Tackling the misinformed client and winning them over.
So, I find myself sat here after listening to a piece on LBC recently as I am now ‘of age’. The article was explaining why there has been a surge in measles in the USA (300 cases in January 2019 alone) and why it is of such a concern.
Partly to blame is social media allowing a lay person to convince other lay people not to vaccinate their children with MMR due to the link with autism (cheers Dr Mr Wakefield). Unfortunately there is an international cohort who believe that vaccines are more dangerous than contracting the diseases they are designed to prevent. This has now spread across to the veterinary world where animals are unvaccinated due to reports of subsequent diseases/illnesses caused by the vaccine, and there are also clients not giving appropriate flea/worm treatment for similar reasons.
The layman posts range from the benign ‘I only treat for fleas when I see one’ a comment frequently also made by vets and vet nurses(!) through to puppies not having any vaccinations – including parvo, catching the virus and then…I think we all know what the likely outcome is.
So how do we deal with these clients? The ones leaving their pets vulnerable to a whole array of diseases?
We need to think about human nature and the different ways in which we learn. One way we learn is cause and effect, trying to make links between inputs and outcomes. If you took your car to a garage for an MOT and within 3 days something went wrong with the car, would you think ‘ho hum, it happens, it’s just a coincidence that it happened days after the car was in the garages care’ or would you try and blame the garage and make a link, perhaps they loosened a screw without realising? Perhaps they even did it on purpose to get me to go back and spend more money? It must have been the garage as if there was an issue, the garage would have picked up on it three days ago and done something about it – can you see when I’m going with this?
Firstly, it is important not to lecture or reprimand the client for their beliefs, putting yourself in the situation above, how would you feel being lectured by a mechanic telling you that you are wrong and making you stupid. These clients have a fear and as irrational you may this it is – it is a fear. We all have these fears and a telling off or a ‘it’s fine’ does not change our mind.
Think of an irrational fear you have, if you don’t think you have one you can borrow mine. I have an irrational fear of water – there could be sharks in there ready to bit/eat me! This is a fear to the point that I will go ankle deep into open water and no further. My friends think it is hilarious as they swim out to sea and I sit biting my nails until they come back to shore, I don’t want them to be bitten by a shark either. They’ve said to me that I am silly, we live in the UK, I am not going to get bitten by a shark. It’s is the same with your clients. Being told your beliefs are wrong is not a way to overcome the fear! The thousands of animals you have vaccinated without an issue is of no currency to them as they have seen thousands of animals on social media become unwell – although in 99% of cases it is not related to the vaccine, they have been told it is related.
Try asking them (tactfully) why they feel that way, listen to their concerns and fears and put yourself in their shoes. It’s likely that their argument is invalid and based on information found on Google, social media or from their breeders but that is how they feel and what they believe, a telling off will only make their beliefs stronger as you will be seen trying to push your opinions onto them.
Ask yourself ‘Are you all prepared?’ from your day one receptionist to your senior clinician you should all be able to listen to clients and give appropriate advice. Whilst I appreciate your ‘day one’ receptionist cannot give any clinical information, they should be able and prepared to see the warning signs, listen and refer, know what to say and more importantly – know what not to say.
Are your flea and worm protocols streamlined and does everyone in the practice know the protocol and options? The recent refashioning of flea tablets has bought with it many ‘INSERT FLEA TABLET killed my dog’ stories on social media. If your main protocol is ‘INSERT FLEA TABLET’ and a scared client calls, do you/your staff know what warning signs to look for and what other products are available to suit, if not you may have just lost yourself a client. If this client was simply looking for a spot on and was not offered it, where is this client going to go next? The local pet shop? eBay? To the breeder? This could be worse than using no flea/worm treatment at all as there is a lot of incorrect and potentially harmful advice out there.
Sincerity is also a key player in this conversation, a phrase I like to remember is that ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’. Their objections are genuine so your response and actions should be too. Lecturing them on the implications of not using certain treatments will fall on deaf ears, you really need to find out the root of the objections and professionally try and overcome them.
Correct online literature can be an aid too, if they client is going to use the internet try to sway them towards your own website if you have a section on there of the importance of preventative treatment.
One final conversation to have with the is the potential of humans being at risk from living with untreated animals, especially if there are children in the household. This can really get the owners attention and encourage them to rethink their position on not using preventative treatments.
How can Chunk help you to help your clients – we have specific courses on Winning the Client, The Art of Persuasion, and customised courses to ensure your staff are up to date on your flea and worm protocol. As an industry we can all work together to help the client, why not give us a go?