Podcast #44

message in a bottle on the beach
As much as we may want to just put a message in a bottle and hope the terrible client gets the message and goes away, we need to be more direct than that!
KICK ASS clinics fire clients that are constant drains on their staff. It’s good for business to remove these toxic clients from your business! See our blogs on WHY Firing Clients is a good idea, and also WHICH Clients You Should Fire.

Now that you are on-board, and you have identified a client that you need to fire… how do you actually go about doing it??

There is a process, and the process will vary depending on the scenario:
Current Clients- Hospitalized Patients:
For the patient that is in hospital currently, and you need to get them out ASAP because the client is being unacceptably abusive:

Firstly, if you can, call your manager/owner and have them call or come in to talk to the client. Having a person of authority, as well as a person that is not already emotionally drained and invested, is incredibly helpful. If this isn’t possible, have the person of highest authority and seniority, and ideally someone unrelated to the case, talk to the client.

Ensure you have a WITNESS present for all conversations, and if you do record any conversations make sure you have informed the client of this before hand! If the conversation occurs in your clinic, make sure it is in a private exam room, but have two staff members present.

“Hello Mr. Smith.
I know that Fluffy is currently in hospital with us, and that there have been some complications regarding your satisfaction with the level of care we are providing. I feel that it would be best for all involved for you to transfer Fluffy to another hospital for ongoing care. We do not feel that it is in our staffs’, or your, best interest to continue with Fluffy’s care here. There are many clinics in the area in which you can transfer Fluffy, or if you would prefer we can transfer Fluffy for you. Please let us know which clinic you would like Fluffy transferred to, and we will send the complete medical record to ensure Fluffy continues to get the care he needs. We will need this decision to be made, along with either your collection of Fluffy, or the clinic in which you would like us to transfer Fluffy to, within the next 2 hours. The final invoice here is . You can either pay that now with me now (either over the phone or in person), or if you prefer we can send you a bill in the mail.”
It is important to have the manager either collect the invoice amount, or inform the owner that a bill will be sent. Do NOT have the staff responsible for getting money from this client. Also, it is important to set a time-frame for the owners, especially if they are not currently in the clinic. Having the manager follow up with the client if they haven’t called back within the allotted time is important, and having a ‘back up plan’ and conversation for if the owner just disappears is important. Make sure you have informed the owner of this ‘back up plan’ when you have them on the phone. This includes costs of ongoing care in your clinic if they do not pick up the pet, or if you are an emergency centre transfer back to their regular vet. The ‘back up plan’ will vary depending on the situation. If the animal is stable and doesn’t require ongoing medical care, this can include bringing the pet to the pound.

If the client is not in hospital, having the clinic transfer the patient to the new hospital can avoid awkward or possibly aggressive interactions. Make sure you call the next clinic first to ensure they are OK to take over your transfer though, and ensure the client has spoken with the next clinic, so that you won’t be accused of ‘dropping their dog off at a random place.’ If this is not possible, have the client come pick up the patient.

Have the manager present if possible, and if not have at least 2 staff members present at all times near that client. If the client has been aggressive/physically abusive, you may require the police to be present.

In these conversations do NOT negotiate, and do NOT bargain or get into arguments or discussions. This is NOT the time. If the owner is not willing to pay the invoice, just say OK, we will be invoicing you. You can simply reply “this is not negotiable, we will not be having a discussion about this topic.” If a manager cannot be present, and the client is picking up their pet, instruct staff to simply say, “you can contact our manager with any other comments or complaints.” Instruct staff to NOT get into discussions or conversations with the client, and to never be alone with the client.

Record, record, record. Ensure you have documented fully, clearly, completely, and in detail, about any conversations that occurred throughout the duration of the patients care, that led to this decision. Document clearly what steps were taken, and what was said to clients. Record who witnessed the conversations as well. Ensure this is part of your medical record.
Current Clients- Not Hospitalized Patients:
For clients that are just constant drains, or if they have been abusive for the last tolerable time, but they are not in the clinic and their animal is currently healthy/stable, you can simply send a letter.

Make sure the letter you send is certified or registered, and get a ‘return receipt’ which is a small piece of paper that is mailed back to you once the letter has been delivered. In this way you have proof that the owner has received the letter and you have done your due diligence for your patient.

Your letter should give the client ~2weeks to find another clinic. You can be polite, succinct, and keep the letter vague. Don’t feel you need to make excuses, give details, or provide any information beyond the basic ‘we won’t be serving you anymore.’ You have likely already spent hours and hours justifying yourself and your clinic to these clients, and no further information is required.

“Dear Mr. Smith,
It has become apparent that you no longer feel that our team at [Your Clinic’s Name] is providing you the care and service your are looking for in regards to your pet(s) [list all pet names]. For this reason we feel that it is best for you to seek veterinary care at a different hospital for [list all pet names] in the future. We will continue to provide veterinary care for [list all pet names] until [date- 2 weeks from now]. After this point we will no longer be able to accommodate your veterinary needs.

Please let us know which clinic you choose to take [list all pet names] to, and we will send over all the medical records.

Currently you have an outstanding invoice with our clinic of [outstanding bill]. We have mailed you an invoice. Please pay this by [date - 6 weeks from now], beyond this time we will send the invoice to collections.

Thank you for your time with [Your Clinic’s Name], and we hope the best for yourself and [list pets names].”
Records: Make sure you put a note in the records explaining why, how and what was said to the clients regarding this decision.
New ‘Walk-In’ Clients:
If you have a new client to your clinic walk in, and is immediately abusive, belittling, etc. and you feel that this isn’t something that is worth your clinic’s time or energy, sometimes it’s better to just suggest that a different clinic might be better off from the get-go!

You can simply state the truth to these clients.

“Mr. Smith.
It is apparent that you don’t feel that the service I am providing is what you would like for Fluffy. I am sorry about this as Fluffy is lovely and I would love to be part of his care. However, due to how our interactions have been so far, and your attitude towards the service I am providing and offering, I do not feel comfortable continuing with his treatment at this point in time. Here is a list of other local hospitals where Fluffy might find care that is better suited to your ideas and expectations.”
Don’t charge a consult, just ask them to take their pet and go!  Make sure you record the full extend of the conversations clearly, and in a detailed manner, in your medical notes!

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

Published July 10th, 2020

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

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