Recognizing (and Winning) Tipping Points With Clients

Teaching your team to recognize and successfully maneuver potentially volatile client conversations can have excellent consequences for your practice.
Kerry Lengyel
Published: September 12, 2018
Client tipping pointWhen asked what their hospital focuses on daily, veterinary teams are likely to name staff training, efficiency, patient care, good medicine, and keeping wait times short. “Of these,” asked Shelley Johnson, BS, CVPM, a training development specialist for Patterson Veterinary, “where did client care land?”

There’s always room to focus on client care, Johnson said. It’s not only important that you prioritize a positive client experience, but your staff should be well versed on what steps should be taken to achieve excellence during every appointment. If you don’t already have client-focused policies in place, it’s a great conversation to have with your team.

Recognizing Tipping Points
Do you know how to recognize tipping points—scenarios in which a team member and a client are on the brink of a situation ending either very well or very poorly—and how to alleviate potentially unfavorable situations?

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Veterinary teams first need to understand that the consumer’s state of mind is very self-centered. The client is always going to want your undivided attention and dedication, which can be challenging in a bustling hospital.

To help your team maneuver skillfully in “tipping point” situations, first ensure that they understand the practice’s expectations. Have you and your staff discussed exercising patience? What about managing client expectations? Do team members understand what entitlement looks like? Helping them understand the answers to these questions is a great place to start.

Johnson also suggested that veterinarians institute daily goals related to creating stellar client experiences. These goals can be expressed through what Johnson referred to as a “Client Bill of Rights” or a “Conscious Consumer Bill of Rights.” Your practice should come together to create this document and make sure all team members understand and abide by its rules.

An example of a Client Bill of Rights could be:
  1. The right to satisfy
  2. The right to be informed
  3. The right to choose
  4. The right to be heard
  5. The right to service

This document will differ among practices depending on individual client and practice needs.

The Client Is Not Always Right
Is the client always right? If you’ve been working in the profession for some time, you’ll understand that the obvious answer to this question is “no.” But your team members may not.

To help them better understand this concept, make sure they’re aware of the explicit expectations of service for your practice so they know what they should—and should not—be doing with each client.

You’ll also need to help your support staff find a balance between their quick-thinking emotional effect and their more rational mind. This will better equip them to handle a situation so they don’t cause the tipping point themselves.

“By doing some training on this, we can actually gift that employee with an additional skill set and some observation awareness skills that will really help prevent these potentially heated discussions that may otherwise not happen,” Johnson said. “This is key to help prevent them from getting to those tipping points.”

Tipping Point Recoveries
Sometimes it’s inevitable that a tipping point will not go in the practice’s favor, no matter what actions staff take. In these cases, it’s important to understand how to recover the situation. First, identify the issue, what went wrong, and why it went wrong. Then, remember to “ReCAP”: restate, clarify, agree, and then proceed.  

“We might be teaching the leaders of our teams [ReCAP] and then with their vernacular they may turn and teach their teams,” Johnson said. “How it will work is unique to your practice.”

Let your team members know they should be using their own personal skills to prevent these “tipovers” from harming the practice. When trying to defuse a challenging situation, meet clients where they are, acknowledge their concerns, don’t take it personally, be the leader, and exercise excellent listening skills.

Developing communication skills is an ongoing process. By instituting some of these techniques into your own veterinary practice, you can make sure the client experience is successful and, at the end of the day, your team feels confident in their ability to handle difficult situations.

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