Defining the client experience and your role as leader - Veterinary Practice
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Defining the client experience and your role as leader

NICK STEELE of Zoetis looks at how developing observable behaviours and assessing the performance of team members can help to develop them in line with their skill levels, leading to a framework for better management

GIVEN that it takes five examples of positive service to make up for just one negative one (Lee Resources International), providing a consistent client experience is central to running a successful veterinary practice.

At Zoetis business consulting, we describe this as delivering “medical value” – the combination of a medical service with a client experience that the client considers equal to or greater in value than the price you charge for it. What structures do you need to put in place and what is your role as a leader in successfully delivering this within your practice?

It all begins with setting your value proposition – simply put, a description of what type of practice you are, what services you deliver and the service level to which these are delivered. Consider it as a statement of “this is who we are, this is what we do and this is how we do it” to your clients.

The times of the local practice being everything to everybody are gone in the majority of locations and we are seeing practices distinguishing themselves from others by making these statements to their clients differently.

You may already have a clear vision of this for your practice and we help practices define it by getting them to think along two parameters – service level and price. Increasing service level must be associated with increasing price.

The link back to client experience is that this experience must be aligned to and congruent with your value proposition (Figure 1).

It’s important to say that a practice wishing to occupy the bottom left quadrant won’t be delivering a bad client experience; it’s just that it will look different from the client experience delivered by a practice in the top right quadrant.

Think of being served a cup of tea on an airline. easyJet will offer you this in a rip-top paper cup filled with hot water from the trolley which you will pay extra for. On British Airways, you’re served a blend created for the airline by Twinings. You will place your cup on a tray and the tea will be poured from a teapot, a biscuit is offered and this is included in the fare.

Both airlines have simply given you a cup of tea, but they’ve done it differently with service congruent with their value proposition.

Service-led organisations use a structure known as “competencies” to define what their service level is and how it is delivered. In non-HR language, a competency is simply an observable behaviour.

So, after defining your value proposition, a practice must set about defining the observable behaviours for each step of the journey a client takes when choosing you for their veterinary healthcare provider.

Let’s break it down and do this for one of those steps – arriving at the front desk and being greeted by the receptionist. To develop the observable behaviours we need to consider what an observer would see, hear and feel. How could these be defined for a practice in the lower left quadrant? What might be the fundamental service behaviours?

Some initial thoughts are shown in Table 1. How might these be enhanced for a practice in the top right quadrant? What extra levels of service would they need to offer at this step to be congruent with this value proposition? Again, some initial thoughts are in Table 2.

Developing these observable behaviours has an added benefit – they are central to your role as the leader in helping you manage the performance of your team.

Managing team performance hinges around setting expectations. If, as a leader, you do not set expectations, your team will have no clear guidance on how you need things to be done. In the absence of expectations, a team will define these themselves and deliver to that level.

Consider performing the exercise of creating the behaviours as a team – I’ve done this often with practices and it is always a positive experience. You bring the team onboard with the strategy behind the value proposition and empower them to define the behaviours in line with their roles.

As a leader, you assess the performance of team members through the results they deliver, but you diagnose and manage performance through observable behaviours. This is the starting point to diagnosing an individual’s performance. It is the behaviours of the person that we are able to see and it is behaviour that drives a person’s performance.

Having defined observable behaviours for your client experience, you are able to assess if team members are delivering in line with them or not.

When we identify that a team member is not delivering in line with the behaviours, then we need to begin a diagnostic process to understand why.

The first step in the process is an exercise to compare the team member’s skill level with their motivation – the skill-will matrix (Figure 2).

Think about the individual – do they have a high or low skill level for the area in which they are not performing? What about their motivation level (their will) – is it high or low? Mapping them into one of these four quadrants will suggest a way forward.

If the team member maps into one of the high will quadrants, then your plan is to develop them in line with their skill level. If the team member maps into one of the low will quadrants, then an additional diagnostic step is required – the BECKS model (Figure 3).

The objective of this final diagnosis is to understand the potential reason behind the poor performance and it begins at the bottom of the pyramid.

  1. Does the team member have the necessary skills to perform the task? No: develop the skills. Yes: move up the pyramid.
  2. Do they have the necessary knowledge to perform the task? No: develop the knowledge. Yes: move up the pyramid.
  3. Does the team member have absolute clarity on what you require them to do? No: provide the clarity. Yes: move up the pyramid (but check you are 100% sure they have this clarity).
  4. Is there something in their environment impacting on performance (at work or at home)? Yes: address this. No: move up the pyramid.
  5. Behaviour: if you reach this level of the pyramid having answered yes to each of the previous steps, then this team member is choosing the behaviour and that needs to be addressed appropriately.

By deciding your value proposition and defining observable behaviours around each step of your client journey, you not only provide clarity and support to the team to deliver this, but create a framework for you to manage and diagnose the performance of your team.

  • For further information contact Nick via

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