Episode 68 | Client Expectations That Hold Us Back As Veterinary Professionals

In this episode, I share common expectations veterinary professionals have for their clients, and how the focus we give to client failure holds us back, makes our jobs harder than they need to be, and fosters resentment on both sides of the client relationship.



  • Seven examples of how veterinary professionals judge clients
  • How judgment makes it impossible to behave with intention
  • The go-to alternative perspective about veterinary medicine that will always serve you better


Vet Life Academy https://joyfuldvm.com/vetlifeacademy


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00:00:00 And we can still maintain our joy. We can still be peaceful and we can still be happy because we always get to decide my friends, what we want to believe in those moments. And when we release responsibility for their behaviors, it becomes so much easier. I'm Dr. Cari Wise, and this is the Joyful DVM podcast. Hi, everybody. Welcome to Episode 68.

00:00:33 Today, we're going to be talking about client expectations that hold us back. Now, you might be thinking as you hear the title to this episode that I'm looking at, and we're going to be discussing the expectations that clients have for us, but that's not what I'm talking about at all. I'm talking about the expectations that we have for client behavior. We have a whole list of things that we think that clients should be doing.

00:00:58 And so we're going to take a few minutes here to look at those expectations and to see how when their decisions around these topics is different than what we think the decisions should be. How that in and of itself creates an opportunity for us to feel frustrated, to feel disrespected and to be held back as far as the success that we believe that we can have in our career.

00:01:24 So let's go through a list here. Number one, a client expectation that we have is that clients should spay and neuter their pets and not breed them. Have you ever thought about that one? Now? Of course, we all have an opinion about spay and neuter and breeding and breeders and all of those things. And many of us share the same kinds of opinions and many of us don't and all of it is completely fine.

00:01:44 We all get to decide whatever we want to about whether or not animals should be spayed and neutered and whether or not animals should be bred. That said when we get so caught up in our own personal agenda around whether or not the dogs and cats or other animals should be spayed and neutered and should not be bred. And we then share our information and our perspective with our clients and our clients choose otherwise we have the opportunity or the potential to feel really frustrated about that.

00:02:12 And we tend to judge then the client for their decision. We forget that when it comes to the veterinary care cycle, our role is to provide information, to make recommendations, but the decisions are always for the client to make all of these areas that I'm going to be talking about here over the next few minutes are more examples of those areas. The client always gets to the side for themselves.

00:02:35 Another expectation that we have for clients is that they should use heartworm prevention and flea prevention. So you can pretty much insert any kind of preventive care item. Right in here, we have an expectation of clients to comply with our recommendations, to use these things. We understand the importance of them. We know how they benefit the pets that we see in all the animals that we see.

00:02:57 And so when a client decides not to follow our advice in these areas, we tend to feel frustrated. And then we tend to judge them for their decisions. Another one vaccinations, we think clients should stay up to date on the vaccinations for their pets. Now this one, I have to laugh at a little bit because, and even the heartworm prevention one,

00:03:16 because when you survey veterinary professionals, not a hundred percent of the population can say that their pet is currently up to date on all their vaccine has had their most recent heartworm pill. I know shocking, but I know that you know who you are. I'm going to raise my hand. That absolutely happens to me as well. And so it's interesting how we get all caught up in wound up and frustrated with our clients when they don't do this.

00:03:39 But oftentimes we're kind of doing some of the same things ourselves, but this expectation that they follow our advice that they do, as we say, and that as we do, if you will, that actually creates a lot of unhappiness for us in the profession. Another expectation that we set on them is that they feed a specific type of diet. You and I both know that there are a million different opinions when it comes to nutrition and there are a million different kinds of pet foods that our clients have to choose from.

00:04:04 And of course we have a professional opinion about what's best for their pet, but again, it's not our decision to make where the line is drawn. There is when that decision-making process comes into play. If we evaluate how well we educated them based on the decision that they ultimately make, we're going to lose every single time, because we don't understand all of the variables that play into their decision-making process.

00:04:27 We're only one little piece of that puzzle, and it's not our job to convince anybody to do anything it's simply to give them the information so they can make the decisions for themselves. And then to honor the decisions that they make, we set back in to implement their wishes when it is needed for us to do so. But outside of that, we need to let them make their own choices and then just step in and help where we can.

00:04:50 Another client expectation is that they always be on time when they're not on time, we feel pretty offended, right? And absolutely one of the things that we can do to help protect ourselves from this regard is to make sure that we have really strong policies and procedures for our hospitals around the way that we manage people who show up late for appointments. And then the were consistent with the follow-through of those procedures outside of that,

00:05:13 or if that doesn't exist, or if the hospital itself isn't good at following through on its own policies, being angry with a client over being late for an appointment, only steals our joy. It does nothing at all for the client. The client doesn't necessarily feel how we're frustrated and angry and all does it understand the whole story that we build up for ourselves around their decision to show up late.

00:05:34 So again, we have an expectation that they're on time. And then this case with this example, when it comes to an appointment time, we have a way to manage that from a professional perspective, by having some boundaries, by having some policies and procedures in place. But if we are not willing to follow through on whatever the rules are that we set for our hospital,

00:05:53 and what happens when a client is late, we shouldn't give ourselves the, or the permission to be all upset about it, because that only hurts us when we do that, then there's the expectation about questioning our fees. So we have an expectation, the clients shouldn't question the amount of money that we charge for the things that we provide. We feel uncomfortable when they do that.

00:06:13 Right? And so we tend to get offended when they ask us questions. Some of us could also feel a lot of guilt and shame because if the prices are outside of what we would be comfortable paying ourselves, then when somebody questions our fees, we really amplify their opinion and their questioning. It becomes really difficult then to have those conversations, which is why so many of us avoid them.

00:06:36 So just recognize there is an underlying expectation for most of us that we offer up a treatment plan with pricing and the clients don't question it. They don't challenge it. And when they do it only, it brings up all of our own money story. And it also just helps us to feel offended and frustrated in those moments. And finally, a huge client expectation is that they should understand what we are going through.

00:07:00 And the stressors that our profession is under, they should be more compassionate and understanding how many times have you thought that to yourself, that clients just don't get it. They need to understand. They need to be more compassionate. They need to be more understanding. They need to be more patient. They need to understand that what we're going through. They need to understand how stressful this profession is.

00:07:20 Have you heard yourself say that before? It seems really justified, right? We really do think that if they understood that it would be easier all the way around and with all of these things, I don't want to run through them quickly, all in a row, they should not stay, or they should stay or neuter and they should not read their pets.

00:07:37 They should use heartworm prevention and flea prevention. They should stay up to date on vaccines. They should feed a specific diet. They should always be on time. They should never question our fees. They should understand what we're going through and be compassionate and understanding and patient all of those things. The reason if we want them to do those things, if we ask ourselves,

00:07:53 why, why does this matter? It's because underneath that, we have an absolutely faulty belief system. We have a conclusion being drawn in our minds. That is absolutely not accurate when it comes to our well-being. We're believing that if our clients behave differently, that we will feel happier. If our clients behave differently, that we will be less stressed. If our clients behave differently,

00:08:19 that we will be experienced more peace and joy within our job, that we will feel more satisfied in what we do day in and day out. And that reasoning is bogus. We have to remember where emotion comes from. Our emotion is not created by what our clients do. It never has been. Our emotion is created by what we believe about what our clients do.

00:08:43 And so if we really do believe that it's the clients themselves that are creating this negative emotion for us, I said negative experience of our veterinary careers for us. The only solution in that case is for the clients to behave differently, which is why we can come up with a whole list of things they should do when we recognize. And we realize, and we really understand that the clients are going to be the clients,

00:09:03 just like any other human. We are never going to control any of their actions and we don't need to and met our emotion that we feel around them is only created by what we believe about their decisions and about their actions and their behaviors. It's that has nothing to do with those actions, behaviors, and decisions themselves. Then we can see that we can change our emotional experience of them by simply managing our own thoughts,

00:09:24 opinions, and beliefs. They don't have to be different. They can breed their dogs, they can skip heartworm, testing and prevention. They can only come in for vaccines whenever they needed to go boarding. They could feed old Roy. That can be late every single time. When they have an appointment, they can argue with us about fees every single time we're there.

00:09:42 And they can never display any evidence of understanding what we're going through or having compassion or understanding our patients. And we can still maintain our joy. We can still be peaceful and we can still be happy because we always get to decide my friends, what we want to believe in those moments. And when we release responsibility for their behaviors, it becomes so much easier right now.

00:10:03 What tends to happen for most of us is that what underneath it all, when we really look at it, we're judging our own performance and our own success through the behaviors of the clients that we interact with. All of the, they should create emotions of judgment, anger, and contempt within us when we thank them. And those should on behalf of the client has us just believing that their decisions are impacting us in a negative way.

00:10:29 It leaves us nowhere to be, but a victim I don't know about you, but I don't want to be a victim. And the truth is we're not evicted. We're just having an interaction with another human being. Who's making decisions differently than we would make them for ourselves or in contrast to the recommendations that we made. So what, that's their choice to make?

00:10:48 We don't have to make it personal. It doesn't have to be about us. And what I think is so fascinating when we think about all of this, we think about all of the expectations that we have for clients, especially those last two, that they should never question our fees and that they should understand what we are going through. They should understand how stressful it is to be in veterinary medicine,

00:11:08 that they should be more compassionate and understanding. When we look at those, we totally miss how we actually contribute to this cycle of judgment and anger between our clients and ourselves in a looping kind of way. So if we hear a client say, well, that's just way too much money. I can't possibly pay that much money to get my dogs by.

00:11:31 Do you guys are only in it for the money for client says that, what do we think? We often draw the conclusion that they don't value our services. We then interact with them in a way that D values what we have to offer them. Meanwhile, because of the way that we're interacting with them, perhaps we are shorter with them. Perhaps we're abrupt.

00:11:50 Perhaps we have, you know, external evidence of being irritated. Perhaps we try to argue for it. Honestly, we, we try to overexplain that med word vomit here. We really try to convince them that these prices are irrational. And we go into way too much explanation around things like student debt, how much medication costs and all that kinds of stuff.

00:12:10 When we react to their comments. And that way, what they then conclude is that we really are only in it for the money. So they say that we're in it for the money. We feel all offended. We start to try to justify all of it and to the client that just reinforces their belief, that we're only in it for the money.

00:12:28 And because of that, then they decline things. They say no, which reinforces our belief, that they don't value our services. So just becomes this vicious cycle. And overall, what becomes really impactful for embalmed, both sides of this is how personal we're taking it. We can't just let it be neutral. But anything that they say to us is actually neutral.

00:12:50 Does it have any impact emotionally until we have a belief about it? So a client who says these prices are too high, you're only in it for the money. Doesn't have to make us feel offended. We don't have to take that. Personally. We can just recognize that all that's happening is a client is saying no, and we can interact with them through the lens of it's their decision to make same thing happens for the client.

00:13:13 When we offer them a treatment plan with pricing on it, they don't have to take it personally how much money the total comes to. It's just a dollar amount. It's completely neutral. But when they start to say things like I can't possibly afford that, then the whole loop starts all over again. And we don't realize in those moments that the reason they're saying I can't possibly afford that is simply driven by whatever emotion they're feeling,

00:13:35 which is driven by what they're thinking about, the pricing that we've offered them. The solution is for us to, to figure out how to make better pricing. It's just to recognize that they're going to have the reaction they're going to have based on all kinds of stuff that we don't understand. And we don't need to push our agenda in order to get them to say yes,

00:13:52 that actually just reinforces their belief system about the pricing and the motives of veterinary professionals. If they're already on the negative side bottom line, when it comes to the client expectations that hold us back. The reason that we get held back is because we can't just let our recommendations be recommendations. We get way too bought into what their decisions are. We have an agenda when we make our recommendations,

00:14:16 we want them to follow through with what we recommend. And of course we do on the one part, of course we want them to follow through. So the reason that we're recommending it is because we believe it's in the best interest of their pet, but we've got to remember that it's ultimately their decision to make. We don't need to evaluate ourselves through the lens of their decision.

00:14:34 That's the bottom line here. That's how we get held back. We start to believe that we're not doing it well enough. If we had just explained it better, they would have said, yes, if we were better at our jobs, they would say yes, more often, if prices were lower than they would say yes, more often. So we start to really take on the responsibility for their decisions.

00:14:53 And over time, that turns inward to a negative belief about ourselves and our own abilities and the profession as a whole, and the way things are priced and all of those things. And as I showed you, it becomes just this cycle then of judgment, which reinforces the negative beliefs. And none of that is useful. So instead, when you hear yourself talking about all the things that pet owners should do,

00:15:17 just take the opportunity to remind yourself that yes, of course you have an opinion on the decision that they should make, but it will always be theirs to make and they get to decide whatever they want. And it has nothing at all to do with you. Your role here is to educate them. Your role here is to give them options. Once they decide how they want to move forward,

00:15:36 it's your role to implement their wishes. It's not your role to force their hand into a decision. And it absolutely is never worth your wellbeing to take their decisions personally, and then to judge them for it that only disintegrates the client veterinary relationship. And it is through fostering a trusting relationship that you're going to have the most opportunity to help their pets today.

00:16:01 And then the future. All right, my friends, I'm going to leave you with that. I'll see you next time.