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.
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.
Service strategies: Good ideas
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
http://dvm360.com/valuebasedfees for an interactive spreadsheet that helps you do this.)
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
Legal issues: 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".
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.
Client service: What I like about you
SEE THAT SILENCE IS OK
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.