When to D.I.T.C.H. a Client
What should you do when a client treats your team like dirt or refuses to pay their invoice?
Dan Travieso, an expert in organizational and individual performance at DT Squared Consulting Services in Fayetteville, NC, recommends that you D.I.T.C.H. your bad clients and encourage them to explore new horizons.
The D.I.T.C.H. acronym is an easy way to remember the 5 types of clients you should consider firing on the spot: Debtors, Integrity (or lack thereof), Time wasters, Cranky and Hustlers.
1. D – Debtors
It’s a sad but classic scenario. Mr. Smith presents with a “pet store puppy” who is dehydrated, depressed and hypothermic. While your nurse carries the pup to the treatment room, the owner begs you to “do whatever you need to save him! I’m totally bonded to this cutie!”
Based on this interaction, you ask for bloodwork, a parvo test and IV fluids. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith tells your receptionist that he has no money. The puppy has never been to a vet and was never vaccinated.
Now you have a terrible ethical and emotional dilemma. Only you can decide how much care you are willing to provide for free. Then it’s time to say farewell to this client.
2. I – Integrity
Ms. Johnson used to worship you. All of a sudden, as soon as her 14-year-old dog’s heart starts to fail, she blames you!
No matter how you try to explain the situation, she doesn’t understand that you did not cause heart disease.
Ms. Johnson starts to spread nasty rumors about you and your practice, both in person and online. You can do the right thing and treat the patient as well as possible, but then it’s time to say ciao to Ms. Johnson.
3. T – Time wasters
Needy clients can be mentally exhausting and lead to huge amounts of wasted time. They constantly demand to speak to you – and only you.
You may have spent 30 minutes detailing a new treatment option to Mr. Roberts in the morning. Sure, it was a bit complex, but you were very patient. You repeated everything 3 times. Then you typed clear instructions so there is no confusion.
However, by noon, your receptionist hands you a long note with multiple questions from Mr. Roberts. He demands a call. Once appointments are done, you call the client and spend another 20 minutes rehashing what you had explained and typed up that morning.
If this is a pattern, and not an exception, you need to decide if you want to keep this client — or if it’s time to say auf wiedersehen.
4. C – Cranky
Ms. Stevens behaves like a rabid tiger with your team and magically turns into a lamb as soon as you enter the exam room. She makes a scene in the lobby and makes other clients uncomfortable (reminder: Ms. Stevens lives in a pre-COVID-19 world!).
Then she mistreats your receptionist, who dared trying to confirm that her information hasn’t changed. Then she screamed at your nurse who mispronounced her dog’s name.
Yet as soon as you come in, Ms. Stevens acts like she’s your BFF.
Verbal abuse and disrespect should never be tolerated. It’s time to say adios.
5. H – Hustlers
Some clients have the money to spend on their pet but choose to spend it on something else. Rather than paying a fair price, they want freebies, discounts and handouts. They’re never thankful and can’t ever be pleased.
Such clients won’t suddenly decide to pay their invoice and follow your recommendations. No matter how much you do for them, they will never be loyal clients.
It’s time to say sayonara.
Veterinary professionals strive to please and serve everybody. We can’t help it, it’s in our nature. Such dedication can be a source of eternal stress.
It is high time you acknowledge the fact that you cannot make everybody happy.
When you encounter difficult clients, consider sending them to your friendly competitor across town so you don’t waste your time and money.
In the moment, it may be an agonizing decision, but your team, your other clients and, in turn, you will be thankful for your decision.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit