Originally published: DVM Newsmagazine, Sept. 1, 2012


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5 Steps for Ditching Clients

Header: Is work cutting into your free time? Get the empty schedule you’ve always dreamed of, simply by driving your clients away!

Let’s face it. Being a productive member of a veterinary practice is hard work. It also takes a lot of time. That’s time that could be spent doing things like posting pictures of your lunch on Facebook, talking to your Mom (who already calls with a frequency suggesting she doesn’t believe you really have a job), and playing quasi-athletic games utilizing veterinary supplies and the kennel staff. Who wants to make a living, anyway?


When clients show up clamoring for your time and attention, your goof-off time suffers. Fortunately, you can nip this type of popularity in the bud. Warm up your iPhone for some Angry Birds and follow these 5 simple steps to shed that pesky clientele and make client loyalty a thing of the past!


1)   Make them wait.

Veterinary gurus say the number one reason clients leave their veterinarian is because of wait time. This isn’t hard to believe. Just peek into that exam room packed with a mother, 2 dogs, 3 kids, a stroller, and a dirty diaper. You can cut the stress in there with a knife.


I once saw a child put a dog biscuit in his mouth, then spit it out, only to have it stuffed back in his mouth by his distracted father, who grabbed it off the floor without looking at it. Busy parents and pet owners are sometimes barely holding it together, and they don’t want to spend any more time in your clinic than is necessary. If you want them to find another practice, just keep them captive as long as you can.


2)   Don’t do what you say you will do.

The cornerstone of a dedicated clientele is trust. The quickest way to undermine that trust is to tell clients what you will do for them, and then simply fail to do it. Indicating that you will call clients the next day and then not doing it is the veterinary equivalent of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Expectations are set and then violated. Make sure to keep things fresh by failing to live up to your word in new and exciting ways.


3)   Put off the call back.

I once saw a study that surveyed 300 customers to rank different aspects of client satisfaction in the consulting industry. Clients were asked what they valued most in the service they had received. The results were surprising. While “technical skill” and “fees” ranked eighth and ninth in importance respectively, “speed with which they return my phone calls” ranked second (right behind “interest in developing a long-term relationship with me and my company”).


It turns out that calling people back promptly makes them feel valued and important. If you want some free time, just take all of it you like instead of returning calls. You can count on even more downtime in the future.


4)   Be consistently inconsistent.

In psychology, the Consistency Principle says that people seek and value predictable and consistent behaviors in themselves and others. Therefore, demonstrating a range of dramatic personas for clients over a few visits is highly effective in keeping client dedication to a minimum. My personal favorite approach is to be the nearly euphoric doctor during the first visit, the ice-cold clinician the second, and the emotional wreck for the third. I’ve never had a fourth when I used this method.


You should also switch up the medicine you practice. Treat the same conditions in a wild variety of different ways. That way, when you do less, your regular clients will think you have gouged them with unnecessary tests and treatments in the past. Your technicians will also have no idea what you are planning to do, and it will show. Nothing says. “We’re going off-script,” like ignoring diagnostics that your technicians have prepared, with little or no explanation.


5)   Be someone you are not.

When I started practice, I tried to be all things to all people. I was excessively empathetic, compassionate, hygienic, and communicative. I raced to fulfill the client’s every whim, and made tentative recommendations in a tone befitting apprentices talking to Donald Trump. In short, I tried to be exactly the character I thought each client wanted me to be – but I didn’t come across as human. The results were unsurprising.


My efforts were perceived not as impressive, but as disingenuous and insincere. While clients didn’t dislike me, our interactions lacked the trust basis required for strong long-term relationships. I never felt comfortable, and neither did the clients. If you want to keep a clientele at bay, this is a good approach to take.



Remember: Customer loyalty brings clients back in the door, and it’s easier to retain clients than to recruit new ones. So if you can lose the ones you’ve got, you’ll be able to free up all sorts of time in what used to be a busy workday. When you run out of things to watch on the TV in the empty waiting room, you may even have time left over to take up something new, like needlepoint or puppetry.


Enjoy your free time!