Communication Within the Veterinary Practice

How are messages conveyed at your practice? Is there a system for passing information back and forth, or do you rely on scraps of paper with scribbled notes? Most people have their own systems for conveying information to others, utilizing methods that work easiest for them. The result of this may be that you have one team member emailing information, another writing handwritten notes, and still another verbally conveying messages to other team members. A lack of standardized communication can cause things to fall through the cracks, resulting in missed requests, belated follow-ups, and unhappy clients.

Standardizing communication systems within your practice
Consider the incidents of missed or unclear communication your practice has experienced recently. It can help to identify holes in your practice’s communication systems if you consider how these issues arose in the first place. The miscommunications often occur because processes are not in place to track follow-ups and ensure staff know where to look for their messages.

What kinds of communication should be tracked at your practice? You may find it helpful to make a list, which could include:

  • Customer complaints
  • Appointment follow-ups
  • Client requests
  • Staff phone messages

How communication flow affects your clients
Communication problems within your practice can lead to client dissatisfaction. Some of the negative results can be:

  • Missed or late call-backs to clients
  • Clients not receiving the help or information they need when they need it
  • Increased aggravation on the part of the client when they have to call the practice a second time before hearing back
  • The impression that your practice is not functioning as a team
  • The loss of a client

You know that you practice exceptional veterinary medicine. Is your team’s communication just as exceptional?

From the consumer’s perspective
Recently, a company’s poor communication left such a sour taste in my mouth, I have no intention of doing business with them again. The experience was with a hotel chain that offered airport shuttle service. When we showed up for our stay, they claimed to have given away our room but left a scribbled, handwritten note to say that we were still able to receive the shuttle service since that was already paid for. When we arrived for our shuttle, no one at the desk knew anything about it. We found the same scribbled post-it note by going behind the counter ourselves to show the employee where it had been left. It was tacked up on a bulletin board that apparently no one who was working at that time had noticed. The result was that the shuttle was more than 40 minutes late, and we missed our flight.

That frustrating experience opened my eyes to the possible negative outcomes of poor communication within a business. Some of the outcomes may never come to the attention of the business (they had no idea we missed our flight), yet they’re still responsible for the problem.

As a practice owner and manager, you aren’t handling vacation plans for your clients, but you are taking care of their pets—pets many pet owners consider to be members of their families. What problems could you inadvertently send them away with because of poor communication?


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