Coping with Crankiness

January 2023 |

Tempers often run short these days. Teach your team the LEAP approach.

Welcome to the post-COVID world of staff shortages, more patients than you can fit into your schedule, and the crankiest clients many practices have ever seen.

If a client crossed the line and your staff needs you to step up and set boundaries for the client’s behavior or to terminate your relationship with the client, be consistent and don’t backpedal. Standing up to an over-the-line cranky client can go a long way in earning your team’s trust and loyalty.

The LEAP Approach

Your team also needs strategies to deal with cranky clients. The LEAP approach teaches veterinary staff to handle angry or unhappy clients, which builds their confidence for when they encounter your next cranky client.

L Is for Listen
When speaking to upset or angry clients, give them your undivided attention. Allow clients to vent their frustrations and truly listen to everything they are saying. Teach your staff to jot down notes of the client’s side of the story. This will help them remember the client’s concerns as they are responding and coming up with solutions.

Also, have staff step away from the front desk and speak to agitated clients in a quiet area to limit any possible distractions. Listening to the client’s concerns is crucial, as your staff cannot successfully respond without truly knowing why the client is upset or angry.

E Is for Empathy
After listening to a client’s concerns, the next step is to empathize. Teach your team to remain objective and to really think about how the client feels. Warn them not to become defensive, because this will come across as being negative and will only perpetuate the problem. Remind staff not to take things personally and to focus on finding a solution.

A Is for Apologize
When a client is upset or angry, staff should always acknowledge the client’s feelings with an apology. Teach your team not to think of it as an admission of guilt. Staff should not feel defeated when apologizing. Several ways in which they can phrase an apology include:

  • “I apologize for any misunderstandings.”
  • “I apologize on behalf of the entire practice for not living up to your expectations.”

P Is for Placate
Placate, or to make peace with the client by offering a resolution. The staff member’s first instinct may be to offer a monetary resolution. But often this is not what the client wants. A frustrated client typically wants to make sure the issue never occurs again.

To find the proper solution, teach your staff to take the time to ask, “What can I do to make this right?” Teach them to listen to your clients. They will likely find that the client doesn’t want the problem to happen again. Your staff should agree with them on this and say that they don’t want it to happen again either. Instruct staff to let clients know that they will bring this issue to the atten-tion of their manager, discuss it at the next staff meeting, and take the steps necessary to ensure a similar situation does not happen again.

Communication Tools

Brush up on communication skills with PSIvet’s educational module, “You Said What? How to Use Actions and Words to Defuse Conflict.” Ask your PSIvet Practice Consultant for more information.