What happens when you have a great relationship with a client? They trust you. There isn’t skepticism or cynicism when you recommend diagnostics or treatment. They work collaboratively with you and your team to make the right decisions and to care for their pet the best way they can. They appreciate you. They make the day fulfilling and rewarding. Teams are happier, pets are healthier, and practice finances improve. 

And herein lies the crux of the problem that our industry is facing. One, I believe, that is an accelerant to many other problems we face. The erosion of the close relationship between veterinary practices and their clientele. While there are certainly important exceptions, and many practices indeed are still phenomenal relationship builders, the interactions between pet owners and veterinary teams have become more transactional. When pet owners shop around, they treat vetmed like it’s a commodity. We fuel a race to the bottom. 

When relationships are transactional, compliance is low because pet owners are skeptical of your motives. After all, transactions have a buyer and a seller. Veterinary teams routinely see pets walk out without receiving the help they need. Professionals get stressed by angry or disrespectful interactions with clients. Finances suffer, leading to difficulties in paying our teams more. People leave the profession. 

There’s a better way. A simple way. There are three steps to build better relationships:

  1. Attract the right people
  2. Build a baseline of trust
  3. Nurture the connection

Attract the right people

Some people just aren’t a fit for your veterinary practice. And that’s ok. The most important thing is that your practice has a clear idea of who you are and who you are built to serve. The first step is differentiating your brand, owning your uniqueness, and telling your story. This should be done by thinking critically about your differentiators, building and designing a website that tells your story, and marketing your practice based on this established narrative. That way, you will attract the kind of people who your type of practice naturally resonates with.

Build a baseline of trust

When you love your pet like family, picking the right veterinarian is a critical decision – it’s similar to picking a pediatrician for your child. That’s why the real question that pet owners are asking when they’re on your veterinary practice’s website is an old but simple one… can I trust you? Trust is the currency of social cooperation, and thinking deeply about how to build trust early on is mission critical.

Nurture the connection

Never underestimate the power of moments. During every visit that a client has with you, find opportunities to show that you see their uniqueness. Make a list of their personal differentiators. Ask them about how their favorite sports team is doing. About their son’s graduation. About their recent move. And, in everything you do, show them that your values and priorities align. The reason this is so powerful is this type of relationship building takes us out of the realm of economic norms and into the domain of social norms – an area of study that behavioral economists frequently talk about. When you build a relationship that feels personal instead of transactional, your relationships are healthier and stronger.