Short-term dollars versus long-term relationships

Short-term dollars versus long-term relationships

Sep 01, 2005

I frequently tout the goal of developing a womb-to-tomb relationship with our clients and their pets. At the core of our practice philosophy is the statement, "Focus on long-term relationships versus the short-term dollar."

I always admire the staff member who diligently tries to charge for all services provided. The loyalty is appreciated. But reality is that, on occasion, we may provide an incorrect estimate or none at all. So how much do you want to fight with clients over disputed charges? I tell my staff it's like health insurance—don't be overly worried about a $1,000 deductible. Be more concerned about the next $100,000 if some serious medical care is needed. It's the same here. If $5 or $10 off a bill is going to keep a client happy, then why fight 'em? Don't worry about the first $25; be more concerned with the next $250 or $2,500 a client will spend.

I'm a bigger fan than ever of the "relationships-before-dollars" mentality, and here's why. On a recent family vacation to Jamaica, we were treated to a little scare from Hurricane Dennis. We stayed at a Beaches all-inclusive resort, and the company has a hurricane guarantee—it promises a free resort stay if a hurricane hits while you're a guest. Well, we got lucky and the hurricane veered off to Cuba, but we had a few days of bad weather. Shucks, no free trip. Then I received this good-bye letter when checking out:

My guess is that this offer to guests at the company's multiple Jamaican resorts cost a few hundred-thousand dollars. The company could have easily said no hurricane, no free trips. After all, it can't be responsible for plain old bad weather. Instead, the chairman shocked guests and focused on the power of referrals and the long-term benefit of returning families—without worrying about the short-term cost.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is the president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group, which owns and operates hospitals in Michigan and Ohio.
Any idea what a long-term client is worth to your practice? "A great deal" is a good estimate. And when you understand the true value of your clients, you may be motivated to think outside the box and come up with innovative ways to make sure the womb-to-tomb philosophy is alive at your practice.