Ease client fears of a veterinary hospital stay

Show and tell how your practice is a safe and comfortable place for pets.
May 01, 2011

Many veterinarians and practice managers today worry about bonding with clients in the exam room. (I do, too—read my tips here.) But hospitalization cases, which cost more money and bring pet owners more stress, should be a focus, too. Consider the following seven steps to better client care when you need to keep a pet longer than a day.

1. Show them the hospital

It's important for clients to feel that their pets will be safe and comfortable everywhere in your veterinary practice. When admitting a patient, you may want to offer the client a complete tour of the hospital. As you walk the rooms, be sure to explain where specific treatments and procedures from your estimate will be performed.

2. Let them say "See you later"

Treatment and kennel areas aren't always free of stress, but some clients appreciate the chance to say "see you later" to pets once they're properly situated in their cages. Plus, watching how you and your team handle yourselves around patients in the hospital can do a lot to ease a worried client's mind.

3. Update them often

Share pet updates with owners more than once a day. Ask owners before they leave whether they'd like phone calls, texts, or even pictures from your or a team member's cell phone. Some owners love to see their pets in good hands.

4. Always discuss treatment changes

If you make a change in your treatment, prognosis, or diagnosis, complete a change-of-scope form, update the estimate, and contact the owner as soon as possible. This way the owner is prepared. Payment time should never be a surprise.

5. Send home instructions

Always make sure at-home care instructions are clear and cover the items on the patient’s bill. What did the client pay for, and what does the client need to do to make sure the treatment will remain effective at home? Our clients love when we add pictures to the mix, especially if it's a nurse taking care of the patient.

6. Discharge in a crowd

When a pet owner picks up a patient, don't hide the discharge experience in the exam room. Do it in public! Other clients see, hear, and soak up the personalized contact you offer to clients. They'll be assured you'll offer them the same great communication and care. Of course, not all situations make for good discharges at the front desk or in the waiting area, but take advantage of the ones that do.

7. Follow up until it's fixed

This goes for outpatient care, too. Follow up until both the client and the veterinarian are comfortable that the outcome is successful. Then follow up some more a few weeks or months later. Clients appreciate it when you "just check in."

Stephen Tracey is the general manager of Princeton Animal Hospital and Carnegie Cat Clinic in Princeton, N.J.