Can Make Your Blood Boil Don’t Let Them Get To You By Dr. Madan L. Kharé Veterinarian (First Published In 2004)
In a customer service oriented business such as veterinary medicine, it’s easy to be nice when the pet owner is happy, cheerful and is nice to you. But it’s inevitable that you are bound to come across surly clients. When belligerent or angry clients call or come into the hospital, one has to work a little harder to respond in a cheerful manner.
Angry clients have the added stress that they are worried about their beloved family member, who may be sick. Clients often lash out when they’re frustrated. Usually this problem has nothing to do with you at all, so you must not take it personally. You just happen to be the nearest target for them to express their dissatisfaction. Whether the client is upset at you, at one of the veterinarians or other staff members, or an outside source such as their spouse or boss, etc, there are certain steps you can take to help alleviate some of their stress (and therefore, your own).
When having a conversation face to face with someone, the words you speak are only a tiny portion what the other person “hears”. The client is also paying attention to the way you speak, the tone of your voice, and even more so, they consciously or unconsciously observe your body language. Therefore, when communicating with clients, and especially angry clients, you have to pay particular attention to the way you present yourself.
HOW TO DEAL WITH ANGRY CLIENTS:
1. If the pet owner calls and is angry or upset, make sure that you stop whatever else you are doing and give them your undivided attention. It’s very obvious to the caller when the person they are talking to is distracted. You’d be surprised, but it helps to use positive body language. Even though the client can’t see you, they will notice and appreciate it. A soothing tone of voice and smiling as you speak into the telephone will be very effective in reassuring them. They just want to be heard and respected.2. Speak slowly, clearly and articulately. People who talk too fast are thought of as untrustworthy.
3. Ask specific questions to ensure that you understand what the client wants. Remember that each and every client’s concerns are valid and worthy of your attention. Repeat the problem, as you understand it.
4. If a client starts yelling, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and maintain your composure.
5. Don’t make excuses, blame others, or act defensive. Do apologize. Even if the problem is not your fault, an apology to disgruntled clients about their situation can help to appease them.
6. Don’t use the word “no” or tell the client that what they want “can’t be done”. Tell the client that you will take steps to solve the problem. Do it with a polite, professional, respectful, empathetic and positive demeanor. If you can’t give the client what they want, tell them what you CAN and WILL do.
7. Choose your words carefully. Avoid phrases like “You’ll just have to” or “You need to do this”. Offer suggestions and alternatives that will give the client a sense of power and control in the situation. Reiterate the solution and confirm that they agree with it.
8. Don’t get angry or in a shouting match. Always remain courteous, and maintain your sense of humor. If a client becomes verbally abusive, try to tune out and ignore the insults and slurs. It’s hard for them to continue a one-sided argument.
9. Don’t “pass the buck” onto the next person unless it becomes absolutely necessary. If the situation warrants the attention of your hospital manager or attending veterinarian, let the client know that you are going to have so and so speak with him or her personally, and explain why you are doing so. Inform the manager or veterinarian of the nature of the problem before handing over the call.
Clients are the number one priority of any service provider. The disgruntled client is typically in the minority, and if you notice that your practice has more than your share of these clients, you will need to evaluate how you and your staff handle such clients. Keep in mind that when clients are dissatisfied, whether their reasons are real or perceived, if they don’t return to your practice, you will never have the opportunity to right a wrong situation.
Can Make Your Blood Boil Don’t Let Them Get To You by Dr. Madan Khare' Veterinarian
Are there difficult staff members in your veterinary hospital? Maybe not. But from a statistical probability point of view, there is a possibility that you might have one or a few difficult persons on your staff and you don’t even know it. You might say, so what if I do have a couple of difficult staff members? There are difficult pets, difficult clients, difficult spouses and relatives, difficult children, difficult friends, and sometimes even a difficult life. So what else is new?
I agree with you. As long as difficult entities do not encroach on your sanity, professionalism, personal life, and most important, your livelihood-the business of veterinary medicine.
Why should one pay attention to difficult staff members? Because they can create misunderstandings, miscommunication, loss of productivity, loss of morale, loss of clients, and downright loss of revenue. They can make your or other staff members’ blood boil, making you so angry you might have an urge to strangle them. They raise your blood pressure and lower your immune system. One can ignore and tolerate these negative situations to a certain extent. However, in today’s litigious society, one must not tolerate and cannot afford to get into lawsuits, directly or indirectly initiated or ignited by one of these difficult staff members. Remember, it only takes one to bring down the house.
Therefore, it’s of paramount importance for the veterinarian-owner or manager to recognize, identify, and handle the difficult staff members in your veterinary hospital. Also, if you are a victimized coworker, you should also learn how to recognize and handle them.
There are ten different breeds of difficult staff members:
We thrive on news and information, but to put it politely, we are a micro-caucus unit of a gossip culture. So it’s no surprise that there is a gossiper in every veterinary hospital who has a direct connection with the chief veterinarian, manager, or the hospital’s grapevine. This person always has a desire to share the scoop with others. As you know, most gossip is hurtful and is not entirely true. And the gossip becomes more dangerous if it completes its circle. Consider the scenario of unsubstantiated gossip regarding a staff member or a client.
Do you remember the kid Mikey in the Life commercial? Yes, there are people who believe that misery loves company. And they can never be happy no matter what. As a matter of fact, they’re not happy unless they are miserable. These staff members are vocal, loud, disruptive, don’t consider the consequences and they aren’t afraid of anything. The most dangerous thing that they do is lower other staff members’ morale. They spread negativity around while using you or someone as a sounding board.
This kind of person wants to know everything and anything that goes on in the veterinary hospital, whether it is about a colleague, client, or pet. It doesn’t matter whether it’s their responsibility or business to know it, but they make it their business to know everything, whether it is about your work, your personal life, or your financial matters.
You will note that some people may possess several of these characteristics. Consider the dangerous impact of a person who is a snoop, a gossiper, and a complainer. Yes, there are people like this. One hospital went through hell when there was a rumor circulating about why a certain technician gets a higher salary than others do. I will leave it up to your imagination.
THE INTELLECTUAL THIEF
These are one of the most dangerous and difficult coworkers. They are more dangerous because they are very difficult to spot. They don’t steal drugs, they don’t steal equipment, they don’t steal supplies or anything tangible, but they will steal your ideas and accomplishments and pass them off as their own, depriving others of the credit.
Whether you feel like talking or not, this person is always there, bending your ear. If you don’t listen to them they will also try to make you feel guilty and take advantage of you being nice. They will raise your blood pressure by their constant babbling. They will make you forget what you were doing, make you lose your focus and concentration. They will put you behind in your work responsibilities and then you’ll get blamed for it.
THE BEST FRIEND
You are subjected to all the gory details of this person’s personal life, whether you want to know it or not, and he or she doesn’t mind hearing about the personal details of your life. No subject is off limits to this type of person, including intimate details about their spouse, visits to the gynecologist, proctologist, etc.
The slanderer strives to gain professional rewards as well as personal satisfaction in discrediting coworkers by spreading gossip, half-truths and outright lies. This person pretends to be your friend, hoping you will confide something that can be used against you. However, unlike the Best Friend, they never reveal anything about themselves.
THE BACK STABBER
He smiles in your face, just like the Slanderer. The back stabber always has an agenda, and will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. He doesn’t care who he takes down along the way.
The clinger considers the hospital staff as one big happy family and promotes get-togethers outside of the work environment. Clingers usually don’t have their own personal life or family, and will frequently suggest going out for a drink after work or to make plans for weekend activities. The next thing you know, they’re showing up uninvited at your house just in time for dinner every night.
The snitch makes it his or her business to know everybody’s business and then reports everything to the owner or manager. This person may even set the trap by initiating the conversation and sharing a confidence. For example, she may badmouth the boss, and when you agree and share your own story, she relates YOUR story to the boss. Since she doesn’t share her part of the conversation, you look bad and she ends up smelling like a rose.
You probably recognize at least one or two of these characters. So the question is how do you handle these difficult employees, coworkers, or staff members?
IF YOU ARE A VETERINARIAN OR OWNER :
Once you spot them, get rid of them. Yes you heard me right. Because the mindset of these difficult people is very negative, whether it’s due to their past or current situation, and depending on their psychological, social, and environmental influence. Their negativity may be extremely deep rooted. It took many years to build up.
If you have a bleeding heart, it’s possible that you might be torn between rehabilitating a troubled staff member and firing him or her. Well I will just tell you one thing. There is an old saying. The longer you wait, the harder it gets.
So unless you are a big corporation and can spend the extra money to rehabilitate them, you should not keep them around.
But before firing your problem staff member, please think it over several times and ask yourself a few questions, including, will the fired problem employee become a problem for you, socially, professionally, or legally?
Just keep in mind that one must take every precaution when asking them to leave. You might give them several weeks or even a month or two of severance pay. Be sure to follow each and every guideline for terminating an employee. And before you do, you should also make sure that your house is clean. Don’t give any ammunition to the disgruntled employee to fire back at you.
IF YOU ARE A COWORKER:
a. If you encounter a gossipy person, ignore. Keep the gossip to yourself. Don’t help spread the fire.
b. If somebody is a complainer, keep your mouth shut. Just listen to him or her. Let them vent their problems, but don’t join in. Sooner or later, you will be of no use to that complainer and then you will be left alone. Avoid nosy workers. Don’t share your or other people’s information with them. Should they try to cross the line, first inform them in a very friendly manner that they are crossing the line and tell them if they don’t stop, you will take appropriate action.
c. Stay clear of the intellectual thieves. Deal with them in a professional manner. Evaluate what you say before you say it, always keeping in the back of your mind that your ideas might be stolen. Be on guard. Don’t try to be a showoff.
Don’t let these difficult coworkers push your buttons or lure you into participating in their negativity, where you become an active component in fueling the fire. You must remember that difficult people have their own psychological problems. They may be lonely, deprived of appreciation, and are looking for someone to validate them. They are just looking for someone to listen to them. If in your judgment you feel the person belongs to this group, it’s okay to try to be sympathetic, extend a helping hand and to be kind and understanding. However you must be cautious and neutral at the same time.
One has to remember that even though these staff members are difficult to work with, they are members of the team. And from time to time, everyone can have difficult moments. You can try to help them, or you can ignore them, bite your tongue, live with it, and be happy at your job.
CLIENTS SPEAKING ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE TRY TO UNDERSTAND THEM - DON'T GET ANGRY
By Dr. Madan L. Kharé Veterinarian
The veterinary business is a customer service oriented business. And just as if you were working in a department store, supermarket, or as a telephone customer service representative, you are going to face all sorts of clients from all walks of life. And in the U.S., a melting pot of multi cultures, many veterinary practices are exposed to pet owners who speak English as a second language. Dealing with diverse customers takes a bit more effort than it does when handling clients that look and sound like you do. However, all customers are worthy of your time and deserve your attention and respect.
Keep in mind that they may come from a different culture and have a different background, but they are still the pet’s owner and therefore, your client. Their way of thinking, understanding, and making interpretation is different than yours. It will be your responsibility to synchronize your thinking with theirs, rather than the other way around. Some of you may think it’s not fair, but we are in a service providing industry, and we can’t be choosy and dictate who is going to be a pet owner and a client.
You must convey the same courtesy to all clients, irrespective of their backgrounds. You need to show a sense of comfort and acceptance of all people. This will help prevent any potential misunderstandings and miscommunication that can lead to anger, litigation or a trip to the office of the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Below is some advice that receptionists, technicians, and doctors can follow for a positive experience in closing the language barrier and communication gap.
DO’S AND DON’TS FOR DEALING WITH DIVERSE CLIENTELE:
When clients don’t understand you, or you don’t understand the client, don’t risk offending them. Accept responsibility for the communication gap rather than play the blame game.
Don’t speak loudly or yell. The client may think you are angry with them. Do speak slowly and clearly.
Don’t be patronizing, condescending, or make the client feel that they are stupid. Do be patient and sensitive to his or her feelings.
Don’t presume clients understand technical jargon or your hospital’s protocol. Do explain things in a logical order, and make sure they understand you, each step of the way. Politely say something like, ”I want to be sure I have the correct information” then repeat what the client said. Don’t act irritated or make them feel like they are bothering you.
Don’t use slang, jokes or plays on words. Do use simple language, using short, concise, and complete sentences or questions. It will be easier for the client to understand what you are saying.
You or your staff members may not have had experience with foreign cultures. Never let your personal ignorance, inexperience, bias, or prejudices affect the way you behave toward them.
These rules also apply if you yourself are a foreign-born person working in the veterinary hospital and are faced with prejudiced clients. Always maintain a positive, upbeat, and professional manner.
Remember that they are your clients, and they are the reason you go to work every morning. Treat them with respect. Treat them the way that you yourself would like to be treated. One day, you may have to walk in their shoes…
Most local and state courts hire bilingual interpreters who are called upon to interact with a foreign-speaking witness. If you have several clients that come from a diverse ethnic background, it will be advisable that you hire trustworthy multi-lingual staff. These staff members can be very useful in making clients feel comfortable and most important of all, understood. Or you can contact a few community members who are bilingual. In most cases, it has been observed that if one provides communication to clients in their own native language, there will be a better understanding of the pet’s conditions, better diagnosis and treatments, and better rewards.
Can Make Your Blood Boil Don’t Let Them Get To You
DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS by Dr. Madan Khare' Veterinarian
If a client’s expectations are not met, they may choose to ignore it, complain about it, retaliate by telling others (or seek legal action!), or more likely to withdraw from the relationship. Clients often don’t complain because they think it will do no good or they are not sure how to voice the complaint. The cause of most stressful situations is poor communication!
HOW TO MASTER RECOVERY SKILLS
Dissatisfied clients have several desires:
1. To be listened to and taken seriously 2. To have you understand why they are upset 3. To receive compensation 4. To have the problem handled quickly 5. Future inconvenience avoided 6. To be treated with respect 7. Assurance it will not happen again
A FEW THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT COMPLAINTS AND COMPLAINERS
1. Don’t take it personally 2. If you have tried your best to satisfy, that’s all you can do 3. Don’t rehash the experience…what’s done is done 4. Use every client contact as an opportunity to improve your professionalism 5. Clients want to remain your client 6. Clients are giving you another opportunity to make it right 7. Most clients want to be fair, if they feel they are being treated fairly
STRATEGIES FOR CONTROLLING ANGER INCLUDE
1. Choose not to return aggression for aggression. 2. Acknowledge feelings and emotions. 3. Ignore the excessive, erroneous, sarcasm, and exaggerations. Choose what you respond to. 4. Don’t pass the buck.
PROTOCOL FOR HANDLING COMPLAINTS
1. Isolate the client. 2. Give the client your undivided attention. Document. 3. Don’t assume anything. 4. Stay calm. 5. Acknowledge the client’s anger. 6. Listen actively. 7. Involve the client in finding a solution. Suggest alternatives. 8. Never leave the problem unresolved. 9. Thank the client for bringing the problem to your attention. 10. Do something extra. 11. Follow-up.
CLIENT COMPLAINTS: Blame it on someone/something not associated with your clinic. Some examples would be:
DON’T: Be defensive, take it personally, deny it, make excuses, judge, blame, bring up the past, blame it on “company policy.”
COMPLAINTS: What to do
DO: Choose your words carefully avoiding negativism, only say what you can do, acknowledge any truth to the complaint, avoid actions that worsen the situation, provide a timeframe for action, offer alternatives, find someone else to solve the problem if you can’t.
ABUSIVE LANGUAGE SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED.
Remind yourself that the anger is directed at the system, not you personally. Since we cannot control the other person’s thoughts, words, or behavior; we must control our own. Let the client know you will handle the problem in a mature manner: “It is impossible to continue the conversation as long as you use abusive language, what would you like for me to do?”
There is magic in listening and agreeing. Clients tend to calm down if they feel you are looking out for their best interest. They also tend to be less vulgar when they see you documenting on paper.
This group of people always look for someone else to blame, never admit fault or take responsibility, have strong ideas of what others should do, and complain at length. Some strategies include listening actively, establishing the facts, resisting the temptation to apologize, force the complainer to pose solutions, and determine the client’s value to the practice. Firing undesirable clients can sometimes result in respectful, good clients. Be firm and set conduct guidelines of courteous handling of future problems. If the client threatens legal action, stop trying to resolve the problem. Implied promises make a reasonable settlement difficult. Instruct the client to speak with your attorney.
It is important to remember that complaints are good for the practice in that the client is allowing us the opportunity to make it right. It also allows us to know problems that can also affect other clients, even though they may not totally defect from the practice. It is comforting to know that most client complaints have positive resolutions that can result in clients that are more bonded to the practice than even before the complaint was made known.