There is one comment from a client that I am sure makes all equine vets cringe when they here it.  For the non-vets reading  here it is – “I have spent so much money with your vet practice over the years that I paid for part of your clinic”. My jaw clenched as I was typing this. Whenever vets hear this we think many things but certainly not that they deserve to have a bale of hay named after them let alone part of a building.  Our inside voice is going “we have clients who spend more than you and they never ask for a favour” or “I have given you so many breaks on your bills and this is the appreciation I get?”

I am humbled to admit though that an incident happened to me yesterday that prompted me to think like these clients do. My wife and I go to a gym in town. Both of us have been using a personal trainer for the past three years and we pay in advance for our memberships each month. To my mind we are perfect clients. Yesterday, we had a guest who we invited to the gym. They had to pay over $10 for a one-day visitor past. All of a sudden I was thinking “wow, for all of the money we have spent here and our guest has to pay for a day pass?” Since then the situation has been nagging me. Why did I react this way and was I justified in thinking like this?

What I have decided is that our wishful thinking clients and I are asking for nothing more than a bit of appreciation. When we become loyal fans of a business there is a certain degree of emotional investment involved. For example, we don’t stray and use the competitors and we put our reputation on the line when we recommend the business to friends. In return we expect a certain degree of appreciation for our loyalty. Instead of the gym charging our guest imagine how I would have felt if they told him that there would be no charge for him since he was a guest of ours. They would have lost $11 as a day fee but would have received a huge amount of goodwill from me.  You could be reading about this great gym that knows how to treat a loyal client well.

The next time a client enquires about naming rights in your clinic think of what you haven’t done to show your appreciation to them. Does your veterinary practice have a formal client recognition policy? Do you go out of your way to show your appreciation to your best clients? Do you even know who your best clients are?

How does our veterinary practice shows appreciation to our special clients?

Previously our practice identified our top 50 clients and gave them a personalized and hand delivered gift basket at Christmas. Our top clients were a mixture of those who spent the most money with us or those who referred numerous clients during the year. For the first few years this was warmly received but we stopped giving the baskets this past year since it was becoming expected. This year we changed things to offer surprise benefits to clients on our pre-paid wellness programs. Recently we offered a huge saving on Adequan available only to these clients. We will have other special offerings for them and our other special clients throughout the year. These are just two examples. The key point is that we constantly think of what we can do for our best clients to show them that we don’t take them for granted.

Does anyone else do something special for their special clients?  How do you identify who your best clients are? In this competitive veterinary environment it is the little things that can make all of the difference.


  1. Fantastic post Dr. Pownall.

    While I do not work as an equine vet rather I work at a clinic associated with a shelter I still enjoyed & appreciated your article.

    Thank you for reminding me of your very important “take away” message!

    : )

  2. Great post, Dr Pownall.

    Have you thought about setting up a loyalty program connected to social media, etc? This could be one way you could reward all your clients while solidifying relationships and marketing your business. Another idea: do you reward referrals ?

    Finally, I think it’s worth saying that how you define rewards is important. For example, a loyalty program does not have to mean your business offers a discount on services. What’s important is to determine what has real value to your clients (this could be a charitable donation, for instance) and to surprise and delight them – if you do this, they will keep coming back and will refer their friends and colleagues.

  3. Mike,

    Hit the nail on the head again. We try to do things for our best clients but be careful as it can backfire. I wonder if you had any negative feedback on the lack of a holiday basket. I recently picked up the hotel bill in Bermuda for one of my best clients who went with his girlfriend for the weekend. I hope it was appreciated.

  4. You really know your stuff… Keep up the good work!

  5. Outstanding read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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  6. Pretty very good submit. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you submit again soon.
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  7. Mike,
    Wow! I never really thought about your age, but you are so mature as a vet and person that if asked I would have said you were at least 20 years a vet. Then I remembered that you had your farrier career before being a vet. Maybe its the white hair that had me fooled.
    I always read your posts, and this one really hit home. Of course, it should as I am 70 this year and still practicing. For the last 3 years it has been just Mon,Wed, Fri, and my share of the emergencies, but how could I ever replace the magic moments that happen on the road? There is at least one each day. Every once in awhile a real bonus when a client will say: “Don’t ever retire, I really trust what you have to tell me.” I think that comes with seasoning and the realization that the best policy is to do what is right for the animal, and not play games. I think it also comes when you know you are financially secure, and don’t really do it for the money any more. Yet I keep charging appropriately because discounting (because you can) would cheapen the profession. ) Anyway, great reading your articles. You are doing a superb job with them.
    By the way, I also occasionally get those comments like, “Yeah, I guess I must have bought your last vehicle with all the money I’ve spent with your practice.” It used to bug me. Now I just say, “Hey, I think you must be right. I”m thinking about getting a Hummer soon with every bell and whistle I can get. ..lets inject a few of your horses so I can do that right off.” Then I just look at them and smile. I have found that that particular client never makes a similair comment again. .
    Will miss you In Montana. My best to you and Melissa.
    David Jefferson


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