DVM, CAE, Chief Veterinary Officer of the NAVC
Dana Varble received her veterinary degree from University of Illinois in 2003 and earned her Certified Association Executive designation from ASAE in 2021. She has practiced clinical medicine in exotic pet, small animal general practice and emergency medicine and serves as an associate veterinarian for Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital. She has spoken locally, nationally, and internationally on herpetological and exotic animal medicine and the state of the veterinary profession. She served as the president of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians in 2013 and presently works as the managing editor of the Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery for ARAV. In 2015, she joined NAVC and in January of 2020 she was named Chief Veterinary Officer. As a NAVC spokesperson and a veterinary industry expert, she promotes animal health and the veterinary profession through media interviews and appearances including CNN, Steve Dale’s Pet World, Pet Life Radio, NBC News, local media outlets and others.
She shares her home with a mixed-up brown dog named Hannah, a Leonberger named Kodi, a tank of cichlids, four ball pythons, and a domestic human, Patrick, and his kids Lexi, and PJ.Read Articles Written by Dana Varble
Has anyone been able to resist the urge to read online reviews? If curiosity killed the cat, I can only assume that the swagger and self-confidence of modern cats is the result of an evolutionary advance that has not occurred in veterinarians. I can’t image a house cat feeling the weight and emotional turmoil of a bad online review the way I did. Despite the important and well-meaning advice to “not let them get to you,” it doesn’t really fit with my well-trained empathy.
If like me you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of online reviews, I’d like us to consider a new coping strategy—an all-out boycott.
Reading my own reviews was completely unproductive as I couldn’t separate myself from my emotional reaction to them. Instead, I tried to focus on a colleague’s reviews to see what I could learn. Buried deep in heaps of love and equally zealous hate, I did see some areas for growth. I know this particular colleague tends to use technical language and has been working on communication. The accusations of “acting superior,” “being condescending,” and “made me feel stupid” certainly reflected that weakness but in the most unconstructive and cruel ways. Knowing that person was already aware of this weakness and had been trying to improve, I couldn’t find any new substantiated information that would help them grow and improve. Then there is the second-hand review – the “telephone game” of a review written by a concerned family member or friend who did not even have a first-hand experience but still seems to feel the need to express their opinion.
Where did the trend of reviews come from? Why do we review everything from our Starbucks barista to a new outlet cover from Amazon to our neurosurgeon’s recent surgical procedure? When we first learned to do background research for a scientific paper we were taught to evaluate and determine the reliability and value of different sources—books, articles, scholarly journals, research papers, etc. In the world of reviews, we have little information to evaluate the source of the review. We meet clients briefly, oftentimes for only a few hours over the life of a pet. We have only impressions of them based on their attention to detail and expressed commitment for their animals but is that enough to judge their competency to evaluate our medical services?
After taking the red pill and adventuring in the surreal “wonderland” of review, I’ve decided on another path: not to read, write, click on, or give any further consideration to online reviews. None of the available sources of reviews, whether it be social media, search engines, or other websites, add value to my decisions. Instead, I will talk to my friends, family, colleagues, and other trusted resources for personal recommendations for restaurants, doctors, dentists, dog groomers, a new carrot peeler, etc.
If we can’t truly rely on reviews, how do we get that critical feedback we need to evaluate and update our services? Well, it’s time to find new productive and constructive ways to gather, evaluate and respond to feedback! Ideally, we would all ask for comments at the time of services when everyone’s memory is fresh. Now that many of us have started to email or even text communications to our clients, it is easy to add a link to a feedback survey. Online survey forms are often free or low-cost, easy to use, and can be compiled and analyzed to pick up trends very easily. This allows clients a chance to vent in a private forum so you can filter that feedback into a constructive and, therefore, productive format for your team. Consider sending out annual feedback requests to clients and/or your staff.
Turn off reviews where you can, set up autoreplies and instead gather your feedback from trusted sources. Don’t take the red pill or the blue pill, fall down the rabbit hole, or even spare a glance into that looking glass ever again!
A note from the author: This column is titled “The Secret Life Vets” so I can talk about the secrets that really should be considered well-known truths. These are the not-so-secret secrets that can help change our thinking and our profession for the better. Read more from the series here.