Becoming fluent in "horse owner"


Becoming fluent in "horse owner"

You know how to talk to a horse to calm and treat it. Satisfy and educate clients just as well by learning to speak their language.
Dec 01, 2008

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You've seen the symptoms. The glazed eyes and mumbled "uh-huh's" and "OK's" clearly indicate you've lost your client's interest. As you've been explaining procedures and follow-up care, you've started talking too fast and forgotten to stop and answer questions. The result? A client who's now dazed and confused.

The bottom line
But don't be too hard on yourself, says Tracey O'Driscoll-Packer, a California-based equine management consultant. Talking over clients' heads is a common problem among your colleagues. "After years of discussing medicine with other scientists in school, equine veterinarians encounter a completely different crowd—a mixture of horse professionals and complete novices," she says.

What's worse, many horse owners don't let on when they don't understand. They won't ask questions or interrupt while you're talking because they don't want to appear ignorant or annoying, O'Driscoll-Packer says. This makes your communication challenge that much more difficult. But in the pages that follow, you'll learn the communication traps to avoid and the best communication methods for equine practice. As a result, more of your clients will hear, understand, and comply with your healthcare plans for their horses.

Making diagnoses too quickly

Dr. Mark Baus
One of the first mistakes a veterinarian can make is a too-quick diagnosis, says Dr. Mark Baus, president of Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, Conn. "You start to lose your client if he senses you've committed to a diagnosis too early and have essentially stopped listening," Dr. Baus says. Granted, it's hard not to dominate the conversation at the beginning of the visit. After all, you're sharing with the client your observations and thoughts as you work your way through the physical exam. But clients have been preparing for this moment for a long time before your appointment and have a lot to get off their chests. "Unless clients feel that they're being heard, the doctor won't get buy-in from them," he says. Address the client's concerns first, if you can, and then move on to explain your own observations and diagnoses.

Failing to explain tests

Dr. Grant Myhre, owner of Myhre Equine Clinic in Rochester, N.H., says that sometimes equine doctors—including himself—fail to spend enough time explaining test results to clients. "I know we all get busy at our practices, and we don't sit down and take the time with our clients that we need to," Dr. Myhre says. To combat this problem, Dr. Myhre and the other doctors at his clinic bring clients into the imaging room, sit down to discuss the case, and show clients the radiographs, test results, and other findings. Dr. Myhre accounts for this time in his charges. When he and the other veterinarians don't find the time to explain the tests, clients never seem fully satisfied. Make sure to explain the reason behind diagnostics so clients can understand that money spent on tests is money well spent.