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Client loyalty

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THERE are many reasons why our clients choose to come to us (or not as the case may be). Maybe it's because we are the nearest or the cheapest. Perhaps they've been recommended by friends or by a good local reputation. Possibly they saw an advert in the local paper or liked our website or Facebook page.

There then could also be just as many reasons why they choose to stay with us. We probably all like to think that this is because we're good vets but, if we're honest, as often as not, it is because of inertia, because again we are the nearest or cheapest, or simply because their pet seems to like us. Or sometimes it might just be a case of them thinking ‘better the devil you know’. Clients don't always seem to have good judgment in these matters: there are plenty of very good vets who just don't have rapport with people and consequently don't see their fair share of patients; and equally there are some who, shall we say, could do better clinically but are very popular because they are charming. I won't say which group I believe I fit into!

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Being sole-charge, I have my bonded clients and those who don't like me have long gone elsewhere. Certainly when I'm on holiday it is always very quiet even though I try not to advertise the fact that I'm away. It seems unfair on the locums who, with very few exceptions, have been excellent, but loyalty does not follow common sense and also sometimes knows no bounds.

I will confess that a near neighbour took herself off to another vet because she didn't like the way I disciplined her aggressive dog when it tried to bite me . . . even though I'd treated her previous dogs for years. Another neighbour doesn't come to me because I once complained about their dog barking (mind you I don't think they take it anywhere). And then there are also a number of local people who travel the few extra miles to the cheap practice up the road but they are definitely outweighed by the clients who travel some way, in some cases very long distances, to come to me.

For example, I have one ex-veterinary nurse who travels to London from Warwickshire with her pets because, having worked with several vets, she doesn't trust anyone else to treat them. There is another client who travels from Bristol and one from the south coast.

However, there is one who has taken client loyalty to the extreme. He used to live locally but moved about 20 miles away – no problem. Except he then moved to Northumberland and still travelled down with his cat. He finally moved to Bahrain and I joked that, although we exchanged e-mails for a while, he hadn't been back from there yet.

Until now! OK, he hasn't actually brought it back from the Middle East but when his new cat developed epilepsy he consulted me. I now dispense the medication and several times a year he flies to London to pick it up.

It goes to show that we can't please all the people all the time but we can certainly try.

Contributions to ‘A practitioner ponders’ are always welcome. It you have something about veterinary life you'd like to share, e-mail inpractice{at}bva-edit.co.uk. We pay a small honorarium for published contributions.

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