You receive a message from a client, which reads: “Fluffy is feeling better. I can’t believe it took so long to get her in. It’s a shame she wasn’t seen sooner!”
Have you ever read an email and, as you are reading it, you become angry, thinking, “Who do they think they are?”—then you go back later, re-read the email, and find it does not make you angry?
Did you base your initial reaction on how you were feeling in the moment, or was your reaction warranted? Further, did your response escalate or de-escalate the email communication?
If you were to be reactive in your response, your client would feel attacked and go on the defensive. The back-and-forth emails would continue in a tone getting progressively aggressive. You have now lost a client of nine years due to miscommunication in the electronic era.
In reality, all the client was trying to say was she wished she had taken her dog in sooner had she known how much better Fluffy would have felt. The client was emphasizing this and nothing more. Did you read into the email it was your fault or the practice’s fault Fluffy didn’t come in sooner?
When we put our own biased spin on what we read, it can turn personal quickly. Remember to step back and not assume the intent of the email is inflammatory. Instead, reply in a professional, friendly manner, which cannot be misconstrued in a negative way.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as recognize, understand, and influence the emotions of others. The five characteristics often associated with emotional intelligence are: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
Digital emotional intelligence (DEQ) builds off EQ as the ability to digitally sense emotional response, either our own or someone else’s, and to use this to affectively guide our behaviour, thinking, and the decisions we make in relation to digital input.
Why it matters
Clients will continue coming to a practice whose veterinarians and staff they trust. If this trust is broken, the relationship is broken. They may go somewhere else or stop taking their pets for regular care altogether. The patient becomes the victim of a broken trust between the practice and the client.
Client communication is one of the most complained about aspects of working in veterinary medicine. Hiring and training teams to develop their emotional and digital emotional intelligence will set practices apart—not only through their relationships with clients, but also with the culture built within the practice.
The good news is emotional intelligence (and, therefore, digital emotional intelligence) are skills we can teach, learn, or improve. This is good news, right? Adding DEQ training during regular staff meetings is a great way to introduce and teach it in smaller manageable pieces.
Learn how to listen and when not to respond
Sometimes things online are better left not being replied to, especially if the person, say, on social media, is trying to get a rise out of the practice by deliberately making hateful, false accusations. The best response in this situation is no response. Don’t feed the troll; they get bigger and just need more food. The best way to get rid of a troll is to starve them! People will see the writer is only trying to cause issues, and the practice does not lower itself to that level because they know the writer is only trying to make waves.
Use the old expression, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” When using social media, remember client-bashing is not okay and should never happen. Social media has a way of staying forever, and while you may have thought it was a private chat among your peers, it is never a private chat and can be used against you, tarnishing your name, reputation, and practice. It is best to keep it to yourself and not share any negativity about clients or a situation in the practice.
Remember to S.T.O.P. before you digitally speak! Slow down, take a deep breath. Think about your reaction before responding. Opportunity abounds. This is your time to show grace and understanding. Pleasant, professional replies convey and set the tone of your practice.
Linda Miller, BSci., CCFP, has over 20 years of business experience. As co-owner of Dog Days Consulting, she manages clients’ social media accounts. A certified compassion fatigue professional and a certified master life coach, Miller’s passion lies in teaching skills and providing staff with the necessary tools to help them sustain a long enjoyable career in the veterinary industry.
Cherry, K. Utilizing Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace. 2020. Retrieved from verywellmind: https://www.verywellmind.com/utilizing-emotional-intelligence-in-the-workplace-4164713
Orzechowska, A. The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence & How to Implement Them In Your Digital Workplace. 2020. Retrieved April 2021, from Valo: https://www.valointranet.com/blog/emotional-intelligence-in-the-digital-workplace