What customers want versus what customers need

As veterinarians, we’re taught to advise clients about what they need.  We learn a lot of science and medicine that leads to diagnosing a problem and then fixing it by prescribing the solution.   Even when we’re asked about preventive medicine, we tell clients what they need, and we don’t like it when they don’t ‘comply’.

We hear a lot about compliance in veterinary practice management.  Compliance is essentially the measure of how many clients do what we tell them to do.  If they don’t comply we find ways to remind them to do so.  Improving compliance is intended to keep patient populations healthier and to improve the financial results of the practice. 

What we as veterinarians are often not good at is listening to what the client wants.  We are so focused on getting them to do what we think they should do that we don’t listen to what they truly want.  What we’re recommending may be exactly what gets them what they want, but if we don’t listen to their wants and needs, we never appropriately educate them in a way that says ‘I hear you’, ‘I understand what you want’, and ‘by doing what I recommend, you will satisfy what you want’.

Instead, our communications and services are often structured to fit our needs, our schedules, and our budgets.  Clients perceive that their needs and our needs aren’t necessarily compatible, and thus we lose client trust.

To provide an exemplary service, practice listening, and listen without an agenda.  If you find yourself wanting to answer the client’s question before they are done speaking, then you’ve finished listening before they finished speaking.  Listen authentically, and then address what the client wants.  You will find that client loyalty will improve, and they will think that you are the smartest and most compassionate veterinarian they’ve ever met.  To take it a step further, have your team read the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  It will strengthen your team’s listening and communications skills dramatically.

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