Can You Hear What the Client is Saying?

Every year the Customer Service Representatives (CSR) from all of our practices get together for a CSR training day.  We discuss topics like emergency situations, how to handle different types of calls, how to respond to certain questions and how to provide the best service we can.  It is nice to get a 3rd party perspective.  This year we brought in Dr. Colleen Best as a guest speaker, to help us learn the ins and outs of communication.  Dr. Best is doing research at the Ontario Veterinary College on the impact communication has on the relationship between a client and a veterinarian – specifically in an equine setting.

Something she said, that resonated with me was, “clinical communication isn’t inherent, and needs to be taught.” To make this point hit home, she introduced some scenarios and we took turns role playing.

We are CSRs. Communication is our bread and butter.  This will be easy!

Or not…

If we talk to people all day every day, how is it possible, that we were stumbling through these scenarios?

We were thinking about our answers, and not listening to what our “client” was saying.  Instead of making a personal connection, using helpful filler/catch phrases and engaging the “client”, we were caught prefabricating responses, in an effort to show the presenter our skills.

After a pause, and some discussion about what went wrong, round 2 went much better.

The CSRs, as the initial point of contact, can’t be the advocate for the client if they don’t understand what the client needs.  We can’t really understand what the client needs without listening to what they are saying. One of our goals at McKee-Pownall Equine Services, is to be the voice of the client, and provide the best customer experience we can. To ensure this is our reality, we have to set the bar high and continue to hone our communication skills. Since our interaction is primarily over the phone, we have to understand what the voice on the other end is saying without the benefit of body language, facial expressions and other sight triggers.  Due to the technology we use, we have to solely rely on the words used and tone of voice.

What I learned about myself that day, is that I don’t do as well in the hot seat as I thought.  The veterinarians and technicians complete continuing education courses for practical skills that benefit the client and patient in the field.  We, as CSRs can do the same to benefit the client experience over the phone. By exposing our weaknesses in a group setting, we now all know what we need to work on.

Realizing that the ability to communicate is not something you should just know, made my inadequacies in the scenarios an easier pill to swallow.  I have said it before, and I’ll say it again – there is always room for improvement, and this training day has motivated me to continue to do so.

 

Laura Holmes, Office Manager

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