Dr. Amanda Donnelly is a second-generation veterinarian with a diverse background in small animal practice, emergency medicine, business management, industry, speaking and consulting. Dr. Donnelly owns ALD Veterinary Consulting in Tampa, Florida. She works with veterinarians who want to grow their business and have their team look forward to coming to work every day. See more information below post.
For as long as I can remember our profession has discussed client communications that enhance client compliance. So, what have we learned and what’s changed? Well, the competitive landscape and profession has changed dramatically since I was a kid working in my dad’s small animal practice. But what hasn’t changed is that clients still make decisions about care for their beloved pets in large part on the relationship they have with the veterinary team. When this relationship is based on trust and a sense of family, pet owners are more likely to come in, agree to services and refer their friends. Unfortunately, gaining the trust of clients is harder now because of competing distractions (think Internet, low cost alternatives, less discretionary income) clients face. Moreover, clients often feel overwhelmed with all our recommendations for high quality care and think “does Chloe really need this?” And it certainly doesn’t help when television shows like the recent 20/20 episode air negative claims about veterinarians making unnecessary recommendations.
As I reflect on my 15 years in clinical practice and consider my observations working with clients, I believe there are 2 secret ingredients to successful client communications and enhanced compliance with treatment recommendations. They are Authenticity and Confidence. Confidence without authenticity leads to pet owner mistrust and skepticism. Authenticity without confidence may result in confusion and inaction. Look at the following aspects of your communication and consider how authentic and confident you and your team are when making recommendations.
- Give clear recommendations for the best treatment. Eliminate vague, indecisive language such as “It might be a good idea… ” or “We could do…” and instead identify the pet’s need followed by a specific recommendation.
- Explain medical options when appropriate and convey the risks and benefits of each along with a recommendation for which course of treatment you think is best for the pet.
- Give clients facts and accurate information. There’s a difference between using lay terms clients can understand and “dumbing it down”. Likewise, never use scare tactics or judgmental phrases.
- Ask clients open-ended questions about their knowledge and viewpoints so they become a partner with you in making decisions about their pet’s care. These include questions such as “Tell me what you know about senior laboratory testing?” and “What concerns do you have about the treatment plan I’ve outlined for Belle?” By asking questions you create a dialogue with clients and avoid being seen as a “salesperson”.
- Consider how you track compliance for wellness services and what messages you use with your team. Focus on patient advocacy rather than hitting a number. Make sure team members know that any target goals are in place to help pets get the care they deserve so they can live longer, happier lives. Clients would surely be put off if they thought a recommendation was made just so the hospital could hit a revenue goal.
A note from Rebecca: I will be taking a break next week for Christmas. My next post will be on December 30th. Merry Christmas everyone!
ALD Veterinary Consulting, LLC
Dr. Donnelly is a graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She has an MBA from Baker University in Overland Park, Kansas and also holds a certificate in Veterinary Practice Administration from the AAHA Veterinary Management Institute (VMI) at Purdue University. Dr. Donnelly is Past-President of VetPartners™ and the author of the book 101 Practice Management Questions Answered available from AAHA.
A member of the National Speakers Association, Dr. Donnelly is a frequent speaker at national and international veterinary conferences. She was the Practice Management Speaker of the Year for the 2007 and 2013 NAVC.
ALD Veterinary Consulting, LLC
3008 Partridge Point Trail
Valrico, FL 33596