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Transactional vs. Relational – Conveying Value to Your Clients

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

How many times has your receptionist fielded a call that went something like this: “Hello. How much do you charge for [insert service here]?”

The way your staff responds to a question like this can make the difference between landing a new client and losing another opportunity to one of your competitors.

Let’s face it. People can get an exam, a spay or an x-ray anywhere. At the end of the day, it’s not your services that will win prospects over. It’s the intangibles that will keep them coming back. Those extra little steps that you and your team take to make clients and patients feel welcome and comfortable. The gentle way you handle an anxious pet. How you make a point to ask about their family or chat about that hobby you both share.

It’s the relational things that matter most. That’s where the true value of your services shines through. Discussing pricing and/or procedures over the phone, on the other hand, is transactional in nature. And if your staff isn’t taking the right approach, it could impact your long term profitability.

So, how can you ensure that every interaction with a client conveys that relational value? Let’s take a closer look.

Transactional vs. Relational

Before we delve into the best way to communicate value, we need to have a clear understanding of the difference between a transactional interaction and a relational one. A transactional interaction is just as the name indicates: a transaction. It doesn’t make a personal connection, but is rather characterized by a caller posing a question and the receptionist responding with the answer. No attempt is made to find a common ground with the caller and, as a result, the chances of booking an appointment are diminished. The caller is left feeling unimpressed and underwhelmed.

A relational interaction, on the other hand, involves the receptionist working to establish a rapport with the caller as quickly as possible. It is warm and personal and it makes the caller feel as though the receptionist – and subsequently the practice – genuinely cares about them and their animal companion. It doesn’t focus on things like prices or procedures, but rather on the benefit to the patient and bringing the interaction to the next step; that is, getting the prospect to book an appointment and bring their pet in for care.

Relational interactions are where your real bread and butter are. Why? Because they provide you the opportunity to demonstrate the value you have to offer in-person. Once you have the chance to put those intangibles into action and the prospect experiences them firsthand, you’ll win them over. But you can’t do that until you get them into your exam room. That’s why it’s so important that your entire team – especially your front desk staff – be on the same page.

Sample Interactions

Let’s say a prospect calls in regarding a dental problem their cat is experiencing. Here’s what the two different kinds of interactions might look like.

“Hello, and thank you for calling ABC Animal Hospital. How can I help you?”

“I think my cat Penelope has an abscess on her tooth. How much do you charge to do an extraction?”

“A dental exam is $$. We also have to do blood tests and anesthesia for the procedure, which comes to $$. The extraction itself would cost $$ for a grand total of around $$$.”

“Ok, thanks. I’ll call you back.”


The only thing the caller got out of this interaction was dollars and cents. There was no personal connection and no motivation to actually book an appointment. In fact, he or she may be left with nothing more than sticker shock. And as a result, you’ve lost the opportunity to generate new business.

Now, let’s look at the same conversation from a relational approach.

“Hello, and thank you for calling ABC Animal Hospital. How can I help you?”

“I think my cat Penelope has an abscess on her tooth. How much do you charge to do an extraction?”

“Oh no! That’s no fun. How old is Penelope?”

“Thanks. She’s 10. She’s had this before so I kind of know what to expect. I’m just worried about how expensive it’ll be. My old vet retired and it’s been a few years since we’ve seen anyone.”

“I understand. I have an 11-year old Siamese that’s had a few dental problems. It sounds like the best thing to do for Penelope would be to start with a dental exam. That way the doctor can get a feel for exactly what’s going on and discuss your options with you in terms of budget. It’ll also give us the chance to meet your sweet girl and get her feeling better as soon as possible.”

“Ok, that sounds good.”

“Great! How’s Thursday at 4pm?”

Do you see the difference here? The receptionist made a personal connection right away by calling the pet by name and finding common ground with her own cat. She also effectively avoided discussing price and instead focused on taking that first step of setting an appointment. Now, the doctor and support staff will have a chance to really wow the prospect once he or she arrives for the exam.

Might the cost of dental care at this particular clinic be higher than the one on the other side of town? Possibly. But it won’t matter if the client isn’t given the opportunity to price shop. More importantly, the value of the quality of care and personalization he or she receives at your practice will outweigh any difference in price that may exist. So, you can still make a profit and grow your book of business. Win-win.

Final Thoughts

As veterinary professionals, we are facing increasing competition. The biggest thing that can set your practice apart from others is the relationships you forge with your clients. That’s what will keep them coming back, year after year, and have them referring you to their friends and family. That’s what will drive your practice forward in a positive direction and help you grow. And it starts with the gatekeeper: your receptionist. Invest in your future by training your front desk team to interact with clients in a relational manner. It will pay off big time.

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