Setting fees — it's a state of mind and economics

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Jun 01, 2008

So why do we have such poor self-esteem? Is it getting worse?

Only eight years ago, an AVMA-sponsored study showed that measuring self-esteem in veterinary students was a losing proposition. With each year of study, the self-esteem of tested students decreased. It is a good thing that the curriculum is only four years or we might all graduate as simpering wimps.

Somewhere in the Bible is a parable about a man whose two sons were named Sickly and Weak. Surprise, surprise — they grew up to be sickly and weak. Why not? We are the products of our own estimation of our worth.

Our profession is gullible. Just let any client tell a veterinarian that his/her fees are too high and you can bet that the next needed increase in fees will be postponed until the phantom image of bankruptcy looms.

We supply almost 3,000 veterinarians with fee schedules keyed to their actual local demographics. We know these fees should be handed to a tech for input into the computer with two simple words of instruction: "Do it!"

Yet we also know that at least half of these fees will be surveyed and reduced by the micro-managing practice owner, destroying any chance for a great and fair profit from clients who can well afford the local fare, so to speak. In fact, 54 percent of clients earn more than their veterinarian, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

JAVMA (Feb. 15, 2008 ) had a special 10-page report that we will only summarize here. Please read the entire report. You have it. It's in the 12 th journal down from the top in the pile behind your desk.

Go over this study with your staff. Give them the evidence that four out of five clients are not price-sensitive, and that even two-thirds of those who are will obtain for the pet whatever the client is assured it needs.

Summary

» Some 94 percent of clients coming in the door are not afraid of the cost if quality service comes first.

» Trust is derived from explanations of needed services. Clients buy from those they trust.

» Detailed medical history and examination forms used for every patient, every visit, and sent home with the client, verify your recommendations.

» Lower price does not mean better compliance.

» Safety is foremost. Blood testing should never be optional. Pain prevention is never optional.

The report is the culmination of discussions on "How companion-animal practices would maintain growth amid ongoing struggles with static service growth and poor compliance."

The study examined consumer willingness to undertake veterinary care for sick pets and to maintain wellness programs involving ongoing exams, vaccinations, preventive dental care, products and services.

The authors sought to reveal detailed data about the relationships between owners and their pets and the impact of those relationships on the care those pets received.

The key to our interest is the perceptions and attitudes pet owners have toward veterinarians and the price awareness and sensitivity of owners toward purchasing veterinary products and services.

Services studied were:
» Routine physical examinations and testing
» Combinations of common vaccines
» Preventive dental care
» Spaying or neutering
» Heartworm medications
» Flea and tick prevention