Customer service

6 tips for managing a difficult client in a vet clinic

3 minutes
Tech with a dog
Published on February 01, 2022

It is only 10:00 a.m., but you have already disinfected your counter 4 times, greeted 3 regular customers and handled 2 phone emergencies. None of your coworkers will be available to help you in the next 30 minutes.

Just then, Paul walks in with his dog, who has a potential urinary tract infection. He has tried unsuccessfully to get an appointment with 4 clinics before coming to you. He is stressed out, unhappy, and most of all, he doesn’t want to wait until you are free to take care of him and his dog.

Here are 6 tips on what you can do to handle this delicate situation.


1. Look for signs of stress

When you approach an animal, you can probably tell if it is scared or stressed. But are you as good at reading your clients’ mood?

Take Paul’s situation: he barges into the clinic, doesn’t say hello, and is fidgety. He talks rapidly and doesn’t maintain eye contact. He is clearly worried about his dog. If you detect this kind of stress in your client, be sure to let them know that you’ve seen them and will attend to them soon.

Client inquiet dans une salle d'attente

2. Be an active listener  

Once you’re free, ask your client to explain the problem to you. Adopt an active listening approach by not interrupting them, asking them questions, rephrasing their requests and confirming that you’ve understood. Physical gestures such as nodding your head also send the message that you’re listening.


3. Show empathy

If your client is worried about their pet, tell them that you understand the situation and what they are feeling. If you’ve already experienced something similar with your own pet, mentioning that will show them that you empathize. Keep an open posture: avoid crossing your arms and look them in the eye.

If you are able to schedule an appointment for their pet, tell them what the clinic will do to ensure that their experience is as pleasant as possible. Reassure your client by asking questions about their pet’s habits or by indicating that the type of procedure required usually goes very well.


4. Stay calm

Even if it’s difficult, try to remain calm and avoid responding to the client’s negative comments. It’s important to keep an even tone of voice, especially if they are speaking loudly. Remind yourself that their anger is not directed at you and that you can turn things around by remaining positive and composed.

📞 A difficult client on the line?

If you detect that a client is impatient on the phone, make reassuring and positive comments such as “I understand,” “I will be happy to help you,” and “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Vétérinaire au téléphone

5. Propose a solution 

You have listened to your client’s request or frustration. The next step is to make sure you respond quickly by proposing a solution.

The client would have preferred to get an earlier appointment? Tell them that you will call them if another client cancels or give them the contact information of a referral centre in the region where they could be seen more rapidly. They think they’ve been charged too much for their pet’s care? Let them know if your clinic offers a payment plan, for example.

The important thing is to offer a solution as quickly as possible in order to alleviate your client’s frustration and demonstrate your sincere willingness to help.


6. Know what to do if the situation escalates

You’ve tried everything, but your client is still unhappy and the pressure is mounting? Apply the escalation procedure established in your vet clinic.

If you don’t have any, it’s important to create one so that you know when and how the clinic manager should intervene if a client continues to insist… or becomes outright aggressive.


You have control over how your interactions play out 

By staying positive throughout your conversation with your client, by reassuring them and showing that you understand them, you can maximize the chances of dialling down the tension and facilitating the conversation.

Not sure what to do? Consulting a more experienced colleague can make all the difference. And above all, don’t let a client like Paul make you forget all the other people who put a smile on your face!

For more tips, don’t hesitate to read our other articles!