Welcome to the world of the Veterinary Client Mediation Service’s (VCMS) Resolution Managers. We are a small team with career backgrounds in veterinary nursing, mediation and emergency veterinary care, attracted to this role by our love for animals, current skills and a passion for helping others.
Although the VCMS is funded by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), we are an independent mediation service which is available for both clients and practices to approach for help and advice. The subject of our work varies widely from small furries including dogs, cats and gerbils, to horses; although at present we do not deal with reptiles.
If you think every day is the same, you could not be more wrong. Every day presents new enquiries and new complaints, some more challenging to mediate than others. Every client is different, every animal is different and yet there is one common theme; all clients adore their pet.
Clients contact us because they feel dissatisfied with the service they have received from their veterinary practice; their complaints can range from customer service, standard of care and clinical fees, but can often be a combination of many of these themes. However minor their complaint, the client has taken the time to ring or write to us and we are here to listen, aiming to achieve a resolution to the complaint that satisfies both parties.
The VCMS will only mediate complaints where the client has already written to the practice, this is to provide the practice with a fair opportunity to respond to all the concerns and hopefully resolve the complaint before it escalates. When we receive initial calls from clients seeking advice on how to raise their complaint with the practice, we advise them to put their complaint in writing, making their concerns clear and requesting an acknowledgement and when they will receive a full response. We know this then provides the practice with an opportunity to respond to the concerns and hopefully allay any concerns or misunderstandings before matters escalate.
If, after a reasonable period of time, the client has not received a response or they remain dissatisfied with the practice’s reply the client may contact our service to help resolve the complaint.
Our telephone lines open from 8am, so our day begins with headsets on ready to start taking calls – normally with a good mug of morning coffee!
We listen to our voicemail and note all the messages that have been left since 6pm the previous evening, making a note to call everyone back that day. New complaints arrive by post, email or are delivered straight into our work management system as a result of the completion of our online contact form.
The first contact with a client is often the first time the client has had the opportunity to vent their concerns. On the phone, they are often tearful to the point they find it difficult to find the words to explain what has happened, or they are angry and frustrated. Our mediation skills are put to the test when dealing with strong emotions. Some stories are very sad but our training in how to deal with bereaved clients helps us to remain professional at all times. Sometimes, we need to just share with another team member what we have just heard which helps to get back on track, ready to deal with the next complaint.
We are very clear of our role in the VCMS. When a client tells us they want us to reprimand the vet for their actions, strike them off the register, demand compensation payments or take legal action against them, we make it very clear to them that we are here to facilitate communication with an aim to reach an informal resolution using mediation.
Our administration work consists of logging all details of the complaint, the animal owner, the pet and the practice. We use phone and email as much as possible to enable us to make immediate contact with the client and practice.
We contact the practice once we have a signed consent form, providing details of their client’s complaint and desired outcome. As the service is new and voluntary we do spend time with practices explaining the benefits of engaging in the process, even where there are no grounds for criticizing the clinical care. If the client is aggrieved and motivated, the time, expense and worry of dealing with a protracted and persistent complainant can still be significant and take its toll on a practice and the individual vet and team members.
Since our launch on the 3rd October 2016 the VCMS had received 214 enquiries by mid-January 2017. On average we have received just over 50 new cases a month. The VCMS prides its self on being here both for the practice and the client. Offering a full time service 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday, our aim is to provide a high quality impartial professional and friendly mediation service that strives to achieve resolutions swiftly for the benefit of all parties.
For more information on how we can help please take a look around our website, or call our offices on 0345 040 5834 where members of our team will be happy to tell you more about the service.