Every veterinarian wants his or her clients to have a good customer experience. The foundation of that good customer experience often lies with your team’s accountability (or lack thereof). In Episode 61 of The Business of Practice podcast, we talked with Amanda Donnelly, DVM, MBA. She is a second-generation veterinarian who has more than 30 years in the profession.
Donnelly understands the challenges facing practice teams. Today, she is driven by her goals of helping veterinarians become better leaders and teaching teams how to enhance the client service experience. Donnelly is the author of the book “Leading and Managing Veterinary Teams: The Definitive Guide to Veterinary Practice Management.” She has spend that last 17 years consulting in the veterinary industry.
Accountability Affects Customer Experience
In the podcast, Donnelly discussed what accountability is and how it affects the person’s job. Donnelly also outlined how accountability affects customer experience.
Donnelly said it doesn’t matter whether the person is a veterinarian or staff. She said just like in veterinary medicine where you need to know the cause of a problem before you can determine a solution, the same is true for accountability and customer service.
Managers or practice owners need to look at the cause of lack of accountability. Is it insufficient training? Can you provide a way to provide, more, better or different training? Is it a lack of clarity in job protocols? For that issue, Donnelly asked, “is this the first person or the fifth or sixth person to have issues?”
If it is multiple people who have a lack of accountability then perhaps the protocol isn’t clear, said Donnelly. “If it’s only ‘Sally,’ then it’s probably a personal cause,” she said.
For example, if a client is unhappy and a team member doesn’t handle it well, “that might be a lack of training in how to de-escalate the situation,” said Donnelly. “Or that team member might not know the protocol or the company policy” to handle the situation.
She reminded practitioners that any time an animal receives care from a veterinary practice, then the owner or client is attached to that animal.
Effective delegation puts the culture of accountability in practice, said Donnelly. That means effective delegation can improve customer experience.
Donnelly walked through the five-step process of delegation. This ranges from helping the employee understand the value of the task to checking for understanding of an assignment.
“Don’t ask, ‘Do you have a question,’ ” advised Donnelly. “Instead, you should ask, ‘What questions do you have?'” Donnelly said using open-ended questions helps communication.
She said you also can phrase it as, “I want to make sure I’ve been clear; reflect back to me what we discussed.”
Ensuring staff understands the task and has the opportunity to ask questions can help customer experience.
Internal and External Experiences
Donnelly talked about specific instances of customer experience and how that is affected by staff conduct.
For example, if an employee is constantly tardy, it shows a lack of respect to clients and coworkers, said Donnelly.
“Weave into your conversation the ‘why’ this is not acceptable behavior and be clear in next steps,” she said. “Make sure the employee leaves the meeting knowing what to do to meet expectations.”
Unhappy clients are always going to occur. Help staff know how to deal with unhappy clients. “It takes practice,” said Donnelly. “You need to create a clear path to success.”
She talked about dealing with staff issues—such as child care issues or divorce—in a way that is empathetic to the staff member but still leaves a clear path to good customer service.
“Two key points are that customer service and client experience are the same no matter the practice type,” said Donnelly.
About Amanda Donnelly, DVM, MBA
Amanda Donnelly, DVM, MBA, is a sought-after speaker, author, business consultant and second-generation veterinarian. Having worked in her father’s practice growing up, she developed a passion for veterinary medicine at a young age. With over 30 years of experience in the veterinary profession, Dr. Donnelly understands the challenges facing practice teams. She is driven by her goals of helping veterinarians become better leaders and teaching teams how to enhance the client service experience.
Well known as a dynamic speaker, Donnelly has twice been named Practice Management Speaker of the Year for the North American Veterinary Conference. She brings her knowledge, passion and business savvy to audiences as a speaker and trainer. What makes Donnelly unique is her ability to relate to all members of the team. She combines a down-to-earth attitude with practical information to deliver programs filled with actionable takeaways.
Donnelly is the author of the book “Leading and Managing Veterinary Teams: The Definitive Guide to Veterinary Practice Management.” She is a contributing author for “Pet-Specific Care for the Veterinary Team” as well as “Blackwell’s Five Minute Veterinary Practice Management Consult.” She has published numerous articles in veterinary journals.
Donnelly is a graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She earned her 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.
She began her professional career with 15 years of experience in small animal practice and emergency medicine. In the latter capacity, Donnelly was responsible for a successful turnaround for the emergency practice she ran within a large referral hospital. Her leadership as Chief of Staff resulted in increased profitability, enhanced client service and a more satisfying practice culture.
Prior to starting her consulting firm, Donnelly served as a Technical Services Veterinarian in industry for four years. During that time, she developed a reputation for her outstanding communication skills, project management, leadership and ability to build strong relationships.
Donnelly is Past President for VetPartners and a past president of the Kansas City Veterinary Medical Association. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and multiple veterinary associations.
Donnelly lives in Nashville and shares her home with her beloved long-haired dachshund, Gidget. When not working, she enjoys running, outdoor activities, spending time with family and travel.
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