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As any service worker knows well, irate clients are inevitable. And although vets are geared toward providing service for animals, it doesn’t mean that we’re immune from the wrath of stressed-out, truly aggrieved or just plain mean owners.
In fact, I often like to tell my staff that, if given the choice, I’ll always take my chances with customers wielding teeth and claws over those who brandish loud voices and checkbooks. The latter menace is far more likely to ruin my day because, in the case of my patients, I can always lean on the fact that they tend to have a good excuse: They’re animals.
It’s zero fun when owners explode. Most of the time, their angry rants are aimed at no one and everyone. And you’d be surprised at the fairly innocuous issues that typically occasion these eruptions, like, “How could you not have my cat’s food in stock?” and “What do you mean I can’t get heartworm medication without an annual heartworm test. That’s a scam!” (Our policy is that dogs must have annual heartworm checks before receiving this prescription medication. It’s the manufacturer’s safety recommendation, so no exceptions.)
But even when it’s something truly substantive, such as when disputes arise over finances and fees, it can be frustrating to manage angry emotions. This is why I’ve got a process for handling them — and here’s how we do it at my clinic:
In every place of work, service industry or otherwise, there’s always one staff member who’s good at deflecting stress and soothing the angrily overwrought. In our hospital, this talented individual is the office manager.
Our designated human finds a way to always listen attentively to the angry client, and somehow (mostly) manages to look past the venom to the source of the problem.
The customer is always correct. And even when they’re not, they’re still treated as if they have a good point. That’s why meeting a client more than half way is almost always in order, regardless of who’s right.
If a client is truly irate in a borderline disrespectful way, our office manager won’t hesitate to lay on a thick layer of sugary rebuke that only a mother of three can muster: “I think I understand you, but let’s start over without all the foul language, so I can help us get to a solution.”
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