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Are You Charging Too Much for Veterinary Care?

23rd March 2017

Cat with money

There seems to be growing discontent amongst pet owners when it comes to veterinary fees. An online poll suggested that around 68% of practices receive regular complaints about their charges. From the practices that we speak to, this problem only seems to be getting worse.

So are we really charging too much?

The Rising Cost of Veterinary Care

Complaints about veterinary fees seem to correspond with a rising cost of veterinary services. According to the BBC, the cost of treatments is increasing by around 12% per year.

Compounding the problem of expensive bills is the fact that only 25% of pets are insured. This is despite an increase last year. That leaves 3 out of 4 people having to fork out a typical bill of around £300 when they visit the vets. Is it any wonder people are feeling unhappy?

Can We Justify Our Prices?

In a word, yes.

I think we can all agree that nobody pursues a veterinary career for the money. Recent figures suggest that the average starting salary for a vet has actually gone down in recent years. Vets earn significantly less than their peers in the (human) medical sector, despite being just as heavily qualified.

We can perhaps blame the NHS for the lack of awareness about the cost of animal health care amongst pet owners. People are simply used to getting this type of care for free, for themselves.

If you were to visit a private medical consultant, they would charge between £100 – £250. Compare this to an average cost of around £30 for a veterinary consultation (and this includes VAT!).

As you will be well aware, veterinary practices have a huge number of costs. Margins are small, and they don’t seem to be getting any bigger.

Longer Living Pets

The real reason for increased veterinary costs is the fact that pet owners have greater treatment options today. Technology has propelled the profession forwards, just as it has in the medical world. Euthanasia might have been the only option for certain conditions in the past. But we can now offer more advanced treatments.

The great news is that pets are living longer, but new drugs and technology come at a financial cost. And unfortunately, not all pet owners can afford this if they don’t have insurance.

How Can We Keep Customers Happy?

So if we’re not charging too much, how can we stop customers from complaining about fees? If we’re struggling to pay the bills, how can we make ends meet without raising our prices?

Five tips to keep your customer happy:

  1. Communicate – don’t shy away from telling your clients the cost of treatment upfront. If you can set their expectations they won’t need a seat when you hand them their bill!
  2. Train your staff – make sure your team are all on the same page when it comes to effective communication about costs. Have a brain storming session and come up with simple things to say when discussing financing treatment.
  3. Don’t apologise – pet owners do not mind paying for good quality treatment if they know it is in the best interest of their pet. By apologising you are undervaluing the excellent service you are providing!
  4. Add value – do you offer additional advice or services? Many practices hold free drop in clinics, for example a ‘weight watchers’ clinic where nurses can offer advice on diet and weight management (obviously this would only be applicable to our patients with girth-y waist line). even something as simple as handing over a leaflet with further information about the treatment their pet has received can go a long way!
  5. Claiming on an insurance policy for treatment! – find an insurance company you can trust and (for eligible claims) your client need only pay a policy excess! Vetsure are happy to settle claims directly with any UK vet – in fact, if you’re a Vetsure accredited practice, all claims will be settled in this way. At the time of treatment, the client simply pays you the policy excess contribution and the rest is settled between us.

For us, the answer is simple.

Cut the cost of unpaid fees.

It’s expensive to chase unpaid bills, and delayed payments make cash flow a nightmare for practice managers. If we could lower this burden, the cost of treatments wouldn’t have to rise by as much.

Pet Insurance For All

We, of course, have a vested interest. But we believe that every pet owner should have comprehensive pet insurance cover. As vets become better equipped to fix poorly pets, more treatments will become available. Caring owners need a sustainable way to manage this cost and a simple answer is pet insurance.

If everybody had pet insurance, there would be little to no complaints about unforeseen veterinary costs. Practices would not have to suffer unpaid fees and everybody would be better off.

It’s as simple as that!