"The first thing to do is pause," advised Colleen Best, DVM, PhD, CCFP (Certificate of the College of Family Physicians in Compassion Fatigue), when dealing with dissatisfied clients. Best operates Best Vet Coaching and Consulting in Ontario, Canada. She did her PhD research focused on relationships in equine practice, including veterinarian-client and referring veterinarian-specialist communication.
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Podcast transcript coming soon.
Best said when someone is upset with her, she feels threatened on some emotional level. Therefore, she advises that if you are facing an upset or dissatisfied client, take a "breathing" pause to inhale for 2-3 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds (make sure the exhale is longer than the inhale).
"When people are in a primed emotional state, we need to slow things down," Best advised. She added that body language can also help defuse a situation.
"I need to be able to hear them, and they need to be able to hear me," she stated.
Best also suggested asking open-ended questions to get to the root of the problem and understand the other person's perspective. "Then I'm quiet," she said, referring to active listening skills you need to develop.
Those questions or statements might include:
- Tell me more...
- Help me understand...
"You are trying to give empathy, not agreement," said Best.
- "I'm hearing that you didn't understand that you have to give the eye medication four times a day..."
- "I see you are upset that you didn't know to give the medication as much and the eye ulcer is not better..."
- "I see that you are upset/worried..."
Best said there is power in those empathy statements.
She said the three "breeding grounds" for dissatisfied clients are expectations, goals and money.
Best also reminded veterinarians is that "one way (for the client) to make guilt go away is to blame someone else; the client's guilt shows up as anger and blame."
Learn more tips for handling dissatisfied clients from Best in the podcast available above or on your favorite podcast network.
The Business of Practice podcast
is brought to you by Dechra Veterinary Products.