Sometimes exceptional work with a horse doesn't matter — a farrier could be fired by the client regardless. All of the skill and knowledge with a horse didn't help. And as that farrier, maybe you're left wondering what the heck happened.
Veterinarians experience this too. In 2015, the American Association of Equine Practitioners wanted to find out why good (as related to ability) vets were being fired. They reported on these findings at the group's annual convention in December. Even though this survey focused on vets, farriers should pay attention — after all, these are the same clients you work with.
1. Poor Communication Skills. This top reason should come as no surprise. Baus likened this reason what he's learned from volunteer work he performs with correctional prisoners. He simply sees it as an essential life skill, and one that it takes time to master.
He finds the best way to improve is focusing on listening — hear everything that the client is telling you. That means stopping and focusing on the person and not the task at hand. He advises using reflective listening as a way to strengthen those client-practitioner bonds. Demonstrate to the client that you are listening and then repeating what they state. There are several web resources that provide guidance in learning this trait.
2. Lack of Availability. Sometimes clients will have unreasonable demands on your time. Instead of discussing strategies like longer hours or greater availability, McInturff instead turned it around on the vet to think about what their practice offers the client.
"Don't try to be the client's friend," he advises. "Yes, be friendly, but don't be a friend. In reality, the customer really doesn't want a friend. They see you as a service provider."
McInturff finds that vets in particular focus too much on being a specialist. Instead of being a specialist of podiatry, reproduction or what have you, he instead advises on being a customer service specialist.
3. Misdiagnosis. We are human, and it is human to make mistakes. When a misdiagnosis has occurred, you'll do more good than bad by following these steps, according to Baus. It is similar to common advice on delivering meaningful apologies.
First, always tell the truth. Often, the first inclination is to figure out how to make the problem go away. Baus says that is futile — you can't do it.
Next, explain to the client how you will prevent a similar mistake from occurring again with their horse(s).
Thirdly, apologize. Baus warns against expressing guilt, however. Be sorry, but also be mindful that the level of admission may result in legal ramifications for you.
"You have a right to be wrong," Baus summarizes.
4. Cost Or Fees. You know you are in trouble right away when the potential client's first question on the phone is "How much do you charge?" Some practitioners will hang up, knowing there could be wasted effort on the horizon. McInturff says don't give up on them so easily. He takes the approach of steering the person away from cost. Whenever cost comes up, he redirects the conversation to instead show the value of service as related to the quality of care.
"Many people will simply quit listening after hearing a high cost," he finds.
He also warns against giving discounts. Word gets around, and if you give a client a discount, then others may hear about it.
"A good customer will be mad if they hear you are giving someone else a lower cost," he says. If you are going to offer discounts, have a policy that is defendable and that is the same across the board."
He adds that this is why you should avoid trying to be a client's buddy — friends may start expecting discounts.
It is fairly simple to understand how a farrier could lose clients over similar circumstances. Read over these reasons and think about how you deal with clients. Do your best to avoid mistakes that take away from the quality hoof care you provide.