This year, Client Care Advisors (CCAs) at Vets4Pets and Companion Care practices started to embark on a professional journey to further develop their interpersonal and client engagement skills. As “front of house” colleagues, these individuals are often the first point of contact when clients visit or call one of the 480+ first-opinion practices within the Pets at Home Vet Group. These CCAs often execute a skilled customer service triage when it comes to successfully managing all aspects of client care with no two clients being the same and no two days, or minutes, being the same.
“Our Client Care Advisors are far more than receptionist,” says David Muldowney, the Pets at Home Vet Group’s Client Care Academy Manager. “That’s why we have started to change some of our colleagues’ job titles from Receptionist to Client Care Advisor.
David joined the Pets at Home Vet Group after spending 14 years in retail management, four of which were with Pets At Home. He was excited by the opportunity to help the Group’s Client Care Advisors grow professionally through coaching so they can deliver a world-class client experience. Hence, in May 2018, the Client Care Academy was born.
The Academy provides a level of training that the Group doesn’t believe any other veterinary practice or veterinary group provides, with experienced-basedcoaching at its core. The Pets at Home Vet Group believes that to provide clients with world-class service, its CCAs need world-class coaching.They need the skills and tools to interact with clients on a two-way engaged level so they can get the most out of every interaction with a client and the team around them.
The Group’s Learning & Development team partnered with Mynoggin, a people development consultancy specialising in interpersonal agility, to develop a bespoke programme based on different client scenarios represented across its practices. The scenarios help CCAs to identify what’s happening under the surface of interactions so they can best react to create a mutually beneficial outcome.
According to David, the Academy shies away from the word ‘training’ and flow-chart scenarios that teach when X happens, do Y. Instead, it focuses on helping colleagues to develop the ability to truly connect and confidently interact with others, so everyone has the opportunity to contribute and tofeel valued and respected. Ultimately, the Academy aims to help its CCAs build stronger, more emotionally connected relationships that foster trust, and therefore, deliver world-class service to clients.
“Our CCAs handle some difficult situations,” says David. “They deal with people in distress. They give advice, hear people’s heart ache and deal with sensitive matters, including financial ones, which demand empathy. They do a fantastic job.”
With his retail management experience, David knows that some of the greatest client relationships stem from an unhappy starting point. He believes that great customer service comes down to understanding first and foremost what’s important to the person on the phone or standing in front of you.
“You can turn an upset client into one who just comes in to say ‘hi’,” says David. “A client will be unhappy for a reason, and you can solve that unhappiness by getting to the bottom of it, understanding it from their point of view and turning the situation from a bad one into a great experience. We all have it in us to do that, but we need the tools to help us to unlock the door. That’s what our Academy is about.”
Academy feedback has been very positive. Vickie Morson, a practice manager with Sutton Coldfield Vets4Pets reports that she saw a huge increase in one of their Customer Care Advisor’s confidence and attentiveness with clients, including this person’s ability to communicate more appropriately in sensitive situations.
Nathan Dunleavy, a Customer Care Advisor with Vets4Pets Southampton found the training to be really useful. “Everybody needs to do it!” says Nathan. “I now understand body language and how to manage difficult situations.”
David says, “What I love the most is the light bulb moment; the moment when our colleagues get it. When we see our colleagues use their new skills with our clients, well, it’s simply amazing.”
According to David, this training is just the start, and there are plans to provide more in-depth training to meet more specific needs. For example, The Pets at Home Vet Group now offers in-practice colleagues accredited pet bereavement training, developed in partnership with the Blue Cross.
“Client behaviour – human behaviour – is fascinating,” says David. “For us, we work in an environment where a lot of people are emotionally fraught. Excellent communication and relationship-building skills can massively and positively impact a situation. Pets, clients and colleagues are at the centre of our business, which is why our Client Care Academy is so important.”