Not every client experience is a walk in the park. Usually, it’s unilaterally uncomfortable — for the veterinarian, I mean. Which makes sense. After all, YOU pay US, right? And that means we have to bite our tongues more than we’d like to. But seeing as we humans can’t always exhibit perfect control … sometimes even veterinarians clash with clients.

Unfortunately, that means we speak our minds — which is not always to our client’s liking. That’s why after these uncomfortable events I inevitably worry about whether I could have handled the situation differently. Was I professional? Check. Was I correct? Check. Was I fair? Check. Was I diplomatic? Hmmm … maybe not so much.

Yet you may disagree on all these points. Read my story and decide for yourself…

To be fair, yesterday’s scenario was pretty typical. This was a new client with a brand new French bulldog puppy. Cute as a button.

Unfortunately, this newly minted client arrived 20 minutes late for her appointment — the very last one of the day. To make matters worse, new pet visits typically require owners to arrive 15 minutes ahead of time to fill out paperwork (though it’s possible our receptionist may not have mentioned this policy yesterday, as sometimes happens). Unfortunately, all this meant I wouldn’t get up close and personal with this pup until 35 minutes after her allotted time.

Now, normally I’m OK with this. Though I’m never happy about it, I nearly always work around the schedule abuse these scenarios offer. Only rarely will I have a major schedule conflict, as I did yesterday. And I’ve never ever had cause to explain, face-to-face, why it’s important to arrive on time to one’s veterinary visit.

Essentially — and unfortunately — I lectured the poor client on the importance of timeliness to success and the need to respect others’ time. Though to be fair to my side of things, this patronizing explanation came only after the owner refused my offer to reschedule for any other time this week (including my days off) … and definitely after she became visibly angry because I wouldn’t stay an extra half hour to see her new puppy. It certainly didn’t help when she demanded to know what I had to do that was more important than her puppy. Ouch!

After hitting each other below the belt, we were at an impasse. She ripped up her intake forms and stormed out. Next up: The angry husband calling to complain over our mistreatment of his wife. That I had called her all manner of rude things (untrue, though I did passive-aggressively call her "Honey" — and I hate that, too), and that I had demeaned her (OK, so I did wantonly belittle her ability to pick up a phone and call when one is running late).

In any case, here’s the upshot: I have plans to call and apologize for making her feel like a heel. Because it doesn’t matter so much to be right in this case — nor in most, really. In the end, I’d rather have one more patient — even if it does come attached to a client that may or may not reciprocate my attempt at reconciliation with a grudging respect for my time.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Art of the day: Devil. by mao_lini.