For our BVRA column this month, we would like to look at the importance of continuing professional development (CPD) for the customer care team. Non-clinical training is limited as the veterinary industry focuses most of its training on the clinical side of practice. While we understand that continually developing clinical knowledge is vital, the lack of non-clinical training provided is surprising, especially when the non-clinical teams are the ones handling and responding to clients.
Investing in the training of non-clinical teams should be seen as just as vital as the clinical team training. Vets and nurses must hit a minimum number of CPD hours a year, but non-clinical team members have no such expectations, even though they are the first point of call, often triaging over the phone and explaining routine procedures. Non-clinical team members are not legally even allowed to learn about or attend lunchtime training about flea and worm treatments that are prescription-only medications (POM-V), despite the fact they are often the ones that are explaining the treatment to clients and ordering these drugs for them.
What about the non-clinical team members who are asked to dispense medication even though they’ve had no training on handling, storing or dispensing these medications correctly? Why are we asking our colleagues to do these tasks, without providing them sufficient training to be able to do so safely?
According to the [BVRA] 2021 annual survey, 33 percent of receptionists do not receive a CPD allowance from their practice and 64 percent said that they wanted to do more CPD
In fact, according to the British Veterinary Receptionist Association 2021 annual survey, 33 percent of receptionists do not receive a CPD allowance from their practice and 64 percent said that they wanted to do more CPD. That’s 64 people in every 100 that want to learn more, and whose growth is being restricted. A mere 36 percent of receptionists were satisfied with the level of learning and development opportunities they are provided with.
Why should we invest in CPD for non-clinical staff?
Of course, the main purpose of any business is to make a profit and client satisfaction is a vital part of this. Improving client satisfaction increases return custom, client loyalty and revenue as it provides a regular, guaranteed repeat income. By investing in our non-clinical colleagues, we are directly improving client satisfaction, as well as financial income, colleague morale and team efficiency. Colleagues that are confident in what they are saying or doing are faster, more productive and complete more tasks independently, rather than frequently stopping and having to ask for assistance. This makes this training not just beneficial for the team, but an investment for the practice financially.
Colleagues that are confident in what they are saying or doing are faster, more productive and complete more tasks independently
Often it is not the money, but the lack of value shown by management or clinical colleagues that increases non-clinical staff turnover. Therefore, by not investing in our non-clinical team, we are making them feel expendable and undervalued, which leads to staff leaving the profession. Financially, it is more beneficial to invest in our current staff members than it is to have to advertise for, interview and train new staff that may not be as interested in their new careers.
Often it is not the money, but the lack of value shown by management or clinical colleagues that increases non-clinical staff turnover
I recently had a conversation with a receptionist colleague who was new to the role and one of the things they said stuck with me. She had only been in the role for five weeks and due to staff sickness was working on her own. A client came in with her dog who had been in a road traffic collision and had then unfortunately passed away at the practice. The owner was distraught and was crying uncontrollably in the waiting room. They did not want to go back in to see their pet, but they also could not bring themselves to leave. This left them in the waiting room.
My colleague was trying to comfort the owner, but she was underprepared and completely overwhelmed with the situation, and she still had to manage reception. She was emotionally exhausted, having to deal with another’s grief alongside having to put on a positive face for other clients, while also being told by her colleagues to move the grieving client on.
We should be providing adequate training on handling the emotional situations caused by others, as well as managing their own mental well-being and emotional intelligence
This is a situation that many receptionists can relate to, and we should be providing adequate training on handling the emotional situations caused by others, as well as managing their own mental well-being and emotional intelligence. In doing so, we will be able to reduce the severity of emotional burnout which so many colleagues across the industry live with.
What sort of training can veterinary front-of-house team members undertake?
Customer care teams can be provided with training in bereavement, mental health first aid, emotional intelligence, handling difficult situations, resilience, dispensary and many more. These are often things that customer care teams say they struggle with and feel they would be able to provide a better level of service if they were more competent in these areas.
Customer care teams can be provided with training in bereavement, mental health first aid, emotional intelligence, handling difficult situations, resilience, dispensary and many more
As well as these courses, there are also suitably qualified person (SQP) training courses available. By training your non-clinical team in these areas, you are relieving vets and nurses of tasks, which allows them more time to consult, perform procedures, report results, etc: all things that actively bring money into the practice.
If providing training helps the non-clinical team register just one client, given that during the average pet’s lifetime a client will spend £3,000 to £4,000 at a practice we can easily see the financial benefit to the practice, as well as the inevitable boost in team morale and job satisfaction.