Top 5 Client Pet Peeves

Jessica Goodman Lee, CVPM, Veterinary Credit Plans, Irvine, California

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Top 5 Client Pet Peeves

Every practice team can easily come up with a list of pet peeves about clients, but let's turn the tables. What do we do—or not do—that drives clients crazy? More importantly, are we driving clients away? The number of new clients is declining at many practices,1 so every team member should be aware of and avoid clients' most common pet peeves to ensure client loyalty. 

In the author’s opinion, the following are clients’ top 5 pet peeves. 


Lack of Information

Where have they gone and what are they doing to my pet?

Some practices try to make up for inexperienced or too few team members by taking the patient away for treatment, leaving the client alone in the examination room wondering what is being done to his or her pet that could be taking so long. That awful scream sounded just like my cat! 

Always perform services in the examination room unless a client specifically requests he or she not be present. If that is impossible, ask permission to take the pet away and let the client know exactly what will be done and how long it will take.

Visual Aids Help Clients See

Do your client education materials need an overhaul? Ask for volunteers to update your handouts to better communicate the message.
Do you use visual aids to help communicate the importance of these services? People think and hear in pictures, so visual aids can help clients see the light.

SOURCE: Benchmarks 2015: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. Columbus, OH: WTA Veterinary Consultants & Advanstar Publishing; 2016:43.


Lack of Education 

What is a CBC, why did Corky need it, and why did it cost so much? 

Clients do not like surprises. Do not surprise them with a bill for services they do not understand or costs they were not expecting. Clients want to do what is best for their pet, but they need to be educated so they can make the best treatment decisions possible based on their resources. Surprising clients with a bill for services they do not understand will leave them questioning what was done and whether it was worth it. 

Give clients detailed explanations of the recommended services, the cost, and the value. Such guidance will speak volumes and give the correct perception of the care and its value. 

Build a Patient-Focused Team

Start every morning with a 10- to 15-minute meeting during which team members ask veterinarians questions about the importance of performing tests and procedures. Use several of these meetings to role-play a mock client interaction with a team member. An office of patient-focused team members with the skills and confidence to educate clients will enhance client service, patient care, and practice revenue.

SOURCE: Benchmarks 2016: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. Columbus, OH: WTA Veterinary Consultants & Advanstar Publishing; 2016:28.


Failure to Provide Documentation 

I do not remember any of the instructions Dr. Smith gave me!

Clients become frustrated when they are not given written instructions (eg, a written treatment plan with recommendations for the pet’s care, detailed discharge sheet, preventive-care visit report card). 

When clients are asked later by a family member what the veterinarian said, they will be even more frustrated when they have no answer.

Client education should be provided not only at the practice—clients also need documentation at home to make the best decisions and provide the best care for their pets.


Lack of Caring 

What really happened while I was gone?

When a client picks up his or her pet following treatment, surgery, or boarding and the pet looks or smells worse than when he or she arrived, the practice is telling the client the pet was not properly cared for. A client whose cat smells like urine, or whose dog strains at the leash to go outside and find a patch of grass where he or she can urinate, would be understandably concerned the animal was in the cage all day. 

Mantra No. 1 Pets should always leave the practice looking and feeling better than when they arrived.


Failure to Delegate

I have to ask the manager.

Upset clients do not want to hear this—they want the issue resolved by the team member with whom they are speaking.

Clients admire businesses that train and empower team members to handle and resolve their immediate problems.2 This requires frequent, consistent training on client service and practice expectations and, most importantly, leaders who openly demonstrate expected communication protocols. Allow team members to make mistakes without fear of punishment. If a situation should be handled differently, teach team members the preferred way to solve the problem and turn it into a learning experience. 

Mantra No. 2 Empower team members to resolve issues so clients never leave the practice without being heard and offered a resolution. 


Pet peeves may be considered small annoyances, but small things can add up to big things. Big things may result in unwanted action (eg, a client seeking care for his or her pet at another practice). On the other hand, fixing small irritations can positively affect the practice and client relationships.

1 At a team meeting, list the pet peeves clients may have about the practice. Brainstorm as a team or in small groups about changes that would eliminate the issues.

2 Invite clients to meet with an independent facilitator to share the good and the bad about the practice and recommend ways to improve. No practice team member can attend! Caveat: Team members must be willing to listen and make changes.

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