Conduct a community survey for your veterinary practice
A community survey helps you gather fees on price-sensitive services. It also illustrates how important it is for a practice to handle incoming calls appropriately. Here's one way to conduct this exercise.
1. Ask your healthcare team to survey five to six other practices in your area with a level of care comparable to your practice.
2. Assign two or more team members to each practice so you get multiple perspectives of each hospital. Ask each team member to call at least three practices.3. Make calls anonymously, preferably away from the practice. This is a good idea for two reasons. First, your team members have the opportunity to experience what it's like to be a potential client of the practice they're calling. And second, you'll help ensure compliance with federal and state antitrust laws (see "Keep your community survey kosher").
4. Divide the fees (canine and feline exam fees, vaccination fees, and spay and neuter procedure fees) among the callers. For example, one team member would gather information about canine vaccinations for his or her three practices, another would be responsible for the feline vaccination information for his or her three practices, and so on. When surveying spay and neuter procedure fees, be sure to ask what's included in the listed price—not all practices include the same things.
5. Ask each team member to rate the receptionist they spoke to based on knowledge, friendliness, and effectiveness. What's the team member's impression of this practice based on the receptionist? If your team members were looking for a veterinary hospital, would they choose this practice? Why or why not?
6. Discuss the results of the community survey in your next staff meeting and figure out how to apply what your team members learned. Then consider how callers would rate your own practice. Veterinary practice teams that conduct community surveys usually say they like receptionists who handle calls by asking questions and starting a dialogue. They also note the importance of clear, concise responses to questions.
7. Analyze the results of the community survey by highlighting the fees that are higher than yours in one color and the fees that are lower than yours in another color. Now you can quickly see where your fees are in comparison to other practices. For spay and neuter procedures, determine whether the same things are included in each price. In general, look for bloodwork, antibiotics, anesthesia, hospitalization, and pain medications. Make sure the components included in your hospital's total procedure cost are also included in the surveyed practice's costs. Add or subtract the cost of the components from the surveyed practice's prices as necessary so you can compare apples to apples. If you don't have these additional details, just compare the prices to the best of your ability.
8. Use the information from your survey to guide your independent decisions about your own fees. Ideally, your prices should fall between the middle and the high end of the range, depending on the quality of client service and patient care you offer. Remember, it's OK to charge as much as 10 percent to 15 percent more than other practices in your community as long as you offer a corresponding level of client service and patient care.
Denise Tumblin, CPA, is a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and president of Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates in Columbus, Ohio. Helen Hoekstra is a financial and valuation analyst at Wutchiett Tumblin. Please send questions or comments to [email protected]