Are You "Targeting" Clients?
I read a brief article recently suggesting that veterinarians start targeting "affluent" clients because they have more disposable income than other clients. My jaw dropped, and I re-read the article just to be sure I had understood correctly.
After 10 years of working with technicians, and especially front desk staff (they see the "affluent" cars pull up into the parking lot), I have heard over and over again how surprised they are when Mr. Mercedes and Ms. BMW agree only to the bare bones vaccines, or tell them they want a script because the internet is $2 cheaper. I have also seen the pleasantly surprised faces of technicians when a client they assumed would do little, did all of the recommended care for their pet.
I have also worked in an area of the country that had few white collar professionals and many clients that had no issue telling us they were living paycheck to paycheck. Those folks would save for the recommended care, then come in and pay cash - I so admired those pet parents. I started to understand all of those years ago what kind of client we should "target", and it has nothing to do with money. This is how I look at clients:
**Target clients that have pets (yes, I'm being snarky) and don't judge!! We talk about this over and over in practices but staff still judge the book by it's cover. Human nature I guess.
**Give every single client, no matter what car they drive, jewelry they are wearing, or what they might say to you the same "A" game recommendation. The fact of our financial culture is that Americans overspend and are in debt - especially those that make an above average wage. Mr. BMW may just be able to make his house and car payment - he didn't factor in pet care.
**Give clients a way, if it suits your practice, to pay over time. Wellness plans are all the rage, but I'm not convinced they are for everyone.
**Respect every client's decision when they decline care. Offer to split visits to help spread the cost of vaccines, wellness bloodwork and flea/tick product.
**Refer to your clients as pet parents, mom and dad, etc. - not their "owner". If you can, use the pet's full name within earshot of the client. So many of my friends and family get the giggles when I refer to pets by their first, and last name. I used to tell my family about "Sarge" Jones, an elderly schnauzer I loved to see. Using a last name really makes a pet sound and feel to a parent so much more like a family member! Clients pick up on how we see them, and it really can change their perspective on what we expect of them as a pet's caregiver.
**Tell all of your clients about pet insurance. I favor this route highly. If you can steer them to one you've researched and can confidently recommend, all the better. Clients come to us for recommendations, not choices. I like policies that do not cover wellness care. I look at covering our pets like our cars. We gas them up, change the tires, keep them clean, change the oil, etc. No one has issues paying monthly for the "just in case" - the accident.
This is where most clients stumble financially - beyond the wellness. Just like our car insurance covers accidents and injury, pet insurance should cover illness, accident and injury. Data shows insured pets recieve more care, see the vet more often, and are less likely to be euthanized for cost. Plus, unlike a wellness plan, the practice gave up nothing - no discounts, no payment over time. Bill paid in full while the client waits for reimbursement (this is evolving with some carriers). Brilliant!
There is so much to say on this topic, but these are my off the cuff highlights. I hope you all continue to give your recommendations for best care to each client, no matter what their keychain might say. :-)