August 19th 2020

Understanding a Complaint From the Perspective of a Client When You are a Vet

The VCMS is a free to use mediation service funded in part by the RCVS that works with both the public and veterinary industry to provide impartial advice to resolve disputes through mediation. In today’s blog post we share our advice, gained through real world experience on how, as a professional, to better understand a complaint from the perspective of a client. 

What May Be Going on For the Client?

It goes without saying that a complaint can be a confusing and worrying experience for both client and practitioner. Indeed, the very nature of a complaint, in a way, dictates the nature of the outcome and that is why it is important to get to the bottom of the complaint, to fully understand it in order to make progress. 

Complaints themselves can vary, from those of a clinical and misdiagnosis nature to service and pricing. Regardless of the nature of the complaint there is a unifying factor: an unhappiness from the client in regards to an interaction with the veterinary practice. 

Firstly, the client may be fearful and confused. For non-technical people or those not in the industry, the act of seeing a vet can be intimidating and, should a complaint arise, this intimidation and fear of approaching the practice to deal with the issue may have increased. 

Likewise, misunderstanding may play a part in the nature of the complaint and clear communication at all times and the managing of expectations is always an important factor in dealing with clients. Finally, there may be a great deal of frustration which can be traced to the trust element between client and vet. Trust, as we all know, is at the heart of a good relationship and the client’s trust in the vet, their belief in their craft and knowledge and if the outcome is not expected can lead to a great deal of frustration for the client. 

What is the Benefit of a Shift in Perspective?

As we have seen, strong emotions can be felt by the client that can cause a complaint to occur. Rarely the complaint is one of clinical negligence and often, from our own research, is based around service. 

The benefit of a shift in perspective, of seeking to truly understand the client, is at the heart of the move towards resolution and a beneficial outcome. Indeed, the shift in perspective is the first step on this path. 

Often, if a dispute or complaint is dealt with and not allowed to escalate, the complaint itself can be resolved and the first step in the shift of perspective is acknowledging the complaints itself. 

Through acknowledgement there is a willingness, on part of the vet to engage with the client, to listen to them and to understand them. Secondly, there is the need to build dialogue, to truly listen to the client and discuss their issue and how it can be resolved. Finally, through dialogue it is possible to build understanding, to ask the right questions and to seek to assist the client. 

Our three steps for a shift in perspective are:

  • Acknowledgement
  • Dialogue and discussion
  • The move towards understanding and resolution

How to Ask the Right Questions to Understand the Client Better

Asking the right questions to the client is key to being able to foster communication and to seek resolution. Engaging with and seeking to understand the issue may be intimidating (for both parties we add) but is an essential part of the process. 

Expectations, service and, of course, what the complaint is are all areas that need to be approached for both the client to feel valued and listened to, for the client to build trust and for the practitioner to understand the issue and offer an outcome that satisfies both parties. 

Essentially, as a professional understanding a complaint from the nature of a client mirrors some basic principles that appear in both work and personal life:

  • The principal of being understood and to seeking to understand others
  • The principal of listening and engaging with others
  • The principal of offer assistance and guidance
  • The principal of working to achieve a harmony and balance (a beneficial outcome)

If you require any assistance or would like more information as to how the VCMS can assist you, contact our teams via 0344 800 5071.

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