Lack of compliance is not your clients’ fault

Dec 27, 2016 by Edward L. Blach, DVM, MS, MBA

The veterinary industry talks a lot about compliance.  The word 'compliance' signals that someone is supposed to do what someone else expects or has advised them to do.  Lack of compliance then, would typically be looked at as a failure of adherence to what they were told to do.  In veterinary medicine, the veterinarian tells the client what they should do such as how often to treat and how much medicine to give their animal.  Additional compliance topics are the proper frequency for follow-up exams and tests, immunizations, and other wellness or preventive medicine tasks.

Where the conflict arises is when we, as doctors, simply expect clients to do what we tell them to do rather than spending the time to determine what the client really wants, and then working to deliver it.  This is the classic conflict of a client versus a customer.  We serve both.  Ours is a professional relationship (client), but there are many choices for animal owners to make when seeking care for their animals (customer).  

So, how do we reconcile the conflict between a client versus customer approach, or in other words, a compliance versus a service approach?  We have to seek to provide optimal care, telling our clients what they should do, once we know what their objectives are for seeking your help.  Then, we must communicate, over and over, to ensure that clients are reminded what to do, when to do it, and why.  Ultimately, our clients want to know what is the right thing to do.  We must continually educate, remind, and serve.  That is our role.  We aren't merely experts whom everyone should listen to and obey.  We are service providers and educators.  Compliance plays a big role in the success of a practice, but compliance is our responsibility, not our clients.  It is up to us to help them do what we recommend is best.

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