Client expectations are two-fold, says Dr. Karen Felsted, CVPM, CPA, a consultant with Gatto McFerson in Santa Monica, Calif. "As far as medical expectations, clients expect more advanced care because that's what they're paying for," she says. "But I don't think they expect miracles. They just expect that you'll do some things for the pet that weren't available at the general practice."
Aside from medical expectations, clients also expect a higher standard of service. "There's an expectation that people will be nice to you, someone will answer the phone properly, the doctor will answer all of your questions, and you'll be able to visit the pet if it is hospitalized," she says. "The specialty practice that can provide both that kind of client service and high-level medical care and is going to do great."
Sometimes the specialist is the last stop for a patient, and treating a client with empathy and compassion is all the client will walk away with. Dr. Felsted says specialty practices should place an expectation on themselves to be frank yet caring when dealing with a case that may result in death. "Even if you can't save the patient, you want the client to walk away saying, 'This was a good experience. I'm sorry I lost Fluffy, but these people treated me well.' Do some people have unrealistic expectations? Of course—there are in every kind of business. But there are no more in specialty medicine than there are in primary veterinary care or other fields."