Podcast #44

cartoon of man at a firing squad, soilder says 'last request?' and victim says 'I'd like to update my Facebook status'.
In veterinary medicine, because there is SO much information we need to know, and such a variety in cases, and since the industry is a mix of a necessary medical service but also one that relies on individuals’ disposable income, we are going to have complaints.

Complaints, for the most part, are indicators of where your clinic needs to improve. Sometimes we need to improve our communication, sometimes it’s our standards of care, and sometimes it’s our record keeping and consistency. Not all clients that complain should be fired, and justified complaints should be taken as constructive criticism on how to improve your clinic.

All complaints should be addressed and evaluated in an organized, calm and consistent manner. For more details on how to address complaints, see the blog “The Six A’s for Managing Complaints.”

There are those clients however, that complain for complaining sake. They are aggressive, abusive, and use tactics and strategies to try to get discounts, and to get things for nothing. They are the clients that, no matter WHAT you do, they will complain. They are the ones you should fire, because they bring no value to your clinic, and only add stress, emotional toil, and destruction.
Signs That You Should Fire A Client:
Clients that threaten physical harm to anyone on your staff should be fired… no exceptions.

Clients that threaten to slander on social media, to ‘take you to the board’, to sue you… those are clients that are not trying to solve a problem but are purposely trying to ‘hit you where it hurts’ to get their way. This is a manipulation tactic by a bully, and is a huge indicator that the client maybe should be fired.

These clients often use being upset as a guise/cover for being manipulative. They throw in small subtle lines that are indications they ‘have your number’ like asking for the spelling of your full name, or your registration number. They may try to get you to make promises or 100% guarantees, on either estimates or patient recovery, even when you have stated you cannot tell them 100%. They may try to get you to blame someone else, either their vet, the emerg vet, or another vet in your practice. These clients are sneaky, and often waver between being apologetic and lovely, and aggressive and abusive, depending on who they have talked to most recently.

Clients that want a discount for everything, despite a resolution to a case that was discussed with owners (positive or negative) at an agreed upon price, are ones that aren’t worth your time. If they constantly call looking for discounts, and their only argument is that ‘this was a lot of money’…. then that client is not valuing your services. You should always value your own services enough to charge clients what you are worth! If you give in once, you will give in again and again.

Those clients that, no matter what you do, will complain about something, can be huge emotional drains. You know the ones… the dog that comes in dying with a GDV so you do surgery and save the dog, dog goes home great, and the owner complains that the shaving line isn’t straight, or that the dog has a bruise on his leg where the IVC was in place. Anything to complain, anything to try to belittle the staff. You know those clients, the ones that think that if they complain then they have the upper hand and you are at their mercy. This is a toxic presence that is just not necessary.

This should go without saying. If you have a client that is treating any member of your staff inappropriately due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, or is behaving a way that puts your staff at unease, they need to be fired.

Clients that want to dictate exactly what medicine is performed based on their uneducated google information, and refuse to take the advice of the professionals you hired… are not worth it. These clients add undue stress to your associates, and are very commonly ones that threaten litigation because they feel they ‘know’ better. They want medications without consults because they ‘already know what’s wrong.’ They don’t comply with the guidelines that you set out for procedures or medications, changing doses as they see fit instead of what is medically appropriate, and they often have already given medication that you cannot figure out where they obtained it. If a client isn’t going to trust in your services, and wants to play ‘vet’, let them do it elsewhere.

For more details on this see our Customers vs. Clients blog!

If a client has repeatedly not paid their bills, fire them! You cannot work for free, your business will fail. You can always set up an agreement that once the bills are paid in full you can have that client return. (You will likely find they have outstanding invoices at more than just your clinic.)

Clients that say abusive things like “you don’t care about the animals”, “you want to see them die”, “you are only in it for the money” etc. should also be fired. You, and your staff, are not in this profession to hurt, or see animals hurt. Businesses need money to stay open, and you aren’t evil for that fact to be true. Do NOT tolerate these clients. Being upset does NOT give anyone the right to be mean and abusive. It is NOT an OK excuse- but we so often let clients get away with it because they were ‘upset’. You can be upset, and be emotional, without being abusive. Clients that say terrible things like that are not just upset, they are abusive, and abuse should not be tolerated.

No list will cover every type of crazy out there. There are those clients that are just down-right, bat-sh*t crazy. Some clients will come to you and try to use you as a personal therapist to discuss their lives, some clients will come in drunk or high, some clients will constantly trying to get you to perform Reiki instead of giving antibiotics for their septic patient. How much these clients affect you, your staff, and your business will vary. Some will just be entertaining, but some will be draining.
Image depiction of Pareto's Principle displaying the 80/20 rule
Remove the 20% of your clients that take 80% of your effort on non-important tasks.
Apply Pareto’s 80/20 rule to your business. 80% of your business will be generated by 20% of your clients, and 80% of your complaints will be from 20% of your clients. If you change your interactions and dealings, and remove those 20% of clients that make-up 80% of your complaints, your stress and your valuable time, can instead be focussed on improving your practice for the 20% of those clients that actually bring value to your business!

Does your clinic fire these soul-sucking, time consuming and unprofitable clients??

See the other blogs in this series including WHY you should fire clients and HOW to fire clients.
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published June 26th, 2020

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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