A tale of two values

A tale of two values

Concerned about the price tag attached to your services? You should be worrying about the perception of value you're presenting to clients.
Jan 01, 2010

How many times last week did you hear "Boy, you're expensive" or "Did I just pay for the whole veterinary hospital—or just your new car?" It's been said that if you don't hear some complaints about your fees, then your fees are too low, and I would agree. But how many complaints do you brush off before realizing you might have a real problem?

I believe that when clients grumble about your prices, they really aren't complaining about the cost but rather the lack of perceived value. Here's a mantra you need to memorize: Price is only an issue in the absence of value. If you're skeptical, perhaps I can convert you. Let's look at two real-life scenarios. In each one a client brings in her pet for an ovariohysterectomy—but under two very different sets of circumstances and with drastically different outcomes.


Mrs. Jones has just moved into your area and needs to have her dog spayed. She asks her new neighbor for a referral, and her neighbor tells her about All Pet Animal Hospital. The hospital is just a few blocks away, and the neighbor has taken her pets there for years. So Mrs. Jones calls All Pet Animal Hospital to make an appointment, but before she can say a word she's put on hold for several minutes.

The receptionist finally comes back on the line and says, "Sorry for putting you on hold. We're busy today. What can I do for you?" Mrs. Jones explains that she's new to the area and wants to have her dog spayed. The receptionist, in a not particularly friendly or helpful tone of voice, informs Mrs. Jones that they do spays on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that she needs to make an appointment. Mrs. Jones asks how much it will cost. The receptionist hesitates, then asks, "How much does your dog weigh?"

Mrs. Jones responds that her dog weighs 55 pounds. The receptionist says, "Oh, that heavy. Hold on." A few minutes later she returns to the line and says, "That will be $350, and it will have to be paid when you bring in your dog—we don't bill." Although Mrs. Jones is a little put off, she remembers that her neighbor said it was a good practice and she doesn't know of any other veterinary hospitals in the area, so she decides to make the appointment.

On the day of the surgery, Mrs. Jones gets lost and is late arriving. She notices that the parking lot is in poor condition. The building is plain and looks like a converted gas station. No wonder she couldn't find the place; large trees in front of the building cover the sign.

As she enters the front door, Mrs. Jones immediately notices a strong animal odor. The waiting room is plain, with orange molded plastic chairs along the perimeter of the room and posters taped to the walls. Everything seems a little dark and dingy. A line of people has formed in front of a window on the other side of the reception area, and Mrs. Jones assumes she must get in line with everyone else, so she does. After 20 minutes, she finally reaches the reception window and looks in. The receptionist looks at Mrs. Jones and says, "What do you want?"

Mrs. Jones responds, "I'm here to bring in my dog, Casey, for a spay."

The receptionist looks at her computer and states, "You're late. You were supposed to be here half an hour ago." Mrs. Jones explains that she got lost, and the receptionist, looking frustrated, says, "Have a seat. We'll be with you shortly."

Mrs. Jones takes a seat in the waiting room. She notices the magazines are over a year old, cobwebs adorn the corners, and the floor is grimy. After waiting for half an hour, Mrs. Jones hears her name called. She returns to the reception window, and the receptionist informs her that they're ready to admit Casey. The door opens and a teenager in T-shirt and jeans comes out, takes the leash out of Mrs. Jones' hands, and walks Casey into the back.

The receptionist says, "You can pick up Casey after 5 p.m. tonight. We close at 5:15, so don't be late." Although Mrs. Jones feels a little bit insecure about leaving Casey at this point, she remembers that her neighbor did recommend the hospital, so she leaves the practice and heads off to work.

After worrying all day, Mrs. Jones returns to the hospital at 5 p.m. When she walks in, she finds the reception area full of clients and animals. The general atmosphere is chaotic and busy. Again there's a line in front of the reception window, so she stands and waits. It takes 15 minutes for Mrs. Jones to reach the front of the line, where she finds a different receptionist from the one this morning. Not looking up, the receptionist says, "What do you want?"

Mrs. Jones replies, "I'm here to pick up Casey."

The receptionist looks up and says, "It's 5:15. We're about to close." Mrs. Jones explains that she's been in line for 15 minutes. Looking exasperated, the receptionist says, "Have a seat."

Mrs. Jones takes a seat and waits ... and waits ... then finally hears her name called. She returns to the receptionist, who hands her a bill for $350. Mrs. Jones gives the receptionist a credit card, and a few minutes later Casey is brought out to the reception area led by the teenager in T-shirt and jeans. Mrs. Jones is told to come back in 7 to 10 days to have the sutures removed. But she leaves the hospital vowing never to return.