The worst client ever seen in equine practice

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The worst client ever seen in equine practice

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Sep 01, 2007



Some clients make and keep appointments, listen to your advice, and would never yell at you. But we know you also have some complainers, hagglers, and that special breed of client that just doesn't pay up. Of course, you're not alone. Here's how some of your colleagues have managed their most difficult clients and conversations.

I want it now!

"My worst client ever is now one of my best clients," says Dr. Dina Duplantis, DABVP (equine), owner of Equine Health Maintenance in Bueche, La. The client in question had left her previous practice after she argued with the veterinarian. "I should've known it would be trouble," Dr. Duplantis says.

Initially, she found the client quite pleasant, but that didn't last. She would page Dr. Duplantis instead of leaving a message on the machine and waiting for a callback. In fact, she could never wait for anything. "Whatever she needed, it was 'it must be done now' or 'I'm leaving in the morning. Can you come today?'" Dr. Duplantis says.

Then the client started questioning Dr. Duplantis' approach to treatment and compared her work to the previous veterinarian's. It all came to a head on a December 23 at 5 p.m. The client was Dr. Duplantis' very last appointment on a long, windy, tiring day, and it was supposed to be a routine visit.

"She asked me to take a quick peek at her cutting horse and flex him to see if he needed his hocks injected again," Dr. Duplantis says. "He took a couple of 'off' steps, and I suggested we do the hocks after Christmas. Of course, she wanted them done right there at that moment."

Dr. Duplantis thought about all the Christmas wrapping she needed to do and the social event she'd promised to attend and told the client she could do it after Christmas. "She went crazy and talked about going back to her old veterinarian the next day, Christmas Eve, and getting the hocks injected," Dr. Duplantis says. She told the woman she could fit her in the day after Christmas and left, hoping that would be the last she'd see of her. Instead, the woman gave the horse a joint-therapy shot on her own and rescheduled with Dr. Duplantis for the hocks—after Christmas.

A month later, the woman asked Dr. Duplantis if she'd been a difficult client. Dr. Duplantis explained that she didn't like being yelled at and didn't appreciate demands or ultimatums. She also asked the client to plan ahead and make appointments rather than paging her at the last minute. "I didn't think I'd hear from her after my lecture, but she has actually become a great client," she says. "She still gets flustered, but she tries hard not to tick me off."

Dr. Ruth Sobeck, an equine practitioner in Palos Verdes, Calif., also had good luck setting boundaries. A client accosted her when she was out riding with a friend and complained about a bill. Dr. Sobeck got into an argument with the client right there in front of her friend—who happened to be another client.

"The incident brought the situation to a climax, and a lot of pent-up anger and frustration came out," Dr. Sobeck says. "In hindsight, it would've been better to calmly remark that I'd be happy to explain the charges during an appointment made during regular business hours."

The client stuck with her, though, and learned an important lesson: "I don't like to be bothered with questions when I'm relaxing with my horse," Dr. Sobeck says.


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