The pat on the back

The pat on the back

Why doling out compliments to veterinary clients yields results.
May 01, 2013

No one likes being criticized. And yet your clients may feel that's all they hear from you and your team when they come in.

Of course, it's important to help your clients take the best care possible of their pets, and it's also your job to alert them to things they're doing wrong. But when everything you say can feel like an accusation, you put your clients on the defensive and make it less likely that your recommendations will be heard, much less followed.

The secret to changing the dynamic? Catch pet owners doing things right and point them out.

Believe me when I tell you, you can always find something. After all, the pet's owner cares enough to ask you for help, right? That's the first thing he or she did right, but there are always more. Is the dog clean and well groomed? Is the cat relaxed and well behaved? Is the pet's name a clever one, and have you asked how the animal got it? I've told people that their dog's nails are perfect or that their Chihuahua's teeth look to be in the top 20 percent for the breed. There's always something, and I always find it. You can, too.

Remember that song about how "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"? It really does. When you catch people doing things right, you're giving them an "A" on their report card for that subject. Then find a B+. You'll be in a much better position when you have to discuss the Cs or Ds. When you deliver the "bad grades"—when you recommend more and better care—your clients are less likely to be defensive and more likely to take your advice for the better health of their pets.

A final thought: Catching people doing something right works with everyone, from your veterinary technicians to your fellow doctors—even your kids. Try it, and don't be surprised if someone makes an effort to catch you doing something right, too!

Dr. Marty Becker is a popular speaker and author of more than 22 top-selling books, including The Healing Power of Pets. He is the resident veterinarian on Good Morning America, a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show, and the lead veterinary contributor to . Dr. Becker practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Ida. and Lakewood Animal Hospital in Coeur d'Alene, Ida.

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