I’ve probably visited virtually every veterinary hospital in Southern California to try and spread the word about Aquamation, as well as how we pet owners want our pets treated in their aftercare. As with any other business, not all hospitals are created equal! So, while I traverse the state, I do a lot of thinking about how the normal pet owner should evaluate a potential hospital. The first line of attack is, of course, references from friends. The second line is really research. How long has the vet been practicing, what’s their specialty, are they board certified etc. But, there’s also a simple way to eliminate contenders – use your own five senses!
That’s right. Smell. I’ve been in hospitals that would literally make your eyes water. The first thing that enters my head is that the place is dirty and/or they don’t care how it smells. Neither option is endearing. It’s a big turn-off if I have to breathe through my mouth! On the other side of the odor spectrum are hospitals like Malibu Coast Animal Hospital, which actually has a pleasant smell. I looked around and spotted a scent vaporizer discreetly placed on the counter. That’s smart. We know dogs will be dogs and they’re nervous already, so accidents do happen. How the hospital manages it tells you something.
It certainly isn’t necessary to have water or coffee or tea available to clients, but it sure is nice! I like the bowls of human and animal treats, too. There are vets on every corner and some take client care very seriously – they want to offer you something the others don’t. It’s a different level of service. I boil it down to the question of comparing two equally adept hospitals — one with amenities and one without. I’d take the amenities with all else being equal.
This might be too OCD for some of you, but I do think it’s part of the overall vibe of a place. It’s like the white glove test: can you wipe your finger along surfaces and have it stay clean? I’ve seen dust piled in corners and greasy window ledges. Would I allow this at my home? No. It’s called pride of ownership. The first time I went into Santa Barbara’s St. Francis Pet Clinic I immediately noticed one of the staff spraying and cleaning every surface in the place. How can you not be impressed? By the way, not surprisingly, they were voted best vet in Santa Barbara. And, how many of us have found the two-year old People Magazines that are so wrinkled and soiled that it conjures the image of big sweaty hands flipping through celebs in swimsuits? Spring for a new issue for goodness sakes!
Are you given a friendly greeting when you walk in? Half the places I walk into don’t even bother. It’s a simple gesture that makes me feel welcome. I’ve had two dogs on leashes trying to sniff another two dogs on leashes, and everyone is tangled and trying to get in the door. I appreciate it when the front desk people get up and help you sort things out. That kind of attention to the client goes a long way for me. Does the doctor introduce him/herself with a smile and give my dog a pet? It would seem to be common sense, yet it doesn’t always happen. My internist was the greatest doctor I’ve ever had. I only saw him twice a year, but it was like family. He was super efficient and didn’t waste time, but he made small talk, asked how the family was, checked what other doctors had done and gave the most complete physical I’ve ever had. I want that level of professionalism and care from my vet.
Okay. This is easy….you would think! First, when you see dusty, leaning plastic plants, don’t even bother to sit down! Make haste and go to the next hospital! The reality is that when I walk into a well lit, comfortable and clean office, I feel good about my choice of hospital. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but a coat of paint in the waiting room doesn’t cost that much! Replacing light bulbs, keeping the waiting room neat and orderly – first impressions do matter. I understand that vets make half of what human doctors make and have a similar debt load, but I expect cleanliness, neatness and some kind of style.
Some would say that these are a bunch of petty complaints that have nothing to do with the doctor’s talent. That’s true, it doesn’t have to do with his medical talent. But, it does have everything to do with him or her. The hospital and the staff are a reflection of the doctors. If they are that detailed in their approach to my experience in their hospital, then I’m more inclined to think that they will have the same approach in evaluating my sick puppy. Then, there is the basic notion of who cares enough to create the best possible client experience? I’ll bet the new vet down the street does.