How to compete with spay-neuter clinics

How to compete with spay-neuter clinics

Low-cost clinics provide the bare minimum. Start showing—and telling—your clients and community that your high-quality care is the well-balanced meal pets need.
Jan 01, 2011

Spay and neuter clinics are cheap. They work on the principle of low cost and high volume—kind of like McDonald's. And what pet owners receive there is similar: just the basic burger, no tasty or satisfying extras. You can't compete with these low-cost clinics on fees. So what's your competitive edge? Sure, your medical care may be of a much higher quality, but clients probably don't understand the technical nuances well enough to base their decisions on these differences.

Service strategies: Good ideas
No, your job is to tantalize pet owners with hearty servings of stellar customer service and regular sides of client education. You need to show clients the superior quality of medicine you provide, which is the equivalent of a well-balanced meal for their pets. Here's how.


The first step in coping with low-cost competitors is to make sure your shopped fees are reasonable for your area. Shopped fees generally include vaccination prices and spay and neuter procedures. (The rest of your nonshopped, value-based fees can be calculated as a ratio of your exam fee. Visit for an interactive spreadsheet that helps you do this.)

Legal issues: Keep your community survey kosher
You can also compare your fees to other local practices' by conducting a community survey. Ask your front-desk staff—and even your veterinary technicians and assistants—to call practices in your area that offer services and medical care comparable to yours. They'll call as potential clients and ask for the various fees for canine and feline vaccinations and spay and neuter procedures. Be sure to conduct this exercise anonymously; you don't want to violate antitrust laws (see "Keep your community survey kosher").

After your team completes the calls, compare the information you've gathered side-by-side with your practice's fees. This simple activity gives you an idea of where you stand in the local veterinary market. Remember, it's not a problem for your fees to be the highest in your area as long as you provide value that justifies that price. If clients don't think the value they receive matches the price they pay, they'll leave. For more information on conducting community surveys and their benefits to your team members, see "Conduct a community survey".

Client service: What I like about you
One way to prove that the price you're charging is worth it is to focus first on your patients' and clients' needs. During every physical exam, explain what you're doing and why. Explain the benefits of diagnostic tests and dental procedures. Keep every interaction focused on the client and the pet. You might love your new digital radiography system, but Mrs. Ballor will see only dollar signs when you start talking about its capabilities. Instead, explain how your equipment will help you determine the cause of her beloved Frankie's back pain. Ensure that all communication—whether it's face to face, over the phone, or via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter—revolves around what you can do for your clients.


Offering clients value for their veterinary healthcare dollar means giving them complete information about the best care for their pet. But don't confuse them. Offering too many options in each case won't help clients find the perfect solution—it will cause them to spend less. (See "Offering veterinary medical 'choices' may hurt patients" for another opinion on this subject.) After all, the easiest thing for a person to do when he or she is confused is nothing. So explain why a treatment is the best course for the pet and leave it at that. Focus on that necessary care in your conversation with the client, and then give him or her time to think about it.

We often think silence is awkward in the exam room or over the phone, but thought is necessary to process information. If after thinking it over your client turns down the care you've described, offer a second recommendation. Repeat this process of recommendations and silence so the client can think over and ask questions about your plans for treatment.