5. Sticker shock
As early as 2007 when the economy was still roaring, the AVMA reported the results of a pet owner price-sensitivity study.
Even then it showed that almost two-thirds of clients felt that veterinary care was expensive.
But clients didn't blame veterinarians for this. They simply felt the cost of care was a necessary part of pet ownership.
In my opinion, they still feel that way, and sticker shock isn't as much about the cost of veterinary care as it is about
making veterinary medicine affordable.
Reducing prices is usually not the answer to sticker shock, though if your fees have gotten wildly out of line, it might be
the answer for some practices. In most cases, the antidote to sticker shock is to make the value proposition and explain the
benefits of recommended veterinary services in relevant terms that make sense to clients. Start by making the value proposition
every time clients are in the exam room with their pets. Tell clients what you're doing as you examine the pet, and tell clients
what you're finding, including the normal findings.
Once clients see and understand the value, they appreciate it more and say yes to recommendations. If they say yes and have
a money problem, help them solve the money problem so it doesn't stand in the way of their pets getting the treatments they
need. Today, there are several options for making veterinary care more affordable without compromising care. You could offer:
> Frequent buyer club incentives. Use this for flea, tick and heartworm preventives to counter online sales. Most manufacturers would be happy to support something
like this, because they'd rather see the sales go through veterinary practices where they can be confident the pet owners
are getting the real thing.
> Twice-a-year visits. This breaks the cost of preventive care into two affordable bite-sized pieces rather than trying to do everything on one
visit. This also gives you twice the chance to educate clients and examine their pets. And it gives clients twice the chance
to say yes to necessary care.
> Staged care. Do this for expensive procedures and treatment plans when possible—the way human dentists do. This gives clients the option
of paying as they go.
> Third-party financing. Give this option to clients who face expensive procedures or treatments for their pets as an affordable way to help their
pets without giving services away.
> Annual wellness plans. Break them down and charge fees to clients' credit cards over a 12-month period. Clients will know they can bring their pets
in and not worry because the exams and more are included in their annual plans.