George Carlin, a comedian I’m not much familiar with, found fault with the phrase “Have a nice day,” saying it was “probably unrealistic to expect someone to have a nice day all day long.”
I am as guilty as the next person at wishing people I meet to “have a nice day” upon taking their leave. It has become an ingrained auto-response. The phrase is depersonalized and meaningless more often than not. Carlin’s riposte struck home because it has only been a few weeks since that very phrase landed me in the middle of a hostile exchange between my staff and a client.
The first I knew that we had a problem was finding a chart on my desk with a note “Client upset. Please call.” We get very few complaints, surprising, perhaps, given the number of animal patients we see in a day and the variety of human clients attached to them. I suppose some people never discuss their dissatisfaction with us and simply go elsewhere with their pets. Our best clients tell us when we have let them down and I very much appreciate that – how else to improve our services? And then there are, well, those days that we just mess up. We don’t just drop the ball, we kick it over the fence. No half measures for us, no sir.
So I read the chart. It landed on my desk because I had examined a cute little Maltese dog and vaccinated her when she first arrived to board with us. That had been days earlier and I had not heard of any problems during her stay. I then requested to speak with any personnel who might be able to enlighten me. This can be a dicey tightrope – understandably your staff wants to feel that you’ve got their back and truthfully, the client is not always right.
With half the story under my belt, I felt prepared to call the client, who was pleasantly surprised that I even called. The saga was not life threatening in any way but was important. The client had requested her dog be bathed upon arriving at the clinic. This made no sense to the staff because like some people, a dog away from home may exhibit different behaviors than their owner is accustomed to. He may stay up until all hours of the night. She may bark joyfully nonstop. Both will engage in food fights, scattering food willy nilly. Someone peed on their favorite blanket then ate it. In short, your calm little house pet may have the manners of the worst frat boy party animal you’ve ever seen depicted in a movie once you step away. I know, I’ve seen ‘em. So we always suggest a bath and fluff up right before heading home. Time to put the leash back on. Momma’s coming and you don’t want to disappoint Momma.
In this case, the staff just thought someone heard it wrong, so they waited to give the bath 4 days later, when the dog was scheduled to go home. Only Momma came back a day early. We absolutely would have given the bath then but everything got bolloxed up in the explanations and finally the good woman took her dog (bathless) and went home. The final insult? As she was leaving in high dudgeon, one of my staff called out “Have A Nice Day.”
Ouch! Hit that ball right out of the park.
I was treated to a delightful lunch at a Ruth Chris Steakhouse recently and noted that at every request the staff responded “with pleasure.” I considered trying to incorporate this into my daily interactions with clientele, but somehow, when asked to express anal glands I think saying “with pleasure” could backfire on me. I am trying to rid myself of “Have a Nice Day.”.
Christine McFadden, DVM