Practical Tips: Through Your Client's Eyes, Part 2
Your Practice's Verbal Communication Experience
In last week’s article, we discussed how the “visual image” of your practice can have a dramatic affect on the “perception” of the quality of medicine you provide.
The same is true of the verbal communication experience your client has, whether it is over the phone with one of your staff or face-to-face.
Why is clear communication important? Clear and cohesive communication is a form of education. The more educated your clients become, the more medical services and products they will purchase. Healthier pets live longer and can result in stronger relationships with your clients and increased loyalty to your practice.
It is very important to have a formal communication plan within your clinic. This allows you to effectively provide the very best of medicine to your client’s pets. Most important is to make sure that everyone in the clinic is on the same page with regard to policies, procedures, products and services. Having one person tell a client one thing and another tell the client something else, can immediately confuse your client and damage your credibility in their eyes.
Every staff member should know the top preventive healthcare topics every client needs to be educated on such as parasites, dentistry, diet and nutrition. What is your clinic’s policy when it comes to needed vaccinations, pre-surgery blood-work, pain management and obesity? Do you have specific puppy and kitten protocols? How, as a team, do you handle euthanasias?
Once you have the internal structure in place for your clinic’s communication plan, now comes the fun part…a way to take your client’s “OK” experience to a level of “Exceptional”! Did you know that each person is unique in how they learn from communications?
There are 3 main communications styles:
• Auditory (verbal/hearing). In this form, a person learns best if being “told” something. Having to read something or look at something does not connect with an auditory person very well. These clients are great because they will generally do what the doctor “tells” them.
• Kinesthetic (feel/emotion). A kinesthetic person is a “feeler”. If you tell a kinesthetic person about when you broke your leg, you will see them cringe, because they are actually feeling what you experienced. These people respond well to a medical recommendation that include the benefits of doing it for their pets, and occasionally the consequences if they do not.
• Visual (sight/reading). The visual person is one who learns by reading or seeing something. For this client, you may tell them how important heartworm prevention is, but they will not “hear” what you are saying. As soon as you show them a video, model or brochure, you will see a dawn of understanding come across their face. For these clients, if you do not give them the needed information, they will go elsewhere to find it.
Every person generally receives and understands messages most effectively or dominantly from one of these style categories but is influenced by all 3. It makes sense then that an effective verbal communication plan should include all three style types.
There are 4 main times a client experiences verbal communication with your clinic.
Let’s discuss each:
1. The phone call with the receptionist:
Have you ever called your clinic or other clinics in your area to see how the phone is answered? Try it! You would probably be surprised to hear the many different ways in which a call is answered. Some will be super polite, some rude, some indifferent and some distracted. As a rule, make sure your phone is always answered in a polite and helpful manner. You might say something like, “Good morning! ABC Animal Hospital, this is Heather. Who am I speaking with and how may I help you?”
Both auditory and kinesthetic clients can be handled easily over the phone as you are actively listening, helping them verbally, and being courteous at the same time. Giving a client an estimate for known expenses goes a long way in preventing big surprises at appointment time. You can even offer to email or fax them an estimate before their appointment. Visual people would appreciate this!
2. The walk in the door and the waiting room:
The worse thing that can happen to a client when they walk in the door is to be ignored, especially for an auditory person. Look up! Say hello! Put a smile on your face no matter how stressful the day has been. The auditory person has just been appeased. When her time comes for being called in to an exam room, you will not need to call her name twice! She is listening!
Bringing a pet in to a clinic is an emotional and physically draining experience. Oftentimes, the adult has a child or two along with a large dog trying to pull her arms off. If paperwork needs to be filled out, take a careful look, and if the client is in this situation, empathize and do something like take the dog off her hands temporarily. The kinesthetic person will thank you. Complimenting each client and/or their pet in some way when they are greeted also addresses this style type’s needs.
The visual person will probably take care of herself. She will be the one walking around the waiting room looking at pictures, picking up brochures and reading magazines. When you call her name for an exam room, she will not initially hear you. Try try again!
3. In the exam room:
Two very important communication experiences occur here. The first is with the technician and the second with the veterinarian. For a kinesthetic person, how you handle and interact with their pet is critical. For an auditory person, they need to be listened to and have all their questions answered. These tend to be the clients that take up more appointment time. A visual person likes to see what you are doing and are active in the participation of the exam.
In all cases, clients benefit from cohesive messaging from both the technician and veterinarian. Where product recommendations are involved, veterinarians should go out of the room and bring back with him/her the actual recommended product and hand it to the client. For a visual client, this gives you the opportunity to point out important facts on the label and show them the product you said their pet needs. For a kinesthetic client, you can talk about the importance this product has in keeping their pet happy and healthy. And for an auditory client, this just added support to your verbal recommendation. In all 3 cases, very few clients will refuse the product their veterinarian has personally handed them.
4. Check out with the receptionist.
At this point, the clients have their needed product in their hands and are ready to go home. In addition to giving the client a receipt, the receptionist should once again give the client an empathetic comment appropriate to the visit, double check that all their questions have been answered and provide them any written instructions they may they may need once home. Thank them for choosing your practice and wish them a great day!
In next week’s 3rd article in the series, “Through Your Client’s Eyes”, we will continue to focus on creating an “Exceptional” experience by focusing on “written” communications.
Until next week…
Jeannine M Courser, MBA
Right Course Consulting
Where business and personal success meet!