Imagine this: You’ve taken your car into the auto shop because it’s making a strange noise. After the mechanic inspects it, you ask, “So, what’s the issue?” and wait anxiously for the answer. Ten minutes later, you’re still waiting. Despite receiving an extremely detailed and passionate explanation, you don’t have an “aha moment” where you understand the problem. In fact, you aren’t sure if it’s an easy fix or if you’ll be calling a taxi to get home.
The same holds true for pet owners.
Too much information for a pet owner on a pet health topic that’s new and unfamiliar, delivered at a stressful time, challenges their ability to fully comprehend what they’ve been told. And when they don’t fully understand the issue or medical jargon, making good healthcare decisions is nearly impossible. It also prevents them from really thinking. Instead they’re just trying to hang on and hopefully catch up later with a few words they remember—often getting help from their friend, Dr. Google.
Every pet owner deserves to have that “aha moment.” And it can be easily accomplished by applying a few simple tactics to your client conversations.
We use three strategies in our ClientEd handouts as a way to make the information comprehensive yet concise, but they also transfer beautifully to verbal explanations.
1. KISS: Keep It Short and Simple
The KISS principle does not mean that you’re “dumbing down” the information being delivered. What you’re doing is distilling your pet healthcare messages to those that are most important and delivering them in such a way that, regardless of the client’s background or education, they can fully comprehend the problem, your solution, and its impact on their pet.
Using short sentences, no jargon or complicated language, and saving the detailed information for a handout they can read later, like ClientEd, will keep clients from being overwhelmed. In fact, ClientEd handouts are written in plain language, use a concise question/answer format, and also follow the KISS principle. So, whether a pet owner is listening to you or reading a handout, short and simple will help prevent information overload and support better learning.
2. Chunking Is for Champions
Content chunking is the strategy of breaking up content into shorter, bite-size pieces that are more manageable and easier to remember. In 1956, Harvard psychologist George A. Miller identified that most people can only hold about seven discrete pieces of information at time in their short-term memory. Chunking is a great way to get around this.
For example, take a flea treatment and prevention discussion with a pet owner. Instead of giving a full-blown description of how their dog got fleas, how to treatment them, how to manage the household infestation, the importance of prevention, options for future prevention, etc., consider chunking the information into groups that make sense.
The other thing you can do to help pet owners visualize your information chunks better is to number them. Example:
“There are really three things that we need to do to tackle Scooter’s flea infestation and prevent others in the future.
- One, treat the fleas living on his body.
- Two, get rid of the fleas living in the house.
- Three, get Scooter onto a preventive and avoid future infestations.”
Since people usually remember the first and last thing you said (a concept known as the serial-position effect), the ordering of your chunks matters. In this case, getting Scooter on a preventive will take care of the second chunk even if they unintentionally forget about it. (This is where having a ClientEd handout can be really helpful!)
3. Consider Your Audience
When professional speakers are invited to give a talk, one of the most important things they ask ahead of time is, “Who is my audience?” This enables them to take an audience-centered approach and tailor their message to the interests, level of understanding, attitudes, and beliefs of the audience. Not only is their effectiveness in delivering their message improved, the audience is more likely to respond and find relevance in what the speaker is sharing.
As a veterinarian or veterinary nurse, your “audience” is much smaller—oftentimes a single pet owner in the exam room. However, the approach is the same. Your message needs to meet your client’s needs to be relevant. Explanations, analogies, level of detail, the use of terminology, etc., can be tailored to match what you know about the pet owner. ClientEd handouts are written in a similar way, taking into consideration population reading levels, familiarity with medical terminology, and presumed availability to other ClientEd library resources through a practice’s website. By considering your “audience” both in what you say and in the resources you provide them, their ability to connect with the information and learn from it is improved.
So, the next time you’re looking for an “aha moment” from a pet owner, try one of these strategies. Seeing the light go on in a client’s eyes when you know they’ve connected to what you’re telling them (like when you understand what the strange noise is and get to drive your car home) is worth the effort every time.
If you aren’t familiar with LifeLearn’s ClientEd pet health library, sign-up for a free trial and see how you can put it to work in your practice today. At just $55 per month, ClientEd supports your client education efforts to improve client compliance and animal health outcomes.
Book your free no-obligation demo of ClientEd today.
ClientEd, client communications