Friday, July 18, 2014

The Pets Are Never The Problem

Meiji, one of the many reasons that we do what we do.
Many of the vets I know went into vet school because we had a stronger affinity for pets than we did for people. I mean, after all, we could have gone to medical school if we wanted human patients. Most of us were little girls who loved puppies and kittens hands over little boys, or even adults of any kind.

The dilemma in this is that you also need to master human communication skills as you are mastering your veterinary skills. Those pets just don't march themselves in the vet office door without a ride and a chaperone.

Sampson, another happy customer.
The successful practices learn this, practice this, and train their staff with customer service on equal footing with patient care and quality of medicine. There are many, many great clinicians out there, and even a large handful few who are great with their bedside manner, but in the world of private small animal practice where you already have to be the doctor of general, surgical, ophthalmic, internal, cardiac, geriatric, pediatric, neurology, etc. etc., it is really tough to wear all of these hats and be the happy-happy "Hello, my name is Dr. Doormat, How Can I Help You?'.

If you are fortunate enough to ever stay at world class hotel, spa, or retreat you will see and feel first class service for yourself. Every moment of your stay is pampered, planned for, thought out, scrutinized and customized. Everything is placed at your fingertips by smiling, professionals impeccably dressed and waiting for your every desire and whim. It is an army of well trained, synchronized, experts. There is no whispering, no slouching, no dirty pants, faces, shirts, no excuses, no gossiping, no cell phone checking, talking, or distraction of any kind from their primary duty: customer service.

Dixie, one of the girls forever indelibly marked in my heart.

My challenge as a practice owner has always been to try to instill this degree of attention and service in my staff so that our clients can feel like a pampered celebrity, (even if they are carrying a fecal sample in their purse). It is an arduous almost unattainable goal. Everywhere I travel I take home lessons about customer service.

Here are some of my observations;
  1. My dentist. A lovely, charming, holy-Moses crazy talkative guy. He keeps a little note book in my file of key terms to discuss at each visit. Things like "merchant marine" "vet here in town" "dogs" "cats" etc. He studies his notes before my arrival and they give him ample areas of conversation between my "rinse and spit" instructions. I go back regularly and I give him an A for effort. His receptionist, well, she opens her glass door to check me in and out and keeps herself walled off from the waiting room the rest of the time. It's a quick cursory "hello" and "goodbye" and even though I have said these to her about a hundred times before I couldn't pick her out of a line up if she was the only female. (Huh, I think she's a female?). You get my point. His dental hygienist, well, she is a peach. I adore her, I go back because I like to hear how she is doing and catch up. She also is a client so we share pet stories.
  2. My doctor. Well, he is even more chatty than my dentist. I know every single thing about his adult (long out of college daughter) that he knows. If she ever needs a writer for a dating service I could fill out the 490 questions accurately. He talks about twice as much as I do in our 15 minute appointment and he's not the one with  the presenting compliant. His receptionist? An older woman who may have teeth, eyes, a face, and a personality, but has never revealed any of them to me. I stand by her desk, she says "hello" face in a paper, passes paper to me, mutters a goodbye. She is so terrible that I am indifferent to her. Why does he keep her? Well, she runs the show so he doesn't have to. His nurse? well, she is always a young, fresh out of school, efficient, well trained taker of my temp, weight, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. She lasts about a year and then leaves to find a friendlier face then Rosy-the-receptionist to spend her 9-5 Mon-Fri with. I can't blame her. Why do I go back? Huh? I like my health care provider, he's close, and I know what to expect. (Probably bad reasons).
  3. My hospital. I am part of the Johns Hopkins health care network. When I go in for anything I am assigned a patient assistance adviser within the first moments of arrival. I am given her name, her "anytime for any reason" hospital phone number, her card, an arm around my shoulder and a full on face plant of trust and reassurance that she is in my corner for any and every thing that I might need while I am under their care. It doesn't change the fact that no one enjoys being a patient, and that hospitals are anxiety ridden buildings, but it does make me feel that I am not so alone in this foreign place. The doctors are top-notch (although there is an undertone of practicing under a shroud of bureaucracy and red tape). The nurses are efficient, prepared and fall into one of two categories; A. confident and at ease, B. bitter and cold.
Boomer. Dixie's big brother.
Always a smiling face!
My point for all of this? Why wouldn't I extrapolate out the strengths, identify the weaknesses, assess them all independently and bring them into my veterinary clinic? We are all customers in other businesses, we know what good vs great customer care is. Why aren't we ALL being the business who cherishes their clients. Further, why aren't we all being the customers who lead by example?

The fate of small private veterinary practices lies in our ability to sell our clients on the value of our services. The goods we used to hold exclusively in our control and sell at hundred percent mark ups are gone. I am focused and committed to providing the best patient care, medical care, humane care and compassion that anyone could find anywhere.

How am I going to do it? Well, that's for another blog.

OK, everyone likes a hint: Pawbly (...learn all about it here!) and some new exciting things at the clinic are brewing..(that's another work in progress..we are getting there),,,stay tuned....

If you have a pet question you can find me at Pawbly, on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, and at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet.

Related blogs;
What Is Pawbly?

DVM 360's article, Sell Clients On Your Service. July 2014

I want to hear from you! What burns your butt about your health care providers? Where do you find amazing customer service? What do you wish that your vet did differently to improve your visit?

Thanks for reading!

And as always, Be Kind..

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