In the aftermath of the events that have occurred over the past few months, it isn't easy to imagine what the future holds. COVID 19, job loss, a presidential election, extreme weather, and the fluctuating stock market are eroding confidence and causing disequilibrium. Despite the turmoil around us, the veterinary industry seems to be stable. In fact, in many practices, business is booming! But this is not a time for complacency. Managers should look to the future and be prepared for all eventualities---continued growth, as well as business challenges.
Economists fear that it may take years to recover from furloughs, job loss, and business closures if COVID 19 is not contained. Lacking sufficient financial resources, clients who want to provide their pets with needed healthcare services may not be able to afford them.
That is why now is the time for practices to be proactive about providing options to their clients that will allow them to plan for the long-term health of their pets. Ultimately, the best way to ensure a pet's health and longevity is with preventive pet healthcare. Clients who love their pets but are unsure if they can make the financial commitment to preventive care can benefit from pet payment plans---smaller payments spaced over a more extended time that cover essential services.
Getting the word out
Even if the practice has offered payment plans for years, now is an excellent time to remind clients of the option. Begin by getting the word out. Communicating this information during a pandemic can be a bit tricky. Here are some general rules to follow:
- When creating a list of clients to contact with information about payment plan options, begin with active clients. If you plan to notify inactive clients, it is advisable to ease back into the relationship. An initial note covering COVID 19 related practice changes can be followed up with information about payment plans.
- When contacting clients during the pandemic, refrain from sounding salesy---it can be alienating. A simple notification rather than a hard sell may be the best strategy for getting their attention.
- Because none of us knows how COVID 19 will play out, it is best not to predict a rosy future. Even the experts are at odds on when and how it will be contained and where the country will be in six months. Just the facts, please!
Client correspondence can benefit from the following:
- Explain how the benefit or service the practice offers can help clients budget better for pet care. For services like payment plans, clients may be reassured to know that they can manage their financial commitment to caring for their pets while promoting their good health and longevity.
- Ask your clients what you can do for them. It feels good to know someone wants to hear what you have to say and may yield helpful suggestions.
Taking care of the practice
Veterinary practices cannot forsake their patients in challenging financial times. Offering options to clients so that they can afford to secure the services that are essential to their beloved pets is essential. It is also critical that practices watch their bottom lines and ensure that payments are secured for services rendered. These actions may help to improve the collection of payment:
- Maintain great client relations: When clients feel like more than just a revenue source, they are more likely to ensure that the bills are paid on time. Even those going through hard times may feel compelled to work out some repayment rather than ignore billing.
- Communicate effectively: If you notice that more and more clients are falling behind on their bills, do not let this behavior slide. Inform your clients and be unambiguous about how the practice will be impacted. If the practice is, or plans to introduce, late fees, interest, or upfront payments, make sure clients are fully informed when appointments are scheduled.
- Provide payment options and offer precise information. Be specifics about the benefits and advantages of signing up.
As we confront the present and the future of this new reality, we have no guarantees of what tomorrow, next month, or next year hold. Although we can hope for a 180-degree turn on the economy, the pandemic, and global conditions, we can't wish better outcomes; we can only prepare for contingencies. As Benjamin Franklin said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."
Practices can prepare for a future in a challenging economy by offering specific benefits to clients like payment plans and training staff to effectively implement these plans.
For practices working to become Preventive Pet Healthcare Champions, Partners for Healthy Pets offers information about payment plans and strategies for ensuring successful implementation.#ChampionsCorner