Don’t underestimate the power of the Human-Animal Bond

I have done several radio interviews over the last couple months, usually highlighting our new website, which is a great public resource for people looking for a veterinarian. If you haven’t registered your practice or recently updated your information on, please do so today!

Two interesting stories I heard this month are related to and how important it is for us to make good impressions with our clients. They are worth repeating. The first one is from a radio talk-show host; the second one comes from my mother.

When I called into the radio show, the radio personality proceeded to tell me her story. When she had originally moved to the area, her cat had become ill. She went to the first veterinarian she could find. That doctor proceeded to tell her (as she recalled it – remember, perception of what happened is the truth in our minds) that “her cat was very ill and she could either take it home to die or leave it with them.” We all know this may not have been the way it was truly communicated, but that is how she vividly remembers it. She was devastated. She got a second opinion and found someone who seemed more empathetic, and helped her cat live another eight months. She was extremely grateful for that time.

My mother has a middle-aged cat named Socrates. She called me a couple weeks ago to tell me her cat had been diagnosed with kidney failure, and she was obviously upset. You need to understand that my mother, whom I love dearly, loves her animals dearly. Yet she is the first person to complain about the cost! All she ever remembers is “the bill for not much information.”

After some conversation, I used to refer her to someone who was perhaps a bit more knowledgeable (or possibly more empathetic) in small-animal care. The bill was $250, four times what she had paid previously. But this time, the veterinarian (and or staff) spent 1 ½ hours with her, explained everything, and my mother was very impressed.  She never complained about the bill. All she remembered was the compassion of the people talking to her and how they so gently handled Socrates. She felt valued and listened to.

Even though today we find ourselves amid challenging economic times, there is still an amazing love affair going on between people (of all kinds) and animals (of all kinds). We are the very fortunate ones who can help both the animals and the people, in a wide variety of ways, whether as general or specialty practitioners (no matter the species), researchers, policy makers or through our military services to name a few.

Even with all our medical knowledge, our communication skills are the most important. Understanding the genuine ability to communicate with all types of people with empathy and understanding will be one of many solutions for our national strategy to improve the economic viability of veterinary medicine. It is all about how much value one sees in our services and how important we make our clients feel.

If we are going to elevate veterinary medicine economically, we must all excel at these communication skills, in how to communicate the value of our services and to make each client feel important and special. Think about your “WOW” moments in customer service somewhere. Now turn that around for your own clients, whoever they may be.

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