Don't lose sight of what's important to clients

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Sep 01, 2007


Dr. Jeff Rothstein
Every year or two I have some reason to get a new pair of eyeglasses. Either I break them or scratch the lenses, or the prescription changes. I dread changing them because every time I do, I struggle to adjust to the new pair. It seems like it takes three to six months before I'm used to them, and then before I know it, the whole cycle starts again.

This last time around, as usual, the adjustment was difficult and after a number of visits, the optometrist informed me that I might want to consider a better-quality lens. The cost for these lenses? An additional $100. My bill with the new frames came to $200, which I had to pay up front since it was a special order.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up the new glasses and the salesperson refunded me $100 dollars. He had taken it upon himself to print out an online store coupon that I knew nothing about.

The new lenses made all the difference in the world—but I'm upset that I wasn't offered the best quality in the first place, especially since this could've saved me much grief over the years of getting used to inferior lenses. The new lenses didn't cost that much more, but no one at the optometrist's office mentioned them, probably because they assumed that most people would choose the cheaper pair to save money.

Of course, there are important parallels between veterinary and optometric practice. This experience reminded me how important it is to always offer the best care regardless of price. After all, the client assumes you're giving him or her the best advice.

Here's another lesson I learned: When you give a client an unsolicited discount, it's almost the same as not charging for a service. If your clinic sends out coupons from time to time, be sure your front desk team isn't handing those coupons to clients as they walk in the door.

Practice open-book management so your team members understand your practice's financials. If they're aware of the thin margins on which a practice operates and understand that it needs to be reasonably profitable to increase compensation, upgrade equipment, make facility improvements, and so on, they'll be less likely to give away the store.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein is president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.