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5 Vet Clinic Service Mistakes to Avoid

How to learn from common mistakes to provide excellent service that will keep clients (and their pets) coming back.

Veterinary clinics are having a tough time in the wake of the pandemic, with staffing issues creating constant challenges. But focusing on great service even during these hard times can pay dividends later by creating loyal clients who stay with you for years.

Providing top-tier service requires training and buy-in for everyone on staff. “It’s up to each individual to capture the moment and create a positive experience for every client and patient every time they visit the practice,” according to Today’s Veterinary Nurse.

One way to provide super service is to learn from common mistakes, and vow to do better. Here are 6 service mistakes and takeaway lessons to help you provide top-notch client service at your veterinary clinic:

1. Surly front desk staff

As a pet parent, animal rescuer and dog foster, I’ve been to dozens of veterinarians in three cities. One service mistake that plagues many practices: less-than-friendly front desk staff. I’ve seen front desk staff bark at clients, ignore clients while typing on a computer or answering a phone, and even chat with other staff members as sick pets wait.

Service lesson: Take a cue from hotels and other businesses that thrive on excellent customer service. Hire a front desk staff member to greet clients as soon as they walk in, get a quick read on what they need and kindly let them know how long they’ll need to wait.

2. Excruciatingly long wait times

Another common problem: long wait times. These long waits may occur on the front end while waiting to be called back to an exam room, or on the back end while waiting to pay.

Service lesson: Use “buffer appointments,” delegation and drop-offs to reduce wait times, recommends DVM360, which publishes veterinary medicine news and insights. “Encourage drop-offs,” they suggest. “Let clients know they can leave their pets for a doctor to examine when he or she has time and a team member will call when the pet is ready to go home.”

3. Roadblocks to getting medications

All pets need some type of prescription medication, even if it’s just a flea, tick and heartworm preventative. Getting these meds can be frustrating, and many veterinarians don’t make it easier. I went around and around with one veterinarian who didn’t carry the medication my dog, Jax, needed but also wouldn’t provide a prescription so I could buy it somewhere else. Instead, they forced me to order using their glitchy and clunky medication ordering platform.

Service lesson: Offer deals to encourage clients to purchase medications directly from your clinic, but also offer flexibility for clients who are price sensitive or whose pets need a medication you don’t carry. If you use medication ordering technology, make sure it offers a smooth user experience, which is especially important for keeping Gen Y and Z clients.

4. Lack of personalized service

At busy vet clinics, it can be easy to let personalized service slip. I’ve been going to one vet clinic for more than 10 years, but I don’t get the sense they know me any more than they know a new client walking through the door. Personalizing your service doesn’t need to be difficult, and it can make clients feel good.

Service lesson: Put a photo of each pet on the pet’s file so your staff can recognize them (and their human) in the waiting room. Greet the client and the pet by name, introduce yourself, mention the name of the vet who will see the pet, and explain what will happen during the appointment, DVM360 recommends: “Help the client feel like his or her situation is the only one that matters.”

5. Unhelpful “service due” reminders

Reminders can be a great way to keep clients on schedule with their pet care and get more business. But one issue that’s bothered me over the years is getting “service due” reminders for a pet who had died. I once checked my email and got a cheery notice that cat Jazz was due for her annual exam. The problem: Jazz had died at age 20, euthanized by the very veterinarian whose clinic had sent the reminder.

Service lesson: Of course, you won’t always know when a pet passes, but when you do, be sure to update your records right away.

Learning from these common veterinary clinic service mistakes can help you to provide better, more personalized service and keep clients loyal for years to come through many generations of pets.