Veterinary Customer Service Basics: 3 Things You NEED to Know


    It’s no secret that customer service is a key component of nearly every veterinary hospital’s success… or failure.  

    As consumers, we have many options on where we can acquire goods and services. So why do we remain loyal customers to our favorite businesses?  I’d bet customer service is one of the top reasons on your list. 

    If you were to ask someone: 

    “How do you provide excellent customer service?”

    You’d probably get answers like these: 

    • “Smile!”
    • “Say hello!”
    • “Ask what they need help with.”

    These answers are obvious, and still very important, BUT they are just sitting on the surface of what it means to have good customer service. These three things will earn you some points, but won’t necessarily help you to retain clients. 

    In order to build a fiercely loyal customer base, we have to look deeper into what excellent customer service really entails. That’s why I decided to offer a FOUR part veterinary coaching series on customer service, and this is part ONE! In this series, I’ll delve into several different best practices and strategies that will ensure you deliver an exceptional customer service experience to everyone who walks through your door, which will keep them coming back for life!

    Just like any other skill you want to master, there are certain behaviors that are the foundation of delivering outstanding customer service.  These things might seem like common sense to you or I, but have you observed your team to make sure they’re happening? I bet if you did, you’d realize you don’t seem them as consistently as you might think. So, what are the veterinary customer service basics you should do for every pet, every client, every time?

    1. Smile.  

    Yup, this one is also on my list! Believe it or not, I’ve worked in multiple practices where a receptionist, a doctor, or a vet assistant simply did not smile very often in their interactions.  It wasn’t something they did on purpose, nor did it mean they were unhappy or rude. It just simply didn’t happen. As a result, they came across as cold and distant, when I knew that was far from the truth – they cared about their patients a great deal.  

    The behavior, for them, was something they had to make a conscious effort at. They also just never had anyone in leadership point this out to them so that they could work on it. Some clients truly look for that warm, welcoming smile to make them feel comfortable. 

    For myself, I started to realize that the more frequently I smiled, the more natural it became, and it actually helped me to be happier throughout the day. That made a huge impact on how I showed up to work for me, my team, and our clients.

    2. Acknowledge Them.  

    Nothing is worse than standing at a counter waiting for an employee to acknowledge your presence.  Let’s face it:  it’s uncomfortable and pretty annoying.  

    Be aware of your surroundings and acknowledge your clients! Even if you’re helping someone and another person comes up in line behind them, offer a simple “I’ll be right with you” or a little wave/smile/nod in their direction. If a client is waiting in an exam room, pop your head in to give them a little update on when they can expect a doctor. Make them feel seen! 

    3. Use Names…Including Yours!

    Taking care of people’s pets is a personal experience, so we should always address our clients and pets by their names. It’s an easy way to show your client that you value them.  You know exactly who is coming in when and with what pet – it’s right there on the schedule! Greeting them by name should be the easiest part of your day. If you aren’t sure how to pronounce a name, just ask! They’ll appreciate that you took the time to get it right.  Make a note in their chart for next time so that you and your team can get it right next time.

    Furthermore, tell them YOUR name and what you do at the hospital. It will help you both feel more connected! 

    Now that we have started with some really basic tasks to look for within your hospital, go back and watch your team. Are they as consistent as you thought? Is there opportunity for growth? Work on a system to master these basics, and then we will move on to Part Two: “The Silent Message”!

    Chris Henning
    Chris Henning – Hippo Manager Practice Coach

    Chris Henning has been in the veterinary field for over 10 years, her specialties including wellness plan implementation, change management, professional development, and customer service. She believes in providing the highest level of medical care to pets and clients, while developing teams to perform at their highest potential. Chris is passionate about helping other veterinary leaders expand their own leadership skills to increase their own team engagement and financial success.


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