Clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Tackling the misinformed client and winning them over.  

So, I find myself sat here after listening to a piece on LBC recently as I am now ‘of age’. The article was explaining why there has been a surge in measles in the USA (300 cases in January 2019 alone) and why it is of such a concern.

Partly to blame is social media allowing a lay person to convince other lay people not to vaccinate their children with MMR due to the link with autism (cheers Dr Mr Wakefield). Unfortunately there is an international cohort who believe that vaccines are more dangerous than contracting the diseases they are designed to prevent. This has now spread across to the veterinary world where animals are unvaccinated due to reports of subsequent diseases/illnesses caused by the vaccine, and there are also clients not giving appropriate flea/worm treatment for similar reasons.

The layman posts range from the benign ‘I only treat for fleas when I see one’ a comment frequently also made by vets and vet nurses(!) through to puppies not having any vaccinations – including parvo, catching the virus and then…I think we all know what the likely outcome is.

So how do we deal with these clients? The ones leaving their pets vulnerable to a whole array of diseases?

We need to think about human nature and the different ways in which we learn. One way we learn is cause and effect, trying to make links between inputs and outcomes. If you took your car to a garage for an MOT and within 3 days something went wrong with the car, would you think ‘ho hum, it happens, it’s just a coincidence that it happened days after the car was in the garages care’ or would you try and blame the garage and make a link, perhaps they loosened a screw without realising? Perhaps they even did it on purpose to get me to go back and spend more money? It must have been the garage as if there was an issue, the garage would have picked up on it three days ago and done something about it – can you see when I’m going with this?

Firstly, it is important not to lecture or reprimand the client for their beliefs, putting yourself in the situation above, how would you feel being lectured by a mechanic telling you that you are wrong and making you stupid. These clients have a fear and as irrational you may this it is – it is a fear. We all have these fears and a telling off or a ‘it’s fine’ does not change our mind.
Think of an irrational fear you have, if you don’t think you have one you can borrow mine. I have an irrational fear of water – there could be sharks in there ready to bit/eat me! This is a fear to the point that I will go ankle deep into open water and no further. My friends think it is hilarious as they swim out to sea and I sit biting my nails until they come back to shore, I don’t want them to be bitten by a shark either. They’ve said to me that I am silly, we live in the UK, I am not going to get bitten by a shark. It’s is the same with your clients. Being told your beliefs are wrong is not a way to overcome the fear! The thousands of animals you have vaccinated without an issue is of no currency to them as they have seen thousands of animals on social media become unwell – although in 99% of cases it is not related to the vaccine, they have been told it is related.

Try asking them (tactfully) why they feel that way, listen to their concerns and fears and put yourself in their shoes. It’s likely that their argument is invalid and based on information found on Google, social media or from their breeders but that is how they feel and what they believe, a telling off will only make their beliefs stronger as you will be seen trying to push your opinions onto them.

Ask yourself ‘Are you all prepared?’ from your day one receptionist to your senior clinician you should all be able to listen to clients and give appropriate advice. Whilst I appreciate your ‘day one’ receptionist cannot give any clinical information, they should be able and prepared to see the warning signs, listen and refer, know what to say and more importantly – know what not to say.

Are your flea and worm protocols streamlined and does everyone in the practice know the protocol and options? The recent refashioning of flea tablets has bought with it many ‘INSERT FLEA TABLET killed my dog’ stories on social media. If your main protocol is ‘INSERT FLEA TABLET’ and a scared client calls, do you/your staff know what warning signs to look for and what other products are available to suit, if not you may have just lost yourself a client. If this client was simply looking for a spot on and was not offered it, where is this client going to go next? The local pet shop? eBay? To the breeder? This could be worse than using no flea/worm treatment at all as there is a lot of incorrect and potentially harmful advice out there.

Sincerity is also a key player in this conversation, a phrase I like to remember is that ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’. Their objections are genuine so your response and actions should be too. Lecturing them on the implications of not using certain treatments will fall on deaf ears, you really need to find out the root of the objections and professionally try and overcome them.

Correct online literature can be an aid too, if they client is going to use the internet try to sway them towards your own website if you have a section on there of the importance of preventative treatment.

One final conversation to have with the is the potential of humans being at risk from living with untreated animals, especially if there are children in the household. This can really get the owners attention and encourage them to rethink their position on not using preventative treatments.

How can Chunk help you to help your clients – we have specific courses on Winning the Client, The Art of Persuasion, and customised courses to ensure your staff are up to date on your flea and worm protocol. As an industry we can all work together to help the client, why not give us a go?

Lucy’s Law – the next step?

So, Lucy’s law has now helped put a ban on the third party sales of puppies and kittens – Hurrah, and it was just in time for Christmas too when many puppies and kittens will be bought ready to delight, sometimes unsuspecting, people on the big day who will now have a 10 year+ commitment to an animal which may not be appropriate.

Friends always say to me that they want a puppy/kitten but also want to adopt. So after my 20 minute generic talk on the level of emotional, physical and financial commitment needed, I tell them to head to their local rescue around February/March time. This gives the unwanted Christmas puppy time to disappoint his new owners as he was not born toilet trained, is now teething and their youngest child appears to be allergic so he is given to a rescue centre.

Lucy’s law has now effectively made it illegal to run puppy/kitten farms, which it kind of was already as 0/5 of the Five Freedoms (at least that’s what they were called when I was at college, it may have changed now) had been met. My concern is that the more something is banned, the more it goes down the back allies of society. If this is to happen with puppy farms, the worse the conditions will get. Puppy farmers are already excellent deceivers and are well versed in hiding their tracks so they will find a way to continue.

But what about the buyer of the puppy? Should they not be held responsible too? After all there are other laws we have which make it the buyers responsibility to ensure their goods are ethically sourced. If you unknowingly bought a stolen car, in the eyes of the law you are potentially a criminal as it would be your responsibility to make sure the sale was above the law.

A friend of mine bought a puppy, this puppy is now nearly a year old and has not once had a firm stool and consistently has an upset tummy. It transpired that they got it from a puppy farm (despite my 20 minute generic talk). After admitting the dog was probably from a puppy farm I crossed my arms and pursed my lips in anger at him. His response was ‘But the way I see it, we saved the dog’ and then on came my 30 minute talk about how for every one puppy bought, five more are bred – that’s how businesses work, they sell a product, make money, expand and repeat. The issue here is that lay person does not actively want to buy from a puppy farm but when they find out they have, they think they have done a good deed by ‘saving’ that pup.

Now, had my friend have been threatened with a say £200 fine, I don’t think he would have been quite so happy about the situation and would have maybe done a bit more research into where his puppy came from.

The issue we have here in relation to puppy farms is that the lay owner who is simply buying a pet has no idea what signs to look for and the puppy farmers will have all bases covered. Puppy farmers will have a ‘show mother’ who is a dog of the same breed as the pups, in incredibly good health and kept in the family home, the pups are then delivered to the ‘show mum’ when potential buyers come to view, so they have ‘seen the mother’, at least they think they have and buy a pup without realising what’s going on behind the scenes. This is the part which needs to be tackled. Fining the buyers may seem unfair but it may also encourage them to do more research into the breeder or even push them to adopt from a rehoming shelter. It may encourage them to ask questions, reputable breeders will not be insulted to be questioned further, they would welcome it as it would show that the buyer really does care. Charities should be registered so can be authenticated and again, would have no problems with buyer asking lots of questions about the business.

Education is also key and the public do need to be educated – where may they go for that? Hopefully straight to the vets where staff can give honest, unbiased advice. As an industry vets, nurses and receptionists need to be well armed in this department.

Staff training in this area is key as they need to be tactful but firm without being too gruesome about the reality of puppy farming. Vets should be more proactive when they suspect a puppy from a farm and front of house should have a good knowledge of signs which the owner should look out for when buying a puppy.

One day, people will realise the damage they are doing to these poor puppies/kittens in order to make a quick buck, but until then, as an industry we all need to work together to help Lucy’s law be as effective as possible. 

Tackling the Christmas cull

So, it’s that time of year – again! Where has 2018 gone?

Coming into December and moving through to January, people slow down from work and have time to spend reminiscing on the past 12 months and make plans for the next 12 months to spend with time with their loved ones, perhaps this included their pets? Perhaps their pets were with them at the beginning of the year but have now crossed the rainbow bridge. Perhaps they haven’t yet realised it, but they may be about to participate in ‘The Christmas Cull’.

Anyone new to practice may not have heard of this yet and those of us who have experienced a few festive seasons in practice will understand exactly what this is and get confused when our non-vetty friends think we’re are making it up.

If you are new to practice, here is a rundown of what the Christmas Cull is;

It is where you will find an increased number of people coming in for a put to sleep in the few weeks prior to Christmas and there are a few theories as to what is going on, I would say that they are all correct.

Theory 1 – The Johnsons with 18 year old Muffy.

Muffy, the terrier, was bought as a pup 18 years ago, since then the Johnsons have had 3 children, 4 cats, 2 house moves and very few visits to the vets, but Muffy is now starting to show her age, the Johnsons are quite cost aware and it’s the last time their family will be together for Christmas as he eldest child plans to move to Australia. They look to Muffy who now is slow, has to be lifted out of the house to the garden and is as blind as a bat. Mr and Mrs Johnson decide that they may as well get Muffy put to sleep now, just in case she needs out of hours care and/or disrupts Christmas day. After all, it’s likely that Muffy will be put to sleep in the next few months anyway and the vet is aware of her issues, however Mrs and Mrs Johnson would never reveal their true motives.

Theory 2 – The Smiths with 5 year old Bailey

Bailey is a loving moggy, nothing special to look at but a pleasure to be around, and recently he was diagnosed with kidney failure. Generally speaking, Bailey is of no bother to the Smiths and he does quite admire their recent addition to the family. The new addition wasn’t a conventional looking cat, it cried a lot, didn’t have any hair or whiskers. It also seemed quite dependent. But it got its own super fancy box to sleep in next to Mrs and Mr Smith’s bed so Bailey thought it must be special. Bailey didn’t notice his kidney failure, he’s a cat – he doesn’t know what kidney failure is but The Smiths had recently noticed small puddles of urine around the house which smelled quite strongly. The Smiths didn’t mind, but Auntie Mable did and she was coming to visit this Christmas for the first time since the new arrival and everything had to be perfect for her, it always did. Auntie Mable was allergic to cats and would not appreciate a cat in the house, let alone an incontinent one. The Smiths made their decision as they had been told by many of their friends that when an animal ‘toilets’ in the house, it’s the beginning of the end.

Theory 3 – The Blacks with 9 year old Ben

Ben is a black Labrador who has been at his master’s side through thick and thin for as long as he can remember. He was a loyal servant and adored Mr Black, they went out every Saturday in the colder months and Ben would wait patiently by Mr Blacks side whilst he shot, Ben was always so thrilled to get the command to pick up and come running back to his post with his retrieve. Life was good for everyone until Mrs Black took a turn for the worse and passed away earlier this year. Mrs Black left behind her beloved husband who struggled over the next few weeks, there was only one reason that Mr Black kept going – it was for Ben. Ben made sure that Mr Black had a reason to get up in the morning and leave the house and that the house was never quiet or lonely. Over the summer, Ben started to look a little old, walking long distances was a problem and running became a distant memory so Mr Black took Ben to the vets where he received the best supportive care to help relieve the pain but Mr Black made the difficult decision not to shoot this season. Instead they would spend their Saturday mornings at the local shops, talking to the passers-by. One November morning someone asked Mr Black ‘So, what are you doing for Christmas?’ Mr Black hadn’t thought about this, he has no children and very few friends, it had always been Mr and Mrs Black together at Christmas. It’s ok, he had Ben, he and Ben would wake up, exchange gifts, eat food and fall asleep in front of the TV. As long as he had Ben by his side, Mr Black would be ok. Ben had been seeing a vet every two weeks (he was insured) so the vet understood the situation but also had to think about what is best for Ben as he quickly deteriorated and did speak to Mr Black about time-lines. The vets prayed that Ben would be comfortable enough just until January but it was not to be, the phone call came in (as it always does) on a Friday afternoon at 5.30, 5 days before Christmas, it was Mr Black. Ben could not get up, his eyes were vacant and he looked like he’d already given up. The vet got straight in the car to pay one final home visit to Ben.

As a member of staff in practice these situations can be difficult to deal with and in my experience it is generally frowned upon for members of staff to admit they are upset and even less frequently heard of that staff talk about their feelings post put to sleep.

With mental health being more present and accepted that ever it is this time of year that it is most important to be sure not to keep things bottled, don't let them itch away at you. Talk to people. There is a well-known Facebook group full of lovely vet nurses who have been there, done that and got poo on their t-shirts. Ask them for help if you feel you have no one else, you’ll feel better after letting it out – I promise.

Merry Christmas all.

Lots of Love

Chunk Training. 

The Professional Client

Whilst you’re behind the scenes, do you know what is happening on the front stage?

 

As a practice manager/partner/owner a lot of your time is taken up in the office, consult room, theatre etc., do you know what type of care the client is receiving when in the waiting room?

 

I have self-labelled myself as a professional client, I have 12 years’ experience in veterinary customer care and my current ‘9-5’ is as a veterinary pharmaceutical sales rep and I run Chunk Training alongside this.

You’ll notice my working hours are in inverted commas, as I am sure you are aware, if you work in the industry, there is no such things as a 9-5, even for us reps, honest!

 

Being a rep I spend a good deal of my time in the waiting room and on the phone to veterinary practices. Some of the front of house care I have seen/heard/experienced is verging on the side of shocking. 

 

 

1)    A client asked about making a claim on the pet insurance and was given the following answer from the receptionist.

‘If you just fill this form in, the insurance company will pay out and I can see that your pet had diarrhoea three months ago so you may as well try and claim for that too’.

 

2)    A client came in asking for advice on flea, tick and worm treatment. The receptionist then handed over a well know flea and tick tablet and explained that it would control some worms too.

 

3)    A client’s dog is slowly declining and has just finished a consult with the vet and is waiting to be given some medication. The receptionist told the client that her dog had similar problems and so she had her dog put to sleep.

 

These are just a few examples of things I have heard/seen in practice. As a professional client and millennial I found it very hard not to speak out and explain the mistakes that had been made.

 

I know some see us reps as a pest but I commonly call a practice and simply say ‘Hi, please could I speak to Mr Smith’ (by this point the receptionist has no idea I am a rep and for all they know, I am a valued client) the reply from the receptionist does then vary but a common variation is ‘hang on!’ and the phone goes silent. Somewhere between a few moments and minutes later the receptionist picks up my call and I get told ‘he’s busy’. No apology, no willingness to help and no way forward for a potential client.

 

Now, if I was a client in the above situation I would be very unimpressed and would probably seek out a new practice, just over a few words exchanged between myself and the receptionist. I’d like to take this opportunity to confirm that a good majority of the front of house staff I communicate with are lovely and helpful towards myself and clients but it begs the question ‘have I lost any loyal clients/potential clients due to poor customer care?’

 

The point I think I am trying to make is that many practice staff out there do need training, some more than others and it may be that the owner of the practice is completely unaware as they have bigger fish to fry (or dogs to ex lap, cats to express or cows to TB test).

 

With associations such as BVRA (British Veterinary Receptionist Association) now aiding the industry, it is being more and more recognised that front of house staff are critical to a practice’s health.

 

Always remember you are a private business with competition all around, sometimes this competition can be within yards of your front door. I live in a small city and have 4 practices along the same road with 1.6 miles between the first and last.

Ask yourself what sets you above your competitors? It could well be the first impression the client gets. If the first impression is poor, they will not progress to a loyal client.

 

 

Chunk Training provides front of house staff training including personalised clinical modules (flea, neutering and vaccines protocols) and we also offer training to vets that the vet schools seem to forget about such as bereavement and compliance training. All of the training  is online and can be stopped/started at will, so that the learner can progress at their own pace. We also offer free trials to give you a feel for what we do. Check us out at http://www.chunktraining.co.uk/

 

 

SunriseDear all,


Recently I attended the untimely funeral of a man who I first met in the role of our business coach, and later became a good friend. At the service, it was obvious that he had made a difference not only to my life, but to those of most people whose paths he touched. He was responsible for the progression of my  own practice from a low key service provider, to one that is actively sought out by clients and by top quality prospective staff. We are incredibly proud of our journey, but in truth owe much of it to Gregory and the values he brought with him.  He was a teacher extraordinaire, and I thought it a fitting tribute to his memory to list some of the things I learnt from him. Some of these items were listed on the funeral order of service as epitomising his values.


And those of you who have looked at our 'Caring for Clients' modules will clearly see his influence, which I feel privileged to pass on.


Here are some of these items:

  • Understand the meaning of teamwork - this isn't just working well with your team, it is understanding which of your behaviours reduce team effectiveness, and spotting and supporting others who are struggling.
  • COACH your staff. Gregory was a coach, not an advisor. He never once, in all the years he worked with us, told us what we should do. He simply facilitated open and inventive thought and left the rest to us. This in itself was a lesson in staff management: so impressive in its results but so difficult to achieve in a world where we are used to other approaches.
  • Under promise and over deliver - on everything, always, until it becomes a habit.
  • Live with passion - others will respect you and believe you.
  • Choose to live 'Above the line' - the line being the limiter between optimism and seeing the good in others, and pessimism and seeing the faults around you.
  • Be honest with everyone, all the time - admit if you are wrong, and avoid exaggeration or creation of a fiction to prove your point.
  • Trust is easily lost, and very, very hard to regain.
  • Be methodical and organised - so that you do not let down those around you.

May we all live life to the full, support those around us, and be self-aware of the effects that our behaviour, both positive and negative, has on those around us.

 

Best wishes,

 
Liz