Training Your Team to Help With Client Compliance

When I started working in the veterinary industry, I assumed that determining the right patient care was the biggest challenge I would face. In reality, I found the bigger problem was client compliance with my team's medical recommendations. Our clients are the gatekeepers to care and, unless we can convince them to accept our advice, patients don't receive the care they need, we see poorer medical outcomes, and the team can become frustrated as they are unable to help their patients. Here are a few compliance challenges I've found in my practices and how to address them through more targeted team training.

Address the Reasons Clients Don't Comply

When I discussed the issue with my team, the response defined compliance as a client problem: We had "good clients" who always comply with recommendations and "bad clients" who we could never reach. While there are differences between clients, this perspective lets the team off the hook and abdicates our responsibility to provide the best patient care. Digging a little deeper into my team's positive and negative experiences, we identified three key areas that lead clients to push back and the approaches we could use to address them.

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1. Lack of Understanding

Medical treatments and diagnostics can be complicated. While everyone who works at your practice should know why bloodwork is important — both as part of regular preventive care and as a diagnostic tool — most of your clients won't. It doesn't matter if you're presenting a set of recommendations at a routine checkup or delivering a sensitive message about a sick patient, you need to explain it to your client in a way they understand.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid using medical jargon. Use smaller words to convey the same message.
  • Focus on how. Be specific about how this recommendation will help the patient.
  • Make your message relevant. Don't generalize about treatments. Convey the impact a treatment will have on the individual patient.
  • Phrase your questions wisely. Instead of asking clients if they need preventive care, ask if they need six or twelve months' worth of protection. Clients are likely to select one of the options you give them.

2. Lack of Trust

Building relationships with your clients is key to their acceptance of your recommendations. From price differences between practices and online pharmacies to inconsistent standards of care, trust decreases each time a client thinks you don't have their best interests at heart.

The first step in building client relationships is making sure your whole team is on the same page. Clients will quickly pick up on disagreement or inconsistent approaches. To avoid this, you need to agree on and document your standards of care, addressing any issues behind the scenes, not in the exam room.

Don't forget that there are plenty of opportunities to reach your clients, even when they aren't at your practice. Use regular social media posts to provide free advice or engage in community events to stay in your clients' minds. Recognizing you and your practice as part of their lives will help clients to view you in a positive light outside the stressful environment of the exam room.

3. Perceived Lack of Value

Clients' perceptions of value and cost have a significant impact on their willingness to follow recommendations. Oftentimes when a client pushes back on cost, their real concern is that they don't perceive sufficient value.

Invest time explaining the benefits of your recommendations to help bridge that gap. A powerful tool to support preventive patient care is comparing the cost of prevention to the cost of treatment. For example, a technician can show a client how regular dental care not only helps a pet live a longer, happier life but also helps them avoid unexpected costs for more serious dental issues that develop over time.

Unfortunately, there are going to be cases where a client simply can't pay for the best treatment plan. Make sure your practice has access to multiple payment options, including credit cards, Scratchpay or CareCredit, and has clear rules for other options. If you allow clients to carry a balance, develop a written credit approval process and follow it consistently with all clients. Avoiding one-time decisions prevents inadvertent discrimination and avoids confusion for your team members.

Train Your Team to Ensure Client Compliance

Practice makes perfect, and giving your team time to flex their communication skills will help them to deliver recommendations to clients. Use your regular team meetings to run through scenarios, client feedback, and challenges that the team is facing. Then, working from your standards of care, create consistent messaging that your practice will use in these situations, so that clients get the same experience and trust regardless of who they talk to:

  • Create "say this, not that" lists. For instance, using the term "internal parasite screening" explains what the service actually is much better than "fecal." Try to have everyone use the same clear, customer-focused terminology.
  • Inspire confidence through knowledge. Train your team in the how and why of each service you offer. When staff can explain their recommendations with confidence, they help to build client trust.
  • Role-play client interactions. Break into pairs and play the roles of client and technician to get familiar with using the words, so they feel fluid.
  • Use recordings. Listen to actual client calls to see what you're doing well and where you can improve.

When clients can't accept our recommendations, pets suffer and it saps team morale. Truthfully, we can't always reach every client and we know there are roadblocks to compliance, but having a well-trained team and consistent approach to treatment will improve your success rate.

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Des Whittall
Practice Manager

Des Whittall is an owner and manager of two veterinary clinics and pet resorts in Texas. A software engineer by training, he worked with an investment bank for 13 years in roles ranging from technical support to business divestment, managing large international teams and complex vendor relationships. With his partner, he has grown the clinics and resorts and is focused on developing businesses that can provide high-quality medicine and development opportunities for their teams.

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