DEALING WITH ANGRY CLIENTS
Can Make Your Blood Boil
Don’t Let Them Get To You
Dr. Madan L. Kharé
(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.