Boo Larsen is a Synchrony general manager responsible for expanding the company’s veterinary medicine credit business.Read Articles Written by Boo Larsen
The COVID-19 pandemic created a whole new population of pet owners, who quickly learned that a companion animal could be as valuable and fulfilling to their lives as children. But unfortunately, what many of them didn’t learn was the potentially high cost of ownership.
This lack of awareness presents an excellent opportunity for veterinarians to establish a healthy financial relationship with clients founded on transparency and trust regarding costs. Openness about costs is something clients are looking for from you. In the 2021 Language of Veterinary Care study [bit.ly/3nPzNGS], which Synchrony sponsored through the American Veterinary Medical Association, we learned that clients want their veterinarians to speak directly to them about the cost of care over a pet’s lifetime and the payment options.
That cost of lifetime care has now been quantified. Synchrony’s Lifetime of Care study showed that the total cost of owning a dog ranged from $20,000 to $55,000 over its lifetime. The cost of a cat was similar: from $15,000 to $46,000. The research also found that while almost half of the pet owners thought they were ready for the expense of ownership, they turned out not to be. In addition, one-third of pet owners will face an expense that causes financial worry. For 25% of pet owners, even an unexpected $250 charge could be a major problem.
Clients value the essential role you play in their pets’ lifelong health, and they understand that veterinary practices need to be financially successful to provide personalized care for pets. Let clients know that bringing in a dog or cat for regular checkups is an essential step in building a strong relationship with you. Relationships are what they truly value.
Here are some strategies to help your clients understand and deal with the stress and cost of giving their pets the best possible care:
- Explain the likely cost of ownership to new pet owners, either face to face, on your website or through a periodic emailed newsletter. According to the Language of Veterinary Care study, your clients want to hear this from you, not from a front-office staff member. Doing it engenders trust and makes clients feel that you’re on their side.
- Discuss with your clients how regular checkups and appropriate vaccines keep pet care costs down by finding and alleviating physical problems before they get worse or more expensive to cure.
- Offer easy access to a range of payment options based on a client’s financial situation and priorities. This could include a specialized credit card that allows them to pay over time.
- Help clients understand the value of getting pet insurance early in a dog or cat’s life when the animal is still healthy, because no insurance plan covers pre-existing conditions. Point out that serious health issues can occur from something as simple as a puppy ingesting a rock or a cat suffering a gastrointestinal disease. Consider sharing two or three insurers they might explore based on your experience.
As their animal’s primary health care provider, pet owners want a strong personal relationship with you. Working with them to provide flexible care and treatment options as well as budget-friendly payment options will empower everyone to do what’s best for the pet over its lifetime.