Pet owners visit your clinic in a variety of mental states – some are fine knowing their beloved pet is getting routine care, while others are frantic if it’s an emergency. In every case, the keys to veterinary client education are the same.
Think about the last time you dealt with a pet owner, or even the last 100 times. There’s a good chance these three questions, in some form, were asked by the owner:
- What’s wrong with my pet?
- What are you doing about it/What did you do about it?
- What are the next steps?
Sound familiar? Of course, since this is an everyday occurrence, you deal with these questions day in and day out. It should be second nature at this point. Therein lies the problem – once you start doing something every day, over and over, it becomes a routine. When things become a routine, there’s a chance of switching into autopilot.
Pet owners don’t realize you deal with these same three questions every single day and, because of that, might not be able to tell when you’ve switched to autopilot. You’re giving them the information they’re asking you for, but you might not be giving them as much information as they need. If there’s a small, yet valuable, piece of information you might forget to mention, the veterinary client education process starts to become lacking.
This is not to say you’re doing anything wrong – you’re still very good at your job. However, when something becomes a repetitive task, some things fall by the wayside. It happens to everyone in every business all over the world. It’s just a part of the human condition.
The purpose of this article is to go back over these three questions and to look at some ways to help with veterinary client education. While it might seem as though you’re reading over stuff you already know, it’s never a bad idea to just have a little refresher to bring these things back to the front of your mind and to pick up a few ideas to go the extra mile for your clients.
What’s Wrong with My Pet?
The very first question in the trifecta for veterinary client education. Unless it’s a routine checkup, the pet is brought in because something is wrong. At this point, if it’s not an injury or something rather obvious, you just have a few guesses as to what’s going on.
Depending on the situation, the pet owner’s mentality will be anywhere between slightly concerned to full-on panic mode. They want to know as soon as possible (they’re hoping for immediacy, but that’s not realistic) what is going on with their pet.
As an example for this article, let’s say that a pet owner brought in their dog, which is limping. The dog doesn’t seem to be able to put any weight on his left hind leg. You know what your process is in this case, but you need to let the owner know.
- DETAILS: Here’s where we start separating the “just doing your job” from “going the extra mile.” Explaining your next steps to the owner will not only help alleviate worries they might have, but it also goes a long way in increasing your reputation as a knowledgeable and kind veterinarian. This part of veterinary client education is quick, simple, and pay dividends in the end. In this case, you let the owner know that you want to take some X-rays to see what’s going on with their dog’s hind leg. It always helps to try to be as reassuring as possible, especially if the owner had to bring their children along. This could be very scary for young children, and making sure you let them know what’s going on – without using words and phrases they wouldn’t understand – puts them at ease and increases your standing in the eyes of their parents.
- SUGGESTIONS: The results are back and it’s what you were expecting – the dog has a broken leg. The next step is to let the owner know and get some more information from them. When did they first notice something was wrong with the dog? How long has it been limping and has it gradually gotten worse? Chances are, you probably asked these questions before you sent the dog back for the X-ray, but now that you know exactly what you’re dealing with here, asking these questions with the owner might bring new information to light, especially if they know what’s going on. As it turns out, the owner started noticing the limp after they got back from a drive to the park. It’s possible the dog might have broken its leg jumping out of the car if the owner didn’t notice any limping at the park.
- ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Depending on the type of dog, you might want to let the owner know about any conditions this particular breed might have, such as weaker bones, problems with their hips, etc. The owner might already be aware of this information, but it’s still a good idea to bring it up with them in case they might not know or have forgotten. If you believe this condition led to the broken leg, let the owner know and advise them that they might want to think about where and how far down their dog has to jump.
What Are You Doing/What Did You Do?
Once the owner knows the situation and how it possibly happened, the next question they’re going to ask you is what your plan is for helping their pet. It’s a perfectly natural question to ask and, if you’ve fallen into the routine, you might just say something brief so you can proceed with the rest of your day at the clinic.
Just as above, the veterinary client education process can be so much more than just doing something that leaves the pet owner feeling as though you’re giving them the brush off. Communication is always key, and spending a little extra time with each client might mean you don’t see as many animals in a day, but it improves your relationship with each owner, who will continue to come to you and give you glowing referrals.
- WHAT YOU ARE DOING: In the case of this owner’s dog, you’re going to have to put the leg in a cast. Will you be able to do it without using anesthesia? Is surgery required? You should take the time to let the owner know what’s going on and what you need to do to help their dog. Money should never be an issue when it comes to the health of a pet, but there are times when a family simply cannot afford certain medical expenses. You hope that doesn’t become an issue, but you’ve probably seen this happen on more than one occasion. Not only do you need to let them know what needs to be done, but you need to let the owner know what will happen if it doesn’t get fixed. At that point, you and the owner might need to discuss options before going further.
- WHAT CLIENTS NEED TO DO: Regardless of what you might have done to mend the dog’s hind leg, the next step falls on the owner. You need to let them know everything that needs to be done between now and the time the leg is fully healed. That means going over medicines the dog needs to take (how often, how much, and what to look for if the dog has a reaction), keeping the dog from trying to climb on things, making sure the dog doesn’t jump or do anything that might damage the bone before it fully heals, and encouraging them to make sure the dog does continue to walk around on the leg as it gradually gets stronger. As part of veterinary client education, it helps if you have client information sheets, such as the one seen here, to give to the owner so they have all this information handy.
What Are the Next Steps?
You’ve reached the last of the Big 3 questions – what’s next? The owner’s dog is bandaged up and ready to go home. Granted, they might still be a little dazed and loopy, especially if you had to give them anesthesia, but otherwise they’re good to go.
It’s at this point you can wish the owner well and watch them walk out the door, or you can take just a few more seconds, go the extra mile, and know the owner leaves with all the information they need and that your attention to them will not go unrewarded. Veterinary client education comes to a point in these last few minutes.
- WHEN TO COME BACK IN: The procedure went well and you’re not expecting any complications. Of course, you know good and well that complications can happen at any time. Because of this, you want to make sure the owner is aware of anything that might happen. You don’t need to go into every single thing that could go wrong, but if you let the owner know about some things to watch for, it helps. Some things to consider: possible side effects of the anesthesia (if you used it); possible reactions from the medicine; if the limping doesn’t go away after a period of time; if the dog whines whenever they put weight on the leg; if the dog doesn’t want to walk, move, or eat. These are some things that will require them to either call you for your advice or bring the dog back into your clinic.
- OTHER OBSERVATIONS: You can use this time to let the owner know of anything that might have popped into your mind while the dog was in your care. Do the owners need to do a better job of keeping the dog’s teeth clean? If its fur is matted, you might recommend either washing the dog more or taking it to a professional dog groomer. Anything else you can think of, such as traits of this particular breed of dog that might mean it heals slower, or any other information for that matter, is great to mention at this point.
It Costs Little, But the Reward is Huge
Spending the extra time with these patients and clients might seem like it would get monotonous after a while, but giving just that extra little 10 percent will see a great return on a small investment.
Let’s look back at this example. Once the dog and its owner leave, at some point they’re probably going to run into a friend, who is also a pet owner. The conversation will no doubt focus on what happened to the dog. It’s at this point you better believe their visit to your clinic is going to be discussed. Good or bad, it will be discussed.
If you spent just a few extra minutes here and there with the owner, making sure they felt as though you were genuine and that you truly cared about the dog’s well-being, the dog’s owner will make sure their friend knows what happened and how great you were. This, in turn, increases the chances that your clinic will see new clients.
If, however, you spent the bare minimum amount of time with the owner, give them brief bits of information here and there, and usher them out the door in what the owner might see as record time, you can forget about any kind of recommendation. In fact, word will probably spread that you come across as a veterinarian who only cares about seeing as many patients as possible in a day. The lack of veterinary client education here will hurt you.
What’s Next With Veterinary Client Education?
Just a few minutes here and there during the patient’s visit to your clinic can mean so much. Sometimes, when a person is stuck on autopilot, these little things are glossed over.
As you can see, though, forgetting these crucial elements can mean the difference between happy clients who come back and recommend you, and angry clients who start looking for another veterinary clinic. Good veterinary client education can save you every time.
If it seems like you have more to do than you have actual time in which to do it, it might feel like you can’t spend the extra time with each of your clients. Fortunately, there is something that can help save you valuable time and effort.
VPR Cloud, the veterinary reference built by veterinarians, for veterinarians, is here for you. As an online tool you can use on your computer, tablet, or phone, VPR Cloud has industry-leading (and continuously updated) pharmacology, combined with other tools and resources that make it a must-have for any veterinarian who’s pushed for time.
What makes VPR Cloud so valuable is the ability to search medicines, drug interactions, and calculate correct dosages, in mere seconds, all at your fingertips. Saving the amount of time it would take for you to look these things up manually really adds up over time. Plus, you get the client information sheets that were mentioned earlier, as well as off label consent forms, conversion charts, and so much more.
VPR Cloud is the one tool you’ll use that will pay for itself every time. To see how VPR Cloud works, and for more information about adding VPR Cloud to your practice, contact us today online, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 855-247-2327.