Customer Service is the Entire Staff’s Job

Practices and Methods

In her book Client Satisfaction Pays (AAHA Press, 1998), Carin Smith, DVM, sums it all up: “Client satisfaction is whatever your clients say it is.” 

The challenge, Dr. Smith said, lies in “taking the time and effort to think about it and to take action, in the midst of a typical hectic day.” 

“Everyone in the practice has a role to play when it comes to improving client satisfaction,” she said, “but it starts at the top with the leadership setting an example.” 

“Create time in your schedule to devote to analyzing and improving client satisfaction,” Smith said. 

“Be sure that everyone participates in and understands the rationale for and objectives of changes,” she said. “When people invest in new ideas, they are more motivated to make the system work.” 

“Not realizing that your entire team affects client satisfaction is a common mistake,” she said. 

Underpaying or under-appreciating your team makes client satisfaction suffer. 

The ‘in’ thing right now is doing [staff] performance evaluations on a regular basis, but how many veterinarians do a SWOT evaluation on their practice? 

A thorough performance evaluation on your clinic, he said, should include an appraisal of the practice’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 

Key questions to ask yourself as you evaluate your operation include: 

  • What does the facility look like? 
  • How are clients and their pets greeted when they arrive at the clinic? 
  • How does the staff dress? 
  • Are client questions answered quickly and accurately? 

The biggest mistake is making the client feel rushed or having the client leave with unanswered questions.

When it comes to recognizing the need for improvement, Sometimes it takes outside eyes, whether it’s a consultant or a friend. It may be worthwhile to send your people to another clinic as a new client to see what other people do.

Say Hello to Opportunity 

One of the most important, and most overlooked, aspects of customer service, the experts agree, is telephone service. 

What does it say when the caller hears the telephone ring and ring and ring again before a voice responds? 

“What is transmitted to a client when the person on the other end sounds bored, uncaring or rushed?” Smith asked in her book. 

Begin with a polite greeting, such as “Good morning,” she advises in online training sessions offered in conjunction with the American Veterinary Medical Assn. 

An on-hold message can be an effective tool in educating your clientele about the services offered at your clinic. Outgoing calls can also be a good tool. 

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