You do all the right things to get new clients in your door: forward booking, email promotions, appointment reminders, social media and online presence, preventive care education, perhaps offering a mobile app, and getting referrals from your existing clients. But, as the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) Insider Insights has shown since 2015, new client visits, on average, are down 5.8 percent each month. And, it’s common knowledge that veterinary costs have increased while wages have remained stagnant.
It is hard to sell your expertise, professionalism, and knowledge. How will the average pet owner know your hospital practices better medicine than another hospital? How will the average pet owner know the difference between a good surgery and an average surgery? They won’t. And, since it is so difficult to convey that you practice better medicine than others, how will you attract new clients?
You’ll attract new clients by advertising something pet owners do understand—something they can wrap their heads around. By offering something your competition does not. By hitting them where they feel pain the most: the cost of veterinary treatments.
By offering payment plans, and advertising that fact, you will attract new clients. The kind of clients who love their pets, and are willing to do what it takes for them to get the care they need, but might not have the available funds to pay for that care up front. The kind of clients who understand that you are running a business and need to make money, but that you also care about providing proper health care for their pets. The kind of clients who can’t afford to go to the practice down the street that doesn’t offer payment plans.
Many of these new clients will pay cash for the typical preventive care visits and treatments, but will have selected your practice over the competition because they’ll feel at ease knowing a payment plan is available in case of a large, unexpected veterinary bill in the future.
By offering payment plans, and advertising that fact, you’ll increases new sales, improves client retention and promote client binding. The pet owner will accept the treatment plan you recommend—the gold standard of treatment—and will comply with your recommendations. You will not have to discount your services for them to comply.
You might be wondering, how do I avoid the “deadbeats”? It’s important to clearly state the restrictions and policies surrounding your payment plans. You must educate your staff so they can adequately qualify pet owners.
We recommend that you implement the following restrictions:
- A payment plan may only be used for certain procedures or treatments.
- The pet owner must pay a particular percentage of the cost up front as a down payment.
- The payment plan can only be for a specified, pre-determined number of months.
- The pet owner must agree to a soft credit check to determine if they qualify for a payment plan.
- Retail purchases cannot be made using a payment plan.
Ultimately, your practice has total control of how you want to implement payment plans. By advertising that you offer alternative payment methods, you will retain your existing clients and attract new clients who want to pay, and can pay, but might need little more time.
As our economy evolves, it is crucial that the veterinary profession evolves, too. Gone are the days when we could always expect pet owners to pay cash. In order to maintain a practice that will allow veterinarians to pay off school loans and maintain a healthy work-life balance, practices will need to carry a 5 to 25 percent of professionally managed accounts receivable that will generate a consistent monthly revenue stream.
We at VetBilling believe that the financial issues facing pet owners today are legitimate and must be addressed proactively. It is way past time to eliminate the damaging stereotypes that “veterinarians are greedy” and “do not care” and conversely the stereotypes of pet owners who cannot pay upfront are “irresponsible and don’t deserve to have a pet”
There are tools available to help manage A/R more effectively and efficiently, whether one accomplishes this in-house or by outsourcing to a third party. These tools make it easier to collect payments and maintain high compliance. However, the practice mindset must change first as it is beginning to change in other industries. Helping clients find ways to pay, rather than resisting them and complaining about their financial limitations, helps no one – not the veterinarian, the pet owner, and least of all, the pet.
VetBilling can help. Contact us at 800-766-1918 or click here to start attracting new paying pet owners.