How a Generational Approach to Veterinary Client Communication Can Help Your Practice

March 18, 2024
6 min

Effective veterinary client communication is the secret sauce for successful, lasting client relationships. Each interaction we have with pet owners presents an opportunity to better understand the distinct preferences, values, and communication styles that can mean the difference between a pet owner hearing our recommendations for care and understanding them.

A generational approach to veterinary client communication is a simple framework that can help you identify and better meet the diverse needs of your clientele. Whether it’s knowing your Zoomer client only texts or that your Boomer client likes to keep the conversation going in person, on the phone, and in email, our ability to tailor communication to different generations can help increase client satisfaction (and retention).

And the good news? We’re already really good at it, according to Dr. Sarah Wolff, founder and owner of Wolff Pack Services.

“Every practice that I work with, we see people going above and beyond to provide individualized care,” says Dr. Wolff. “Whether it’s remembering that Mrs. Smith likes room three or Mr. Jones needs morning appointments, our teams work very hard to provide this care and this adaptation to individuals already.”

Let’s take a look at the 5 generations you’re most likely to see in veterinary practice and review Dr. Wolff’s strategies for communicating effectively with a multi-generational veterinary clientele.

Hear It Firsthand and Earn CE

Watch the full webinar Understanding Generational Trends: How to Best Serve Your Clients of All Ages with Dr. Sarah Wolff and earn 1 hour of RACE-approved CE. 

Your Clients, By the Generation 

Each of us is a member of a generation (or social cohort) shaped by the zeitgeist and major events of our formative years. People of a generation will often share values, preferences, and behaviors based on their shared experiences. 

Right now, there are 5 generations you’ll encounter in practice.

Traditionalists (Silent Generation)

The Compliant Conformists | Years: 1928-1945 | Currently Aged: 80-97 

Traditionalists were born during a time of great social instability. In their youth, they experienced the Great Depression and World War II, which made them appreciative of stability, frugality, and direct recommendations. Traditionalists are known for their respect for authority and are more likely to follow through with a recommended course of action, which is helpful when at-home care is required. 

Note on Life Stage

At this point in life, many veterinary clients in this generation will have help in the care of their pets. This, plus lifestyle considerations that factor into patient care, often requires a broader conversation with family and caretakers. 

Baby Boomers

The Savvy Consumers | Years: 1946-1964 | Currently Aged: 60-78

Baby boomers came of age in a post-WWII era of economic prosperity and social change in the United States. And there were a lot of them! Because of this generation’s size and a few other key factors, baby boomers have been the focus of advertisers for decades, and at this stage, they are sophisticated consumers.

Note on Consumer Habit

According to Dr. Wolff, veterinary clients of this generation are willing to pay for the best service and options for their pets. And they want to know that they have access to you and your staff for conversations and check-ins. Although this can put extra demands on us, it does open up additional opportunities for revenue if we can incorporate systems to accommodate their expectations.

Gen X 

The Pragmatists | Years: 1965-1980 | Currently Aged: 44-59

Independent, resourceful, and slightly irreverent, Gen Xers have been doing it on their own since they were kids, while their parents were working 9-5. They saw the end of the Cold War, the beginning of MTV, and the rise of the digital landscape. They’re open to information and your expertise, but they prefer to skip formal communication for a friendly, casual conversation. 

Millennials (Gen Y)

The Social Achievers | Years: 1981-1996 | Currently Aged: 28-43 

Millennials experienced serious societal and economic instability in their formative years. This includes the events of 9/11, ongoing foreign conflict, and a global economic crisis. The fact that this generation values transparency, honesty, authenticity, and social responsibility is not surprising. They are the first generation to grow up with the internet, so they’re comfortable with technology and expect digital solutions to be an integral part of service. Unfortunately, high amounts of debt and ongoing financial insecurity have been a feature of this generation, at least for now. 

Gen Z

The Dialoguers | Years: 1997- 2012 | Currently Aged: 12-25 

Gen Z (or Zoomers) are still coming of age, but we know they value individualism, diversity, and social justice. Gen Z clients expect seamless online experiences. Although it may be hard to believe, this cohort currently carries more debt than millennials. That said, they value the human–animal bond more highly than many of their predecessors. In fact, they are more likely to own pets at a younger age compared to previous generations. By now, you probably have many Gen Zers working in your clinic!

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Veterinary Client Communication Preferences, By the Generation

Once you understand your client’s generation, it’s easier to adapt your communication—including the questions you ask and the channels and methods you use to connect with them.

One important tool for veterinary client communication, no matter your client’s generation, is the veterinary client handout. Whether you print it out and walk through it with your Traditionalist or baby boomer client, attach it to an email for the busy Gen Xer or millennial, or even share key highlights from it via text for your Zoomers, the handout is key. 

Let’s take a look at some tips for tailoring your approach to veterinary client communication by your client’s generation and preferences.

A quick note: We’ve provided a brief key for each generation indicating their preferred communication methods. Green means go, yellow means go carefully, and red means it’s probably best to skip this method of communication.


Communication Methods: In-person 🟩 | Phone call 🟨 | Email 🟥 | Text 🟥

Respectful, face-to-face communication is best with this generation. They are mindful of titles and will be more likely to appreciate more formal greetings. This generation complies with direct recommendations from authority figures without much questioning due to their early life experiences.

Note on Consultations 

Dr. Wolff recommends taking the time to sit down with your Traditionalist clients to understand what solutions fit best into their daily routine and to set expectations that make sense. More than any other generation, a “less teaching, more listening” approach is beneficial to a positive outcome. As is flexibility in finding solutions. 

She recommends using algorithms to evaluate alternative care options and notes: “If I take that extra beat to review the options, I am surprised by the things I find that I totally forgot about.” 

See how the algorithms in Plumb’s Pro™ can help you reassess your default treatment plan and move forward with the best plan for your patient and their Traditionalist owner. 

Baby Boomers

Communication Methods: In-person 🟩 | Phone call 🟩 | Email 🟨 | Text 🟨

Baby boomers are relationship-oriented. They like an ongoing conversation and knowing the door is always open. They value the opinions of professionals but will do their own research before making decisions.

Printed materials are great for this generation, and the handouts in Plumb’s Pro™ are written with your patient in mind. Accurate, concise, and thorough—but not filled with excessive medical language, the handouts in Plumb’s Pro™ ensure your baby boomer client has the information they need in a format that works best for them. 

Gen X 

Communication Methods: In-person 🟨 | Phone call 🟩 | Email 🟩 | Text 🟩

Time is at a premium for Gen X, so they value efficiency and directness. As clients, they’re pragmatists and appreciate a no-nonsense, get-to-the-point approach. They are comfortable with both traditional and digital communication and appreciate independent sources so they can review. They also value flexibility in service delivery, such as the option for telemedicine consultations. 

Note on Life Stage

Gen X is in their “this meeting could’ve been an email” era. With their children coming of age and careers reaching their peaks, your Gen X clients are busier than ever. So, when you can make it an email for them, please do. 

With Plumb’s Pro™, you can easily select handouts and attach your comments, making it easier and faster to serve your Gen X clients with an email that gets to the point and gives them the quality information they need. 


Communication Methods: In-person 🟥 | Phone call 🟥 | Email 🟩 | Text 🟩

Millennials like transparency, authenticity, and a peer-to-peer style of communication. They are comfortable using online platforms for scheduling appointments, accessing records, or communicating with their vet, and they appreciate practices that demonstrate social responsibility. 

Note on Open-Ended Communication

Clients from this generation may be hesitant to voice a problem or concern. Asking open-ended, nonjudgmental questions—as simple as “What questions do you have?”—at key moments in the appointment can normalize their concerns and make them feel more comfortable speaking up.

Gen Z

Communication Methods: In-person 🟥 | Phone call 🟥 | Email 🟥 | Text 🟩 | Customer service platforms 🟩

Gen Z expects digital solutions, and many may choose providers based on the availability of digital services. They are comfortable with technology and expect seamless online experiences. And they’ll go out of their way to find a practice that lives up to its core values. 

Like millennials, Gen Zers are likely to carry debt and be financially insecure, so finding reasonable alternatives for financing or care may be necessary. 

Note on Spectrum of Care 

For Gen Z and millennial clients, or for any client facing financial restraints on the care they can afford, Plumb’s Pro™ includes guidance on the spectrum of care within our diagnostic and treatment monographs, where you‘ll find reliable guidance on a range of acceptable care options when available. 

Learn more about how Plumb’s Pro embraces the spectrum of care. 

At the end of the day, it’s about effective veterinary client communication.

Our goal in veterinary practice is not only to provide the best possible care for our patients but also to build strong, lasting relationships with the people who love them. 

Understanding the nuances of generational preferences is a solid starting point for providing effective and satisfying veterinary service for each pet owner. 

Already subscribed to Plumb’s™? Take a look at the handouts that can help you communicate with every generation. 

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