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What Does Mediation Mean? Is it Compromise and Forgoing My Outstanding Fees?

Feb 02, 2017
Complaints can often be received by a practice when reminders are sent for outstanding payments and bills. This is common in many professions. It may appear as though a client has not raised any concern and then when pressed for payment or action is taken, they respond to say they have not paid because they are unhappy. This is frustrating for Veterinary Professionals and can appear to confuse genuine client concerns with those seeking to reduce or avoid their payments. 

In these situations, there are common scenarios:
 
  • The client has not been inclined to raise a concern and they have tried to avoid the issue by ignoring the payment demands as a way of showing their dissatisfaction.
  • While as professionals we do not always appreciate this, some clients find it difficult to express or confront the issue.
  • The complaint is unfounded or unreasonable and is only raised to attempt to reduce the bill. If action is taken, the client will ultimately pay or see how far the practice is willing to pursue the matter.
  • The client does not have the means to pay. 
Within a mediation process part of the initial stage is to understand the root cause of the complaint. In discussing the matter with the client the mediator will delve and explore what has happened to establish why the client is unhappy. During this process, where a complaint is unfounded and it becomes apparent that it is an attempt to avoid a reasonable bill, the client’s position is challenged. If this reveals the true root of the complaint, it may enable an issue or concern to be addressed by the practice which leads to the client paying. For example, on occasions a client may take offence at something said or the body language of someone in the practice. This does not mean the fees are not payable but makes payment a battle. If any misunderstanding or miscommunication can be addressed by way of further explanation or acknowledging that this has occurred, the barrier to payment may be overcome. 

Mediation does not mean compromise. It involves a process where each party’s position is set out and explored to look for common ground. By exploring those positions, we can then look for routes through the dispute/complaint to help find a workable resolution. This can be an acceptance of what has happened by the client or acknowledgement by the practice that what was said is not what was heard or understood. There are ways to resolve these communication challenges that can enable the dispute to be resolved. 

Any solution is up for discussion, and this can include an agreement by the client to pay the outstanding fees. A 50/50 split is not the starting point and there may be a wide range of options available once dialogue via the mediator is underway. While this sounds time consuming, often it can involve a couple of phone calls. For more information about what mediation involves, please read our article ‘What is Mediation?’

Independent mediation for veterinary professionals and their clients