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I was reading another thread where people were discussing vet costs & how it affected vet choice decisions. Timely, for me as I'm on the verge of changing vet practices after nearly 15 years with a group I had been very happy using. Price isn't the issue. Really, vet care per se, isn't even the the issue. The reason for my getting ready to jump ship is almost 100% related to support staff attitude. This practice recently underwent an ownership change in which a long-time owner vet sold the practice to two long term subordinates. Nice people all. In fact, the new owners are prob. "nicer". But, WHAT a difference in the support staff. It appears the new owners have visions of expanding the practice & have hired a bunch of new staff. With 6 dogs, two who are advanced seniors, I have pretty routine contact with the practice.

 

I'm tired of grumpy & rude receptionists who want to try to diagnose my dogs over the phone. I'm tired of bad record keeping...getting "notices" for services that have been done, and other silly errors...ages & weights wrong on the records. I wouldn't tolerate it in my own job with my own staff and I'm not keen to tolerate it in others'. I think I'm a good customer. Well cared for dogs & the bills are always paid when I walk out the door. Over the years, I have referred alot of people to this practice. Last week, I referred someone to a different place.

 

I'm debating having a sit down with the owners, but frankly, I'm not really sure I want to deal with it. It might just be easier to find another practice. Seems alot of folks on this list are involved in some aspect of vet care. Doyou think vets "care" about losing clients anymore, or is it just part of the business?

 

Lori Cunningham

Milton, PA

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Doyou think vets "care" about losing clients anymore, or is it just part of the business?

 

Yes, I think Vets care about losing clients. Will they do anything about it? That's another issue. If you talk to them about their problems and they promise to make changes, how long will you stick with them to see if they were really listening? I can guarantee that when they talk to the staff, the staff will be very defensive. Unfortunately, it may take more than a singular complainant to make them realize that there is a problem.

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I'm tired of grumpy & rude receptionists who want to try to diagnose my dogs over the phone. I'm tired of bad record keeping...getting "notices" for services that have been done, and other silly errors...ages & weights wrong on the records. I wouldn't tolerate it in my own job with my own staff and I'm not keen to tolerate it in others'. I think I'm a good customer. Well cared for dogs & the bills are always paid when I walk out the door. Over the years, I have referred alot of people to this practice. Last week, I referred someone to a different place.

 

I'm debating having a sit down with the owners, but frankly, I'm not really sure I want to deal with it. It might just be easier to find another practice. Seems alot of folks on this list are involved in some aspect of vet care. Doyou think vets "care" about losing clients anymore, or is it just part of the business?

 

Lori Cunningham

Milton, PA

I once switched doctors for me because of the attitude of the office staff. They're a very important part of the practice.

 

 

I understand what you're saying. The billing department at my vet's is notoriously bad. I know it's not "green", but I always insist on a print out of any service or product I've paid for, just to be on the safe side. They aren't good about updating his info on his records either. Minor things, like you cited--weight, etc., but a little annoying. For example, on the bills, they list DH and my names--same last name, but spelled differently (I've pointed that out several times but it's never been corrected). And Scooter's coat color is listed as "none." :rolleyes: My incredible invisible dog! :D Just makes me wonder if it's a sign of bigger problems in the practice, even though the vet's seem to be knowledgeable and compassionate. I'm not ready to leave yet because of it, but it does get a little old after five years with the same group. :D

 

I'm a firm believer in letting businesses know when they've let me down and suggesting ways they could improve. I would talk to the vet and let him/her know exactly why you're jumping ship after all these years. If they're really interested in making it work, they'll listen and try to improve their public relations.

 

Good luck!

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Hi Lori,

I can sympathize with your desire to change practices. Even if you think it might be more of a PIA than you'd like telling your vets why, I think you should let them know; otherwise they may remain unaware of the problem and have no opportunity to fix it. I think vets do care about losing long-term clients.

 

Try to remember too, that (at least in my day) hospital staff don't make a lot of money, and that of course makes it more difficult to find quality help.

 

J.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Knowing and respecting Lori, I think a frank discussion with the new bosses might well make a difference.

 

I'm afraid I disagree with Julie. Bad staff is much more likely to be a boss problem than a pay problem.

 

We are favored vet customers. We use a lot of services, take excellent care of our dogs and our dogs are unusually mannerly (not trivial in an animal practice).

 

For the other part, we know and trust the vets we've chosen. In my n case, I doubt a new vet would be happy when I walked into his waiting room with four dogs off leash.

 

Donald McCaig

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Dear Doggers,

 

Knowing and respecting Lori, I think a frank discussion with the new bosses might well make a difference.

 

I'm afraid I disagree with Julie. Bad staff is much more likely to be a boss problem than a pay problem.

 

We are favored vet customers. We use a lot of services, take excellent care of our dogs and our dogs are unusually mannerly (not trivial in an animal practice).

 

For the other part, we know and trust the vets we've chosen. In my n case, I doubt a new vet would be happy when I walked into his waiting room with four dogs off leash.

 

Donald McCaig

 

 

As a practice manager, I agree with this. Good vets are not always the best at management and especially the problems with record-keeping makes me think that something has changed radically in the management style. One thing I try to remember, always, is "Don't expect what you don't inspect." If the new owners are accustomed to being the associates and not keeping an eye on those things, they simply won't happen. The clinic I just started out at (actually a group of three) has a staff of lower-paid employees than my previous clinic, but the staff is just as good, in some ways far better, than my previous staff was. Much of that is because of a no-nonsense management style and a strict standard that every employee is held to, especially in the areas of patient care, customer service, and record-keeping. Plus, I've noticed that bright employees are given a chance to contribute to the practice according to their particular talents. I used to work for this vet 15 years ago, the first vet I worked for, and he couldn't keep most employees for longer than 3 months. Now, he's got several that have been with him for almost a decade. His management style has completely changed for the better and it makes a huge difference (if I had known that, I would have come back years ago).

 

Absolutely tell the vets, even if you don't plan on giving them a second chance. If you don't want to be face to face, do it in a letter and be as specific as possible. I've gone through associates buying a practice (I worked for the original owner, and they inherited me along with the practice ) and it's a huge learning curve to go from being an employee to owner.

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I don't disagree that issues generally do lie at the feet of management, but I still contend that folks that are paid little and often have a lot on their shoulders are more likely to make mistakes. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but I worked for a vet for years and it's entirely possible for underpaid ond overworked staff to overlook things. This isn't intentional, but just a result of the situation. Just for clarification, although Don uses the term "bad" to apply to such staff, I don't think the people are inherently bad--I think it's usually a *bad situation,* and not bad people.

 

J.

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I am having some of the same issues with our Vet...I like the Vet but it is the front office issues that I don't like but his wife runs the front desk and saying something to him would not work. It is getting worse and worse every time, DH went to get flea med the other day and took him amlmost 45 mins to get it he was not happy at all. The front is almost like a zoo when you go for a appointment or pick up meds, the waiting room is so full there is no where to sit and most people just let their dogs sniff, jump on you and basically do what they want I make Jack sit by me and behave but it is hard for him when other people let their dogs get in his space and it takes forever. DH told me to find another vet and he did not care if it was more expensive. My issue is experience the Vet has been praticing sine 1970's and raises BC's so he is I guess you would call it " in the know" about BC's and their care and their sensitivity to certian meds, etc... The other Vet around is one of my daughters friends dad and I am not real crazy about him and it is weird his wife hates animals and they are not allowed to have any animals at home and can only have animals that are left at their office and he is EXPENSIVE he was going to charge me 200.00 to spay our little 8 lb cat, and 180 to neuter the other one and that is when I found our Vet. I really don't want to change Vets his prices are reasonable and he has seen Jack since we first got him but it is almost a hassle to take him to the Vet.

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I'm of the "Attempt communication before giving up" school. From my own personal experience as a business owner, it has been incredibly helpful when a client or a collegue has taken the time to say to me, "You're great at (fill in the blank) but there's a problem with these other things, and it's affecting our business relationship." I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people who took the time to let me know what wasn't working for them. As a couple other posters have said, "If you don't know something's wrong, you can't fix it."

 

And Jamie said, there's a big difference between working in a business and managing/owning a business. The learning curve is very steep indeed, and there's a lot to stumble over. But, the skills themselves are very transferable, and once learned, the new stuff becomes part of the routine.

 

Do give some thought to letting the new owners know that there are some administrative problems that are bugging you. There's a good chance you'd be pleasantly surprised.

 

Ruth

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I'd write a letter to the vets and let it go from there. If you get a good response you can try again. If not, walk.

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I would say talk to them. The owner/vet that is.

If concerned about the reaction of the staff, you may ask your vet for it to be confidential.

In the case they break that confidentiality, that would be part of your answer I would think.

Having said that, I go by vet, not by staff.

The way I interact with the staff largely does determine a lot of things.

I check all my records or it is not that important for me. They change it there, not later.

I speak my mind but with respect to them because at times policies bind staff a lot more than the outsider knows.

Because of my job as well as my personal animals I have dealt with different vets in different areas.

I prefer a smaller country clinic any day. But then again I live in the country. Maybe large city practices are different.

But maybe in that case, driving a bit to find a smaller place maybe worth it. Financially as well.

 

And yes, vets do care!!! Being close personal friends with a few that own their own clinics, the struggle to find good, educated, friendly, polite and experienced help is not easy.

And as a small business owner myself, I want the feedback.

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I would write a letter. Or talk to them and write a letter. By putting it in writing, you can make sure that you bring up all the issues and also have a chance to edit it so it comes across sounding how you want it too. It also gives the owners a chance to take more time to look at your concerns. If you call them or stop in for a visit, they may be busy at that moment and a bit too distracted to focus on what you have to say.

 

I would definitely tell the owners in some way though. If they aren't aware there is a problem, they can't fix it. I work in a hospital and we take all complaints seriously, whether from a patient, family member or friend. People who write a complaint letter usually get a letter or phone call from the CEO of the hospital apologizing and stating how the issue was addressed to ensure it doesn't happen again. I answer the room service phone (food) and if we get a complaint, the manager of our department goes up personally to discuss what the issue is and how we can make the patients stay more pleasant. Some people complain no matter what and can't be pleased, but most issues can be addressed or explained to clarify why we do certain things.

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I changed from my last vet (still haven't gone to a new one yet, actually) because of service issues.

 

In the fall, we had been getting work done on the house and boarded the two dogs and one of the cats at the vet. It was just supposed to be day boarding. In any case, the 2nd vet there was working alone and decided to close the office an hour early because there was no appointment scheduled, leaving my pets stranded there. When I went to pick them up, she was actually leaving as I pulled in. I called up and got the office manager. He was actually really rude to me and told me that it didn't matter to the dogs if they were in a crate for 10 minutes or overnight, because they have no sense of time. Mick already has vet issues that I think stem from the fact that his original owners dumped him at the vet's. So my dogs were stuck there overnight.

 

I did take a bit of satisfaction in when I went to pick them up at the next morning, the vet had the dogs loose walking around the clinic. Well, Mick saw me and he cleared the front desk coming out to greet me and totally took out the keyboard and everything else on the desk in the process. Good boy, Mick.

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I am considering changing vets as well.

 

I moved to a new area and got recommendations on a particular vet in a practice to go see. I LOVED her but she has since decided to leave the practice and take a few years off in order to prepare to get things together to open her own practice. I am very unhappy with the remainder of the vets in the practice. I am just not totally satisfied with their demeanors, treatment plans, etc....

 

I need to set up interviews with other vets in the area to see if there are any that I can work with and like...

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I'm in the write a letter camp. Contrary to popular opinion, most vets aren't making a bundle at what they do - given the hours they put in and the huge overhead to a vet practice. I read in 1990 that the average take-home for a vet who owned his own practice was $40,000.00 a year. Even then that wasn't really big bucks. I think a lot of practices try to save money on front-end staff, especially now that it's routine to have AHTs for techs. I was a tech - no AHT training - for a long time and I remember the switch-over. New people making way more than me, and me getting consigned to doing kennel work and cleaning. Well, I had to admit, they were more knowledgeable - more qualified. They were allowed to do stuff that eased the workload on the vet.

 

Not saying front-end staff should be sloppy, but many work for minimum wage, and it's hard to keep good ones.

 

I switched vets a little over a year ago. I loved my old vet and the staff was awesome. It was a multi-vet, large, busy practice. I went there for years, and the quality remained high even after a buyout by VCA. (The only difference I could see was they got less flexible about billing/ payment.) But when I started there my vet was the rookie on the staff. But he was great. Years later he was the senior vet there and you had to book up to 6 weeks in advance to see him, which meant that if I had a sick dog or cat I'd end up seeing someone unfamiliar with my animals' baseline behavior and medical/physical quirks. The practice was on the pricey side too.

 

I made the choice to go to a smaller practice that was a bit less busy. Several of my friends went there and were uniformly happy. I haven't regretted the switch. A nice bonus was that it was quite a bit cheaper. I did let my old vet know why I was "changing horses," and he seemed appreciative, but admitted that my problem with staying at his practice would not be likely to improve. I didn't expect it would, but after over 15 years of quality care I felt he deserved an explanation as to why I was leaving.

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It took me a long time to finally decide to switch vets. I kept giving the benefit of the doubt to my past vet. I know she is compentent and my dogs got sufficient care but there was some kind of connection/relationship missing. It was rare that I got to see the owner/vet, I kept getting fill-in vets, new vets would leave after a few months, new office staff sometimes treated me with no feeling, or care...? I always felt uncomfortable going there and always felt like I wasn't doing the appropriate things for my dogs and I always had a feeling like they had an attitude like it was their way or the highway. When I did get to see the owner vet, we were completely on different pages as far as how I felt about vaccinations, etc. I mentioned I was taking one of my dogs to a holistic vet for chiropractic, acupunture, allergy symptoms, etc. I wanted to let her know so maybe there might be some continuity of care. She actually told me 'those people are quacks'.

Okay, I knew right then I needed to switch. It just wasn't working.

I never went back and told them why. In a way I sort of feel guilty about not letting them know the reasons. But then on the other hand, I really don't think they would care because the area is getting more and more populated and they have more than their share of patients and I really think they are too busy to even notice they lost a client.

I really wish I switched vets sooner because the vet I have now it incredible. And, less expensive and closer to my home!

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FWIW - and speaking AS a vet - I'd rather know if there's a problem. For the most part my time is involved with doing patient and client care one-on-one, and I would not know about things that happen at the front desk unless someone tells me. I typically don't charge out my clients - that's the reception staff's job, and I usually have another case I need to get to. I also don't answer the phones very often, so unless someone mentions to me they had a bad experience or noticed a problem, I'm usually not going to know.

 

Even if you decide to change vets, I'd let them now what the issues are. And, if they are responsive, you may not NEED to change vets.

 

JMO.

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I have a great vet...been going to him since I got my dogs. Even though I have to drive 45 minutes to him and other vets are 10 minutes away, I still go to him. I feel comfortable with him to let him know if his help is being rude. He would want to know that. But the people have been working for him are super folks and with his great vet work, his help and general goodness I keep going back.

 

Talk to the vet...if they want to change, they will...if not, go somewhere else

 

Diane

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I'm in favor of letting people know the reasons for a change.

 

I changed vets recently. My former vet was bad at returning phone calls. When Duncan was a wee puppy, hospitalized with what turned out to be a GI bug, they promised me they'd call after every test result (was it Parvo? had he swallowed something? etc.). But they didn't. I spent the day with my stomach twisted in a knot wondering how he was doing before I finally called them, only to have them say "oh, he's doing great, all the tests were negative". The same regular vet kept charging us $27 for goodness how many fecal exams, most of which were negative, and several fortunes for special "GI food" for diarrhea that cleared right up after I gave Duncan Panacur after a suggestion from folk on the BC Boards. The same regular vet got snitty with me when I suggested a 5-day course of Panacur, and told the vet tech to tell me that if I didn't like their suggestion of a 3-day course of treatment, I could find another vet. (If DH hadn't been scheduled for open-heat surgery in a week, I'd have taken them up on their offer on the spot). The same regular vet required about six phone calls to verify that the bloodwork we had had done in January would be good for the sedation for a neuter in March. (The front office staff kept promising that someone would call me back...). The same regular vet didn't return my phone calls for something like five days last February when I called after my pup started vomiting the evening they'd seen him for roaring diarrhea.

 

This is also the same vet that charged us $600 for sedated X-rays last summer that their external radiologist (another $150) said were "inconclusive", in part because the vet had shot the wrong angles. (Of course that message wasn't returned until the day after he'd been sedated). The same X-rays that the ortho vet said "whaddaya mean, inconclusive? look right there! but why did they only shoot one shoulder, and not both shoulders, as long as they had him sedated?" and only charged us $150 for what proved to be more definitive X-rays of both shoulders. (The ortho vet said we should ask for our money back from the radiologist, an opinion I conveyed to the regular vet, only to have this message received with some huffiness). This is the same vet who, when I asked their opinion of some X-rays shot by the ortho vet, told me that they couldn't tell which hip was left and which one was right.

 

When the lead vet at my former regular practice finally did belatedly return the phone call (about the vomiting following diarrhea), I explained that we'd changed practices, and laid out the reasons. He said he appreciated my candor, and that it seemed there were many things they should discuss at their next staff meeting. He also said it sounded as if we were due a refund for the external radiologist. This never materialized. Oh, well, at least I tried to fill him in.

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