Is Your Vet Clinic “Financially Friendly?”

Do your clients perceive your clinic as “financially friendly?”

What does it truly mean to be a ‘financially friendly’ veterinary practice? It’s not about providing free or heavily discounted care, slashing prices, or transforming into a ‘low-cost’ clinic. Instead, it’s about creating an environment that respectfully and empathetically understands and addresses your clients’ financial concerns. Financial friendliness is kind of like a “fear free” experience, but for humans!

This approach isn’t about being “nice”—it’s a sound business strategy that can bring numerous benefits. You’re fostering trust and loyalty by creating an empathic, nonjudgmental space for clients concerned about veterinary costs. You’re building a solid client-practice relationship by letting clients know you’re not just a service provider but a partner sensitive to their cost concerns. And by offering a spectrum of accessible payment options for clients with varying budgets, you’re ensuring financial sustainability for your practice.

Embracing a financially friendly approach in your practice isn’t hard. In fact, it’s quite simple and doesn’t require a significant investment of time or resources. You likely already have pay-over-time options, so financial friendliness is primarily about finding opportunities to showcase them and passively educating your clients about these existing resources. Proactively demonstrating that you understand and care about their economic concerns can significantly enhance their experience at your clinic.

Here are ten easy-to-implement suggestions that signal financial friendliness to veterinary clients:

  1. Prominently display information about ALL your available payment options.
    Post signs in every exam room and at your front desk/waiting area, and have brochures in those places, too. Don’t stick them behind a plant or a display of dog treats!
  2. Include a section on your client/patient intake form addressing potential financial concerns. For example, ask questions like “Would you like more information about our clinic’s payment options?” or “Do you have financial concerns you would like to discuss today?” Put a yes/no checkbox next to those questions and note how clients respond.
  3. Regularly and consistently post about your payment options on social media. Consistent means posting at least twice monthly; weekly is even better. Briefly explain how your payment options work. Do they require credit approval? Do you offer more than one option? Do you provide in-house payment plans? NOTE: If the idea of offering in-house payment plans makes you cringe because you’ve never had much success with them, consider outsourcing your in-house payment plans to VetBilling for a totally different experience that helps your clients as well as your clinic. See the evidence-based research on our payment plans here.
  4. Add your payment options to your website. If they’re already there, make sure they’re easy to find. Have a menu tab titled “payment options” or “financial support.”. List all options with a short blurb about how each works. Don’t bury your payment options in a hard-to-find section of your website. While this may be an unpopular opinion, it’s essential to remove any wording that says, “Payment in full is expected at the time of service.” Replace this with a list of all your payment options. This does NOT mean you have to change your payment policies. It’s a way to signal openness to exploring financial solutions instead of conveying that your clinic is rigid and inflexible. If you also have in-clinic signs displaying the payment-in-full policy, replace those. Clients perceive such messaging as indicating that your clinic prioritizes money over care. This does not make it accurate, but you should avoid doing anything that plays into this trope.

    Courtesy Pet Network Community Hospital, Incline, NV

  5. When presenting a treatment plan, call it that – not an “estimate. Think about all the times you’ve heard the word “estimate” and immediately felt dread (car repairs, roofing, just about anything you wish you didn’t have to pay for!) It’s a word that triggers anxiety for most of us. A simple change in terminology can significantly reduce clients’ stress levels.
  6. Go over the treatment plan item by item, line by line. Debbie Boone discusses a helpful technique in her blog post, “Why Do We Hate to Talk About Money?” She suggests covering cost figures with a blank sheet of paper when showing clients an itemized list of recommended diagnostics and procedures. This helps clients focus on understanding your recommendations before they see any numbers. When clients see a big number first, everything else you’re saying becomes background noise.
  7. Empathically invite the client to bring up any concerns about affordability. Don’t be afraid to discuss money directly. If you don’t ask clients to share financial concerns, many will not, out of embarrassment or fear of judgment. You can say, “Let’s take a few minutes to discuss the cost of treatment before we proceed,” or “How does the treatment plan fit your family’s budget?” Open with words that elicit your client’s perspective, like “tell,” “share,” and “help.” Some examples: “Tell me about any financial concerns,” “Share with me your feelings about the cost of the procedure,” and “Help me understand the budget constraints you have.”
  8. At checkout, have CSRs recap everything done for the pet during the appointment.  They can read straight from the invoice.  This reminds clients of everything done for their pet and primes them for more realistic expectations about cost. Clients easily forget what was done during an exam or aren’t even aware of it. Let’s use an ophthalmic exam as an example. The vet may perform a Schirmer tear test, fluorescein stain, and tonometry. The client sees the vet “doing something” to their pet’s eye without realizing the “something” is three procedures with three separate charges.
  9. If the client expresses concern or dismay over the cost, the CSR can offer an empathic, validating statement like “Yes, I understand how you feel!  If you’d like to break today’s total invoice into smaller payments, we offer VetBilling, CareCredit, or Scratchpay” (or whatever your specific options are.)
  10. If you have on-hold messaging, use it to tell clients about your financing options. This is a huge missed opportunity for most clinics! On-hold messaging tells clients about your veterinarians, parasite prevention, clinic hours and holiday closings, diet and nutrition, and many other things, but payment and financing options are NEVER mentioned! Why not add them?

See, it’s really not difficult to position your clinic as financially friendly – and not once was anything said about needing to reduce prices or increase discounts! Financial friendliness is more of an ethos – a spirit of collaboration and openness with clients regarding veterinary costs – that shows your clinic is willing to use all the tools to meet clients where they are financially. Implementing any of the above suggestions is a big step toward easing tensions around money and creating an atmosphere of empathy, acceptance, and emotional safety in your clinic when discussing costs and payment.

 

 

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