Our team pored over 1000 Yelp Reviews across the 34 cities of Orange County to find the top reasons why veterinarians in Orange County receive 1 star reviews. Below we rank the top 10 reasons why veterinarians are receiving 1 star reviews.
10. Facility – 6%
Cleanliness and organization are key here. Many reviews cite that the clinic will “smell like urine” or that there is a “horrible stench of feces”. Despite seeing hundreds of animals, vet clinics are still held to a standard that consumers expect for medical facilities. Patients have expectations of offices being clean and orderly.
Beyond animals though, sometimes complaints about the facility aren’t just about the odor or pet fur. Sometimes its papers and folders all over the place. Many reviews mentioned the front desk with papers and folders everywhere.
Customers like to know that their pets are well cared for. Having files organized and things tidy is an association with a higher quality of care.
How to Prevent:
Often cleaning is not an effort issue, its an issue of habit. In any business, those that stay clean have built in procedures for their staff to constantly be cleaning and monitoring the facility.
4 act offers a great module online reminding veterinary practices what to do to keep their facility clean.
9. Death – 7%
These are unfortunate. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do. The reviewers are writing based off their emotions and are trying to point fingers at someone. Too often this is a veterinarian.
Though we cannot prevent death, what we found is that many 1 star reviews mentioning death could be avoided by how the staff and veterinarian handle the situation. Reviews will mention that the staff was callous in the situation. That they were treated as just another number, not a living being with feelings.
This category is tough, all we can recommend is that we remind ourselves how emotional a death of a pet is for a family.
How to Prevent:
Dr. Sarah Wooten writes “we may be the only person in that client’s life that recognizes the human-animal bond between the client and the pet. We can plan to honor that connection and provide emotional support for the client after the pet has passed on. Celebration of life ceremonies, telling funny stories about the pet, a funeral, special mementos, art work, music or candles can all help a highly attached client cope with the loss, so don’t be afraid to ask how the client will be honoring the passing of his or her pet. If your client doesn’t have any ideas, don’t be afraid to give some suggestions. In doing so, you may be giving that client permission to grieve in a healthy way that he or she may not have considered. Ritual can bring comfort and closure.”
We encourage you to read her complete post on DVM 360.
8a. Wait Time – 10%
People hate waiting, especially if they set an appointment. Schedules are busy, people have places to go and when people have to wait over an hour to get to their appointment, they are going to be mad. Usually wait time isn’t the main factor that leads to a 1 star review. Usually a prolonged wait time starts the avalanche of other complaints.
For example, most reviews that mention how long they had to wait, it will usually lead to a rushed physical exam. This usually just tips the client over the edge. Not only did they have to wait, but once you got to them, they feel like they were rushed.
This starts sounding like the DMV and no one likes the DMV.
How to Prevent:
A national study found that 70% of respondents reported that after less than 15 minutes of waiting at a veterinary clinic, they start to become irritated.
A great piece by Christine Shupe gives some ideas to employ that can help diffuse the client’s inevitable wait time.
8b. Phone – 10%
Ability to communicate on the phone is a lost art. People have started to lose their touch speaking on the phone. Clinics should still make sure that they are handling phone calls well. Be polite, cheerful and be respectful on the phone.
Do the obvious things. Speak clearly, be polite and do not show any attitude on the phone. Even if you have a million things going on in your head, you cannot let it affect your phone etiquette. Take a moment, tell the caller if they can hold for a couple minutes. Then when you have your head together get back on the call.
That brings us to another common theme of 1 star reviews that mention phone calls.
Do not leave people on hold for too long.
Anything longer than 5 minutes starts to become unacceptable. People are reasonable and they understand that things get busy.
If your busy, politely get back on the phone with the caller and ask them if they can call back in 15 minutes, an hours or whatever it may be. Just don’t leave them there. Remember, when your on hold as the caller, you literally are stuck waiting.
Its not like you can go off and do something else. You might miss the call when they pick up your line again. So try to keep the caller in mind.
How to Prevent:
Wendy S Myers of Communication Solutions writes a great piece for front desk staff on how to handle phone calls. This includes:
- Ask permission before placing callers on hold
- If it takes several minutes to get back to the caller, ask if she/he would prefer to be called back
- When talking to an upset client, move away from the waiting room into a private area
6. Communication – 17%
The ability to properly communicate with clients majorly impacts the clinic’s reputation. Miscommunication can often lead to clients misunderstanding treatments and payments. Though you may know what you are doing, at the end of the day its just as important to make sure the pet owner knows what is going on.
Many treat their pet as their child. They want to make sure they understand everything that is happening.
Its important to make sure you don’t go too fast. Slow down and make sure that you are properly explaining what you are doing to the owner. Explain what your recommendations are.
Be upfront about any possible costs and treatments. Many 1 star reviews are written because pet owners all of a sudden are given a bill for treatments that are hundreds of dollars. This can be avoided by simply communicating early on.
How to Prevent:
Communication is one of those skills that makes or break any business. For veterinarians its especially difficult as they essentially deal with three parties.
The clinic, the animal patient and the owner. To properly take the animal patient into consideration, determine the treatment needed and to communicate this to the owner is difficult.
Dr. Laura Garrett writes in detail about the importance of these 4 communication steps:
- Watch What They’re Saying
- Walk in Their Shoes
- Get Them Talking
- Listen and Repeat
This article is definitely a must read as Laura goes very in depth about how to properly execute each step.
Another great read is Amanda Chin’s piece in Veterinary Practice News
5. Wrong Diagnosis – 19%
This is simple. The wrong diagnosis was given. Mistakes can happen and there is nothing we can do to avoid this. What you can do though is to not let your ego get the best of you.
What often happens with reviews that mention a wrong diagnosis is that customers feel compelled to pay up a huge amount. They feel guilt tripped into procedures they often can’t afford.
By allowing patients to be able to go get a second opinion it immediately makes your clinic look like you are trying to do the best for them as a family, rather than pressure them into something they can’t afford.
Obviously there is concern about whether or not the customer will come back, however, consumers will feel thankful about your kindness and willingness to work with them. They more often than not will come back because you gave them the freedom to get a 2nd opinion.
How to Prevent:
Admitting fault or wrong diagnosis is a very touchy topic both legally and emotionally. In a majority of cases, the yelp user’s lack of experience will push them to jump into false conclusions.
However, sometimes as a veterinary practice mistakes are genuinely made. There is debate on whether or not veterinarians should be admitting fault. Dr. Elkins of the VCA Veterinary Specialty Center in Indianapolis writes “data indicates that the likelihood of a lawsuit falls by 50 percent when healthcare professionals offer the client an apology and the details of a medical error immediately.”
There is nothing we can do about wrong diagnosis or mistakes. What is important to preventing 1 star reviews is communicating quickly and honestly.
4. Staff – 27%
Its surprising to see this so high on the list. However, 27% of 1 star reviews mention the staff. This usually comes in the form of workers with attitude and being rude. Some even not paying attention to customers because they are taking a personal call.
Unlike other factors on this list, staff can be the only reason why someone will give a 1 star. It was far too common to see 1 star reviews say that they love the veterinarian and the clinic, but that they are giving a 1 star because each time they call, the employee answering the phone is rude.
As a team, ensure that customer service and treating customers is a priority. It can make or break a lifelong customer or a 1 star review.
How to Prevent:
Good Yelp reviews are a team effort. Someone can have a great experience during their visit, but one person can turn the visit into a 1 star review.
No one is saying that having everyone at their tip top customer service shape is easy either. The combination of difficult clients, high stress situations and managing the traffic of incoming clients can make keeping a smile almost impossible.
Some of the most important things to remember when ensuring that the staff is not causing the 1 star reviews are:
- Creating a Positive Culture – When everyone is excited to come to work, the excitement will be tangible.
- Team Support & Accountability – Encouraging employees to admit to their mistakes without consequences
- Training & Quality Checks – Every staff member needs to understand the company goals and be trained in dealing with clients
3. Quality of Service – 30%
Another common reason for 1 star reviews is quality of service. This one extends into all areas of veterinary service. This includes grooming boarding and surgery. Because this one’s a little broad I’ll go into each category.
A majority of 1 star reviews for boarding talk about the poor condition of pets when they are picked up from the boarding facility. Animals will have lost a lot of weight, look frightened and too often, smell like urine.
Its important for the clinic to ensure that when an owner picks up their pet that their pet is well taken care of. However, even if the animal is not doing well just because they do not like being there, its important to communicate this to the customer.
There are no 1 star reviews we found about owners being called and told that their pet is having a bad time and should be picked up. Rather it’s the contrary. Many reviewers write that they wish they could have been told so they could have a had a friend pick their pet up for them.
Too often 1 star reviews say that the owner calls
1 star reviews for grooming are not because of bad haircuts. It is usually 1 of 2 things. Its either the groomer did not listen to the instructions of the client, trimming the fur too short or keeping it too long. The other being that an animal was injured during grooming.
The former issue is easy to avoid. Just make sure the staff and the groomers have written down the grooming request properly. Ensure that the request is communicated to the groomers.
Unlike barber shops and salons, grooming is not subject to such scrutiny like human hair. It’s just about following directions.
The other issue is obvious. You cannot be hurting dogs for grooming. Grooming is perceived as routine. To have an accident happen is a clear sign of lack of quality and professionalism.
As we cited before with physical exams, patients want to make sure that their animals are being thoroughly checked. Any check up that feels rushed or where the veterinarian is not doing their due diligence will usually be written up for a 1 star review.
Though these are so routine, owners want to make sure that their animal is being well cared for. Even if everything looks fine, reviewers like to be communicated to and explained about why something is wrong or even if the animal is healthy, why you are saying so.
Surgery and Treatment
Botched surgeries and animals having complications after procedures is the most common reason for 1 star reviews. This is understandable as owners have to pay up a lot of money in order to be able to afford the surgery and when it does not go well, they will be upset. At the end of the day, medicine is not far along enough where we can guarantee success.
The only recommendation we can give here is to ensure that surgeries are properly communicated before the surgery is performed and to ensure your not doing anything that is over your head.
How to Prevent:
This category is very similar to that of the wrong diagnosis. It involves making involuntary mistakes. Another great piece to read is by Phil Zeltzman who talks about using his “TEAM” approach when in these situations.
2. Veterinarian – 35%
Veterinarians are the face of the company. The entire clinic is usually embodied by the veterinarian for clients. This means that no matter how professional, clean and amazing the staff and building is, the veterinarian makes the bulk of the reputation and experience.
Many 1 star reviews mention the veterinarian having a lack of communication skills. Being uncaring and uninterested with patients, rushing appointments and diagnosing patients wrong. There are a number of mistakes that can go wrong. Its important for veterinarians to keep in mind the other factors, because usually it’s a number of factors.
Clients want to make sure their animals are being well cared for by a veterinarian that not only understands the animal, but also understand the family. Therefore, for the reputation of the business its important to give the animal the best care, but to also foster the best relationship with the client.
How to Prevent:
With veterinarians, its always going to be a combination of different factors. This includes communication skills, quality of service and the overall way they interact with clients.
Something to always remember when dealing with clients is the non-verbal cues. Its not just about what you are saying or diagnosing. It is about how the client feels.
A great quote that we use in our business here at Search Business Group is
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Dr. Jessica Gramlich writes some great tips to remember on VetPrep:
- Greet the client by name
- Give them a why
- Make it personal
- Educate the client
- Use appropriate terminology
- Perform follow up calls
- Always be honest
- Don’t forget about non-verbal communication
1. Money – 41%
I don’t think this surprised anyone. This is an industry wide issue. Many pet owners just do not understand the investment of taking proper care of their animal entails. Though we cannot eliminate the public’s lack of understanding, we can do our best to reduce the blow.
This means provide accurate, or as close as you can get, estimates. Don’t spring charges on clients thinking that they can front the bill. Its all about communicating the importance of treatment and explaining that to provide the best care, certain investments are needed.
How to Prevent:
Fritz Wood of HF Wood Consulting has a quick video addressing how veterinarians can address complaints about the cost of veterinary services.