Last week, I talked to the students at the Kentucky Horseshoeing School on the common traits found among successful farriers. Through emails, phone conversations, clinics and ride-alongs with a variety of farriers, these traits are easy to spot. Besides the knowledge and ability required to effective trim and shoe a horse, these traits cover subjects like managing finances, professionalism and establishing goals, among others.

I took this opportunity to stress the need for developing customer service skills. Customer service goes beyond showing up on time or answering calls. I told the students that one of the best tools for exercising customer service and building a practice is a willingness to answer client questions.

Questions can sometimes seem like a nuisance, especially if coming at the end of a long, hot day. But those questions are a farrier’s opportunity to establish and maintain the status of footcare expert for a client.

When a question is treated with disinterest, nothing has addressed the client’s curiosity. That client will find someone else who can answer that question. Now that new source has replaced the farrier as the active hoof-care expert. That source has influence on how the client views footcare and their horses. That source has stolen away some of your critical management of the farrier-client relationship.

Maybe the source will share the same beliefs you have about hoof care — and maybe not. And who will be the source? Someone at the barn? At the feed store? Today, it is likely that the expert will appear on the smartphone or computer screen. The Internet provides 24-7-365 access to any subject under the Sun. And unfortunately there is no governing of the validity of that information.

As such, that new footcare expert may be filled to the gills with misinformation and crackpot theories.  Now the client will challenge your approach to hoof care with their freshly perceived “facts.” Upon reflection, it would have been easier to address the situation by simply answering that initial inquiry.

You can’t keep your client’s attention during every waking hour. But by answering questions thoroughly and accurately, you’ll make it less likely for them to search out someone who will.