Improving client communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful veterinary practice, leading to better patient outcomes, increased client satisfaction, and improved pet health. But should this communication break down, it can result in misunderstandings, mistakes in diagnosis or treatment, and client dissatisfaction.

Inevitably, client dissatisfaction will lead to complaints, which have been shown have a detrimental impact on the mental health of veterinary teams. From emotional fatigue and professional burnout to struggling with suicidal thoughts, communication breakdown is one of the leading causes of stress in practice, ultimately affecting the wellbeing of our teams and the animals in their care.

Effective communication is, therefore, essential for accurate diagnosis and informed treatment decisions. It also fosters trust between vets, clients, and their beloved animal companions.

Indeed, a survey conducted in the summer of 2021 found that nearly 50 per cent of cat and dog owners in the UK view their pets as family members. With such a strong bond, it’s perhaps no wonder many clients have much higher expectations regarding their pet’s care.

How to improve client communication

Build trust

Building trust fosters loyalty, improves compliance with treatment, and leads to better patient outcomes. Simple ways to achieve this are assigning the same veterinary surgeon to each client for every visit and being transparent in your communication. For example, regularly updating clients about their pet’s condition, treatment options, and progress.

Active listening

Building on the above, active listening is another way to foster trust and client loyalty. Provide clear explanations and be honest when discussing any limitations or uncertainties about particular treatments.

Encourage clients to ask questions and show genuine concern and understanding. Build relationships by remembering pet’s names and any quirks they might have — make a note in your practice management software, if it helps.

Stay up-to-date on the latest advancements

Support your team in meeting their CPD requirements by subscribing to veterinary journals and newsletters and encouraging them to attend veterinary conferences and webinars.

Be transparent

A recent review conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) highlighted the critical role of transparency in fostering trust among clients. The investigation revealed that pet owners might be overpaying for medicines because of a lack of information about prices and prescription costs.

To address this, always be open and honest about your pricing. This will help to alleviate concerns and empower clients to make well-informed decisions about their pet’s care. Provide clear information regarding costs via your website, brochure, posters, or other media, and inform clients of any additional expenses that might arise, such as medications or lab tests.

It is also vital to gain permission before initiating treatment and to regularly update the client on the expected costs and progress. A detailed and itemised invoice showing the breakdown of fees can go a long way towards giving your clients a positive experience.

Building strong relationships

Trust and honesty are essential to fostering good relationships with our clients. Through active listening, keeping up with the ever-changing veterinary field, and being transparent about pricing, we can build strong, long-lasting relationships that benefit pets and those who care for them.