One of the biggest problems many practices struggle with is poor compliance. In spite of best efforts, clients still refuse to pay for extra procedures, ignore specific diet recommendations, and bring their pets in only for emergencies, instead of regular check-ins. As a team of people who love animals and want the best for them, this can be very frustrating to see.
And improved patient outcomes aren’t the only reason to want to increase client compliance. When your clients comply with your recommendations, they are happier with your service and the overall health of their pets. Compliance also improves the health of your practice. When clients bring their pets in for regular and follow-up appointments, your practice benefits through added revenue. Really, compliance is a win for everyone involved.
If it’s such a good idea, why aren’t clients more compliant? Many veterinarians feel that money is the primary reason that clients don’t follow treatment recommendations. However, research tells a different story: only 2-10% of clients say they decline recommendations due to cost. So if it’s not about price, why aren’t your clients complying? Let’s dig in, and discover why clients aren’t following your recommendations:

1. They don’t remember.

This is possibly the simplest reason on our list. Being at the veterinarian can be a stressful experience for clients, especially if their pet is stressed as well. That stress can be distracting, make paying attention more difficult, and causing pet owners to struggle to remember what exactly you said. Alternatively, the instructions may have been too complicated for easy recall. Anything more than a couple of steps can become a distant memory within just a couple day’s time.
Fortunately, this is also an easy fix. Give pet owners a handout with your instructions on it as they leave the clinic, so they’ll have something to refer to when it comes time to provide treatment.

2. They don’t understand the necessity.

Pet owners may not understand why you are making certain recommendations. For example, imagine you’ve just recommended dental surgery to a pet owners. At first, the pet owner takes you seriously and books the appointment, but then they go home and see that Fluffy seems to be eating just fine and decide to cancel the appointment. They don’t understand that just because their pet isn’t displaying signs of pain that they recognize, doesn’t meant that their pet isn’t in pain or having difficulty. And they almost certainly don’t know the health risks associated with dental disease. It may take an educational handout or further explanation from you to explain why your recommendation is so important for their pet.

3. They only see the short term cost, not the long term gain.

Recommending an expensive procedure or change in diet can be a serious turn off for pet owners. Their initial reaction may be to question whether the expense is really necessary or worth it. It’s up to you to convince them why they should drop the money – and often, it requires presenting the long term benefits of this short term cost. For example, recommending a more expensive dental diet may sound unnecessary to clients, but explaining that a full tooth cleaning is 400 dollars may get them to change their minds. Or you may have to go even further than that. They may not understand why a tooth cleaning is necessary in the first place, so you may want to explain the long term benefits of dental care for pets. Knowing your client’s level of understanding can help you decide how much explanation is warranted.

4. They’re getting false information online.

The Internet is full of false information, and it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle dealing with it. From questioning the necessity of vaccines to advocating for the use of garlic as a flea and tick preventive, poor information abounds, and it’s up to you to set the record straight.
Education is the key to fighting these myths. When providing recommendations to patients, ask if they have any questions or what they already know about this subject as a way of opening up a discussion. You can also educate clients online with blog posts or an online pet health library like ClientEd Online. ClientEd Online integrates directly with your website and enables you to share veterinarian-authored articles with pet owners 24/7.  Beat Dr. Google and become their number one trusted resource online for pet health information.

5. They’re receiving inconsistent communication from your clinic.

If your clients are hearing one thing from the vet tech, another from their veterinarian, and a final different recommendation from the receptionist, they may leave feeling confused about whose recommendations to trust. Make sure that your staff is providing consistent information across the board. Being consistent in your communications will not only improve compliance, it will also improve customer satisfaction!

6. They don’t understand your recommendations because of jargon.

Sometimes what seems abundantly clear to you may go straight over your clients’ heads. And they may be too embarrassed to admit they don’t know what you mean. Or they may think they understand but are incorrect. Make sure you’re giving your recommendations in simple English, and ask clients if they have any questions when you’re done giving your recommendation. The more you encourage clients to voice their questions, the more likely they are to actually tell you when they don’t fully understand what you’re saying.

7. They don’t feel a strong bond to your practice.

The stronger the bond your clients feel with your practice/veterinarians, the more likely they are to comply with recommendations. This is because a strong bond indicates a strong sense of trust in your practice. When your clients trust your practice, they are more likely to believe that you would only make recommendations in the best interest of their pet, and not in order to make money (we know you would never make a recommendation just to make money, but sometimes your clients don’t know that!).
One of the keys to a better bond is excellent communication. Keep your communications consistent across the practice. Make sure to provide reminders about upcoming appointments. And when you make recommendations, be sure to fully communicate to pet owners what you’re recommending and why. The better pet owners understand your recommendations, the more they’ll see why you made those recommendations and that you have the best interest of the pet at heart.

Ultimately, achieving better client compliance comes down to informing clients, making sure they remember your recommendations, and providing them with additional resources that empower them. In essence, an educated client is a compliant one.

Want to increase your client compliance even more? Check out our guide, How to Save Time and Boost Compliance with Client Education.

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