When a bashful client finally comes out of his or her shell and opens up, show them how much it means to you. Thank them for their contributions. Complement them on how well they’ve articulated the information you requested. This builds rapport and creates a stronger foundation on which to establish a positive doctor-client relationship.


Relay similar stories


If possible, drawing a correlation to another client or patient (without naming names, of course) with a similar situation can set a nervous client at ease. And when they’re more comfortable, they’re more likely to share information. For instance, if you suspect a dog may have eaten something she shouldn’t have, you might say: “Last week we had a German Shepherd in who ate a bunch of coffee grounds.” That might prompt the client to admit, “Yeah, I think Tonka might have gotten into the garbage.” If you don’t have an actual story, you may need to fabricate some of the details, but it’s a means to an end.


Follow up


Don’t let the communication end in the exam room. Follow up with all of your veterinary clients, but especially the ones that are more difficult to connect with. You can do this with a phone call or even just a quick email reminding them that you care about their pet and you’re there if they need you. This can go a long way toward establishing those lifelong connections that are so important in your practice’s ongoing success.


Now over to you: what things do you do in your practice to get those tight-lipped veterinary clients to open up and share? Please let us know in the comments section below.


Our Advice on Tips for Engaging with Non-Responsive Clients in 2024


How might cultural differences impact clients' communication styles and expectations?

Cultural differences can significantly affect clients' communication styles and expectations. For instance, some cultures may value a more reserved demeanor and expect less direct questioning, while others are accustomed to more open, detailed conversations. Language barriers and cultural taboos around pet ownership or veterinary care can also lead to hesitancy in sharing information. Practices should be aware of these nuances and adopt a culturally sensitive approach, emphasizing patience, empathy, and flexibility to ensure clients feel understood, respected, and encouraged to openly communicate their pets' needs.


What role can non-verbal communication play in making clients feel more comfortable and heard?

Non-verbal communication plays a crucial role in building client comfort and rapport. Maintaining eye contact signals attentiveness, while a warm smile and relaxed posture convey approachability. Nodding while clients speak and mirroring their body language subtly demonstrate empathy, encouraging them to share more openly. Gentle, reassuring gestures, like a soft pat on the back, can further alleviate anxiety, helping clients feel acknowledged and understood. By using these non-verbal cues effectively, veterinary professionals can enhance trust and create a supportive environment where clients feel genuinely heard.


How can practices gather feedback from clients to assess the effectiveness of their communication strategies?

Practices can gather client feedback on communication strategies through tailored surveys sent via email or provided in the clinic. These surveys should include questions about clients' comfort levels, satisfaction with information received, and suggestions for improvement. Additionally, follow-up calls after appointments can offer deeper insights into their experiences. Anonymized comment cards in waiting areas also encourage candid responses. Tracking trends in online reviews and social media interactions further reveals communication gaps, helping practices refine strategies to better engage and build stronger relationships with clients.


What are some best practices for documenting important information gleaned through client conversations?

Documenting important information from client conversations is essential for providing high-quality care. Best practices include using standardized forms or digital records for consistency and accuracy. Notes should be detailed, focusing on key observations, concerns, and instructions provided. It's crucial to capture the client's exact words for critical issues, helping to maintain clarity and reduce miscommunication. Sharing this documentation with the care team ensures everyone is aligned on the treatment plan. Additionally, reviewing and updating records after each appointment keeps information relevant and current for future consultations.


What are some strategies for managing conversations when clients share information that is concerning or suggests potential neglect or abuse?

Managing conversations around concerning information requires sensitivity and professionalism. Begin by expressing genuine empathy and listening without judgment. Avoid accusations or confrontational language; instead, ask clarifying questions to fully understand the situation. Emphasize a shared goal of ensuring the pet's well-being, offering practical guidance or resources. Document the conversation accurately, and if neglect or abuse is suspected, follow legal and ethical protocols to report it to the appropriate authorities. Collaborate with the client where possible to develop an actionable care plan while remaining vigilant and respectful.


For more practice management tips, tricks, and expert advice, bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh content.

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