I’m a Floridian living in Canada. When I went home to visit family last year, my wife and I took a trip to Key West at Thanksgiving. Key West is a magical place, a whole different world in Miami’s backyard. You’ll meet all kinds of people there and probably a few characters, much like in our vet clinics. They are part of the experience, the atmosphere, the ambience.

Aside from the various personalities on the street, there are the ones who cater to tourists. At one restaurant, our waiter was personable, interactive, and sociable. When we asked questions about events in town or where to go first that day, he was more than excited to share his knowledge of the community. He sat down and spent a few minutes sharing his experiences and based on our questions, made some solid recommendations for us to enjoy our day.

At a different restaurant that night, we asked for suggestions of wine pairing with dinner as well as evening activities. It was obvious from his expressions and tone of voice that the waiter wasn’t interested in customer service. He failed to mention that for my dinner, they had run out of the side dish ingredients and didn’t offer up a substitute. It was a leisurely walk back to our inn in a light rain and a stop for a gigantic Key West cookie (seriously, the size of a dinner plate) instead.

I realized that this is the exact same situation our veterinary clients and patients experience when they come to the clinic. Everyone working in the clinic is responsible for the environment we create. Friendly, helpful faces greeting a client and their pet will help set up a good tone for the rest of the visit. If your front desk staff is stressed, fighting, or grumpy about being at work, your clients will pick up on it and may not feel as though their pet will get the best care they expect.

For technicians and doctors, this is critical as they will be spending the most time with pet owners and the patients. Sometimes these visits will be happy, while others may involve difficult discussions. The approach we take can greatly alter what happens – similar to a choose your own adventure book.

Using our own experience and judgment, we need to find that balance to clearly explain what is happening to the pet and what options there are for treatment. Don’t rush and don’t turn it into a lecture as you’re more likely to lose the client’s focus. Have a seat and have an honest conversation. Trust me, your clients and patients will feel more valued for their visit and a genuine sense of satisfaction. Rushing through the appointment and seeming disinterested in their pet will just likely lead to them looking for a new vet.

Even in difficult or emotional situations that can happen in veterinary medicine, we must find that proper level of compassion to be able to treat everyone as the most important person in that moment. Remember, like any other business, a positive experience will often lead to return visits and longer lasting relationships. It all starts with putting your best foot forward and keeping a positive attitude.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.

Dr. Ryan Llera


Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses and a pet rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at www.drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram.