August 19th 2020

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

The VCMS is a free to use mediation service funded by the RCVS that works with both the public and optical 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 client, to better understand how to understand a complaint as and what that means to the vet.

What May be Going on for the Practitioner?

It goes without saying that a complaint can be a confusing and worrying experience for both client and vet. 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. 

Our own research indeed indicates that the majority of complaints that practitioners receive relate to service more so than negligence or misdiagnosis. 

As a client, this information may be useful because it can allow you to understand the types of complaints that are generally made and how to efficiently and effectively work with your vet to resolve the issue. All practices have an in-house complaints procedure that allows them to work through the issue and thoroughly document it. 

The handbook may be updated in order to, going forward, avoid similar issues and improve service.

Regardless of the nature of the complaint, as a practitioner it can be worrying to receive one. All veterinary professionals seek to provide the very highest in service and care and, it can be disappointing that the client did not receive an acceptable level of service. 

Trust, as we all know, is at the heart of a good relationship and the trust between client and practitioner allows for the relationship to develop between the two. If a complaint is received, the practice may be worried as to the relationship and seek to understand what went wrong and how it can be remedied.

What is the Benefit of a Shift in Perspective?

As we have said, rarely the complaint is one of clinical negligence and often is based around service. The benefit of a shift in perspective, of seeking to understand the practitioner and practice, 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. That is why as a client it is important to raise the issue directly and quickly to help them be aware of what has happened and allow them the opportunity to fix it. 

The benefit for a client in understanding where the practice is coming from is that it allows the client to understand what they can expect, how the complaint will be dealt with and gives the opportunity for resolution to the practice. Raising a complaint with a practice is a matter of giving a chance, of trusting in the practice, and allowing them to respond in a manner that satisfies both parties. 

Our four steps for a shift in perspective as a client are:

  • To raise the issue effectively and quickly
  • Give the opportunity for the practice to respond
  • Create dialogue and discussion 
  • The move towards understanding and resolution

How to Raise Questions and Points of Discussion to Help the Practice Respond to the Complaint

Asking the right questions to the practice 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 practice to understand how to resolve the issue and understand what a satisfactory outcome looks like for a client. 

Essentially, as a client, understanding a complaint from the nature of a practice 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 offering 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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