One of the most important jobs of a veterinarian and veterinary nurse is to know how to communicate with their clients. Often treating the client can be even more difficult than treating their pets.

At university, I don’t think we are adequately prepared to communicate properly with pet owners and that is why today I want to share with you some tips on how to improve not only our communication but also our relationship with our clients.

Delivering a positive client experience and increasing customer loyalty to the practice has never been more important in today’s competitive environment. To accomplish this, practices must be familiar with their customers’ needs and desires.

Clients are 40 percent more likely to follow a veterinarian’s advice when communication is clear, thorough, and trustworthy, according to studies.

Top 10 communication hacks

  1. Empathise: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. We don’t know if the client had to take time off work to bring their pet, if parking was an issue, if they had difficulty getting their pet to the doctor, or if the appointment time was actually convenient for them; all of these factors can influence the client’s attitude.
  1. Provide your team with communication skills: Prepare your team, your receptionist is the person who will talk to the owner to set up the appointment and collect payment, vet nurses are often the first point of contact when a client enters the hospital with their pet, so good communication skills are very important.

    Using the client’s and pet’s names to greet them sets a good tone right away. It welcomes them to your hospital and indicates that you care about them. Introduce yourself, let them know who each person they are talking to is, confirm their pet’s name and show interest in their pet.

  1. Listen to the client: It’s not just about identifying the problem, when taking the history, show interest in and acknowledge what the client is saying, e.g. by nodding your head, making eye contact, and repeating back to the client when appropriate to summarise their concerns.
  1. Be aware of non-verbal communication: Being aware of the body language we are using, our posture, we can learn strategies, e.g. not crossing our arms. Also, monitoring the client’s body language will provide us with guidance on how to frame or approach certain situations.
  1. Engage the client: A good tip is if the consultation allows it, give a compliment or say something positive about their pet, this usually generates a positive attitude and good rapport with the client or find a topic that you both like.

    Try to always use the pet’s name when you explain something or when talking about them, the client will feel that the approach is more personal and ensure that you don’t make a mistake about their pet’s gender.

  1. Educate the client: Give them a why, explain the problem, the condition, the reason for the treatment, and the reason for the tests that we want to perform; when people understand why their pets need these things, they are more satisfied and want to collaborate.

    It’s important to ask ourselves, were we clear with our customers? Did we make their lives easier or more complicated? Did we correctly explain the procedures they need to follow at home to make their pet feel better or did we just send them with a bunch of instructions that they have no idea how to carry out?

    It’s possible that after the explanation the client will have understood half of it or will not remember most of it, that’s why it’s a good tip to give them material to read afterwards where possible.

  1. Use of appropriate words: It is immensely important to use appropriate terminology, if we speak as if we were talking to another colleague, it is impossible for most of our customers to understand.
  1. Follow-ups: The end of the consultation is not when they leave the clinic, what happens afterwards matters significantly. Make follow-up calls, calling to check how the pet is doing the day after their visit. This can be done by your receptionist, but if you want to make it more personal it can also serve to remind the client of the follow-up recommendations.
  1. Honesty: Never try to cover up a medical error. Let’s not lend ourselves to a lawsuit, let’s try to communicate properly and have everything in writing.

    The most essential thing is to have everything written down in the medical record, to explain the problem to the owner as soon as possible, and, of course, to try to correct the problem as fast as possible.

  1. Survey your clients: Conducting customer feedback surveys is often a good idea. You may even be able to collect information from former customers. The idea is to create an ongoing improvement process that demonstrates to clients that you value their opinion.