Do Clients Accept Your Recommendations?

By VHMA Admin posted 11-26-2019 11:28


Unfortunately, many clients don’t accept the veterinary team’s recommendations regarding the best care for their pet. There can be multiple reasons for this—cost, lack of understanding about why the care is needed, confusion over what is needed and others. VHMA’s November 2019 Insiders’ Insights survey explores these questions and correlates these findings with information just released in the VHMA’s Pet Owners Economic Value Study

Not surprisingly, the highest levels of compliance are with common preventive care services—vaccinations, physical exam and spay/neuter. Full compliance with the eight services identified isn’t common although ~19% of practices said they had full compliance with the physical exam recommendation and ~15% said they had full compliance with the spay/neuter recommendation. Respondents identified the least compliance with dental care recommendations.

When asked “Why do you think your clients don’t comply with your staff’s recommendations?”. The survey respondents felt that, overall, not understanding the recommendation or the inconvenience of providing a service were less likely to be the reason pet owners didn’t comply with a recommendation; this was true for all eight services. Overall, cost was the biggest reason it was thought clients didn’t accept recommendations although this varied some across the service packages. Cost was thought to be the biggest issue with x-rays and dental care and the smallest issue with the physical exam and parasite testing. 

Until now we have had very little direct information about the specific dollar amount pet owners are willing to pay for particular services and what aspects of the veterinary visit experience would induce them to pay more. The August, 2019 release of the VHMA Pet Owners Economic Value Study changed that by adding a new dimension to our knowledge of pricing in veterinary medicine.   

The study was conceived of and spearheaded by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) and sponsored by VHMA, CareCredit, Nationwide and Merck Animal Health. The primary author of this study is Utpal Dholakia, Ph.D., a well-known marketing and pricing expert and the George R. Brown Professor of Marketing at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University in Houston, Texas.

The study was conducted through a nationwide online survey of dog and cat owners throughout the country, covering a diverse range of pet owner ages, household incomes, and geographic location. A total of 3,452 pet owners (1,949 dog owners and 1,533 cat owners) completed the survey. The study employed the price sensitivity meter (PSM) methodology for evaluating customer willingness-to-pay for veterinary services; this technique is widely used across different industries to discover the economic value that consumers place on products and services.

The first section of the survey identified what pet owners were willing to pay for various common services provided by companion animal general practices. The services included in the study are:

  • Essential vaccination package including a physical exam and all vaccines required to keep the pet safe from common diseases for the next year
  • Physical examination
  • Spay or neuter including pre-anesthetic bloodwork, anesthesia, the surgery itself, IV fluids, and appropriate pain medication during and post-surgery
  • Dental care service package including pre-anesthetic bloodwork, a full dental cleaning, any minor extractions, dental X-rays, pain medication, and antibiotics if necessary
  • Parasite testing including fecal and heartworm test
  • Basic laboratory tests including CBC, blood chemistry and urinalysis
  • X-ray package including 2 views and in-house interpretation
  • Monthly payment for a pay-by-the-month preventive care plan including an annual physical examination, all core vaccinations, parasite testing, and year-round prevention of parasites through appropriate medications
Price information determined for each of the eight services included:

  • The preferred price: what pet owners consider to be an attractive or desired price for the service; it is a “customer-friendly price” providing a good balance of costs and benefits and delivering good value
  • The reference price: a common reasonable price for the service that is available in the marketplace according to the customer
  • The acceptable price range is one in which pet owners are likely to consider buying the service and price acts as less of a deterrent in buying decisions; prices outside this range are considered by the customer as so low as to be suspicious or so high as to be unaffordable or unwarranted

The full version of this study is available from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association at and includes more detail by demographic segment as well as an expanded discussion of the methodology and findings.

For a copy of the VHMA’s 2019 November Insiders’ Insight Report visit the VHMA website.