As you may already be aware, a large number of the employees working at Animana have a background in the field of animal care. Like you, we too decided at a certain point in our lives to turn our love for animals into our profession. However, despite our extensive studies and internships, we still held the romantic notion that our work would mainly involve caring for animals. What we didn’t anticipate was that dealing with pet owners would take up a significant portion, around 80-90%, of our daily work schedule.
You can learn to communicate
Communication with pet owners can be challenging at times. Conversations don’t always go as planned, and sometimes we may not be prepared for all the questions or even the behaviour of the owner. In some cases, the owner’s conduct may be considered transgressive, and, understandably, such experiences can be overwhelming.
At the reception desk, you are, as it were, the border guard of your practice, and it’s often a place where emotions play a major role. While you may be ready with answers for billing-related queries, you may also encounter (verbally) aggressive customers. It’s handling these situations which would have been helpful to learn during training. Fortunately, nowadays, the topic of inappropriate behaviour has received more attention and is open to discussion.
Communication is an art
If you learnt one thing in physics, it’s probably that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and that’s true for communication as well. When someone someone is rude, or adopts an intimidating attitude, as a representative of the practice, you need to take action. Unlike physics though, communication is truly an art which needs to be practiced.
Not only what you say, but also how you say it makes a world of difference. Generally, the aim is to manage a conversation, keeping it calm and focussed with the goal to turn the situation around so that the customer still experiences it as a pleasant conversation. Easier said than done.
Fortunately, the best way to get better is through practice. And while we don’t recommend you practice on customers, try role-playing with colleagues (it can feel embarrassing to ask, but it’s almost guaranteed they will feel the same!). Here are a couple of scenarios to try:
- A pet owner who has arrived 30 minutes late for the appointment, and demands to get the appointment still
- A pet owner feels they have been charged incorrectly
Here are some tips for handling these scenarios:
- Let them finish what they are saying. If this involves a long, drawn-out rant, so be it
- Maintain a polite and professional manner, using positive language, and don’t argue
- Remind the customer you want to solve the problem
- Break down the steps needed to resolve the issue
- Be honest about what you can do
- Get help: don’t be afraid of passing the problem on to your manager or a colleague who is more experienced
- Don’t take the abuse personally
Handling abusive customers can be a challenging and intimidating task. Nonetheless, by adhering to these tips, you can defuse the situation and ensure your safety and protection. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and resources and individuals are available to assist you.
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