Get loyal clients through authentic emotional connections

Four crucial tips that put gratitude, respect and compassion into everyday client interactions at your veterinary clinic.
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Oct 01, 2013

Truth be told, you need more than client satisfaction to achieve loyalty. Satisfied clients may change veterinarians because of inconvenient hospital hours, fees or other factors. The emotional connection is that "something extra" that bonds clients to your practice and makes them feel valued.

Action steps:

1. Respect your clients. Think highly of the pet owners who choose to bring their animals to you for care, comfort and compassion. Apologizing for long wait times is a good start. It shows that they're valued.

2. Listen with intensity. It's been said that active listening is a skill that's easy to understand but difficult to practice. Yet, listening may be the ultimate sign of respect. Listen for your client's feelings by noting keywords such as frightened, sad, confused or frustrated.

3. Express empathy. Try to understand each client's concerns from his or her vantage point. It's critically important in establishing an emotional connection with them. Human medicine consultant Wendy Leebov recommends physicians handle the last few seconds of a seriously ill patient's visit by saying, "I realize today's news has been very upsetting for you. I want you to know I'll be with you every step of the way." Draw a parallel concept with the pet owners in your own practice.

4. Cultivate personal warmth. This all-important trait is often underestimated by doctors who are convinced that only knowledge and skills matter. The perception of personal warmth is highly subjective but includes such traits as being approachable and kind. And it starts with a smile and calling clients and pets by name, which becomes an instant icebreaker and a critical step in forging an emotional connection.

When you combine medical expertise with strong emotional connections, you'll differentiate your practice from the competition in ways that will be profoundly meaningful and deeply appreciated by your clients.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices.