What if clients aren't buying into my preventive care plans?
Want in on monthly and annual wellness plans? Start by simplifying your veterinary practice's options.
Jul 16, 2014
Best Care Animal Hospital (BCAH) is a hypothetical seven-doctor companion animal practice serving a large metropolitan area in the Northeast. The practice has been in existence for more than 20 years, but Drs. Cynthia Smith and Ronald Topps purchased the practice from the original owner about five years ago. Since then, the practice has grown tremendously and is well known for providing excellent veterinary care and service. Drs. Smith and Topps pride themselves on serving a diverse clientele and have always worked hard to offer payment solutions and recommend pet insurance—so when they learned about monthly billed preventive care plans, they knew they would be a great fit for their practice. They designed their plans, trained their team and began offering them to clients about one year ago. They recently entered their first renewal cycle.
Drs. Smith and Topps are happy to see that the number of visits and average spending of clients with plans is roughly 25 percent higher (including the monthly payments) than those without plans. Adoption, however, is way below projections. Only 4 percent of active clients enrolled in a plan during the first year. The goal was 10 percent of current clients enrolled during the first year and, ultimately, 40 to 50 percent over the next several years.
In an effort to meet the needs of every pet, BCAH offers 16 different plans—eight for cats and eight for dogs—with prices ranging from $18 to $74 per month. They market plans on their website and in reminder cards and emails. The receptionist is supposed to offer to send a brochure when a client calls to schedule any well-pet or preventive-care exam. Once the client and pet arrive for their visit, the receptionist again provides the client with a brochure describing the plans; the technician and doctor are responsible for reviewing and making recommendations in the exam room. Clients interested in the plan return to the front desk to complete the enrollment. Drs. Smith and Topps spent several staff meetings training the team on the value of the plans as well as the process of enrolling clients and talking to them about the chosen plan. In the many months after those meetings, however, there’s been some staff turnover as well as a new associate veterinarian.
Drs. Smith and Topps feel strongly that the plans are a valuable addition to the practice and want to see them succeed. What should they do?
The first thing that Drs. Smith and Topps do is schedule a team meeting to gather feedback and suggestions. The team expresses frustration with the amount of time it takes to not only recommend plans to clients but also to determine which plan is best for each individual pet. In fact, when plans are brought into the mix, appointments end up running longer than the scheduled 20 minutes, leading to increased wait times and frustrated clients.
Team members who joined the practice in the past year, including the new associate, complain that they never received training on the plans except for a brochure to review and an order to sell the plans to clients. The lead technician speaks up and admits to cutting back on her efforts because she received no recognition for being a tremendous plan proponent in the beginning, and several other employees concur that although they worked hard to sell plans initially, they felt that their extra effort wasn’t appreciated and they have since cut back.
Learning from their team members, Drs. Smith and Topps realize that for plans to remain a priority, they must devote a portion of every staff meeting to discussing how the plans help pets, getting team feedback, reviewing stats and openly recognizing those who are going above and beyond in their recommendations.
To keep interest high, they intend to set monthly goals and celebrate success by putting a portion of the enrollment fee into a team “pot” whenever these goals are met or exceeded. The team can then vote on how they would like to use these funds, such as throw a party or get a new microwave for the break room. They can use a goal-setting worksheet like this one to organize recognition and reward efforts involving preventive care plans. They also intend to create a training module on preventive care plans that each new employee must review and be tested on. Download a free sample of that training module and tailor team responsibilities to your own practice’s needs.
Drs. Smith and Topps agree with their team that the plans are too complicated, so they sit down to review the most popular plans and reduce the number of plans from 16 to eight. Not only will this reduce time spent discussing the plans with clients, but also tracking client buy-in will be easier. In an effort to keep things running smoothly on a daily basis, they agree on a trial basis to extend preventive care exams to 30 minutes, but they explain to the team that in return, they expect to see an immediate increase in adoption rate. They also ask their team for ideas on increasing the value of plans (e.g., additional exams, discounts) and agree to review these suggestions.
Next, to tackle the low renewal rate, Drs. Smith and Topps review several records of pets on plans and notice that roughly 25 percent of services are unredeemed. They see that when clients use at least 85 percent of services, they’re more likely to renew. That means they need a more robust reminder system and a regular compliance review.
Beyond standard postcards, emails and text messages, the practice is going to go the extra mile and ask receptionists to call clients who have services remaining on their pet’s plan three months prior to the plan expiration. Additionally, rather than relying solely on the automatic renewal notice provided by their payment platform, they’ll call clients to discuss renewal and potential plan upgrades. To train your team on communication protocols, download a free client communication scenario flow chart. This also helps receptionists gather valuable feedback about the plans and their value. Drs. Smith and Topps know these additional tasks will be met with resistance by an already extremely busy team, so they let them know that once 20 percent of active pets are enrolled in a plan, they’re committed to hiring someone specifically to manage these tasks.
And finally, they discuss ways to better showcase the plans and their value on their website, in newsletters and on their Facebook page by sharing stories of pets that have been helped by the care they received through the plans.
Drs. Smith and Topps strongly believe in the philosophy behind preventive care plans. With the help of their staff, they’re determined to renew their efforts to make the plans an integral part of the value and high-quality care that BCAH offers its clients.
Dr. Karen Felsted is president of PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting. Jessica Goodman Lee joined Brakke Consulting in 2011.