19 May Have you met Mr Wright?
In the course of doing what I do I sometimes come across a particular type of vet that tells me that money, marketing, medicine, profit and vets are words that don’t sit comfortably together. In fact, he will contend that the pursuit of profit is morally wrong, preventative health schemes that we advocate so strongly are just a ‘rip-off’ to sell more stuff to clients that don’t really want it and that raising prices and poor veterinary standards are the main reason for falling footfall and the decline of the profession.
Let’s call him Mr Wright! And he is entitled to his opinion. I often say to people that tell me they didn’t ‘do veterinary medicine to make money’ is “Well done – you’ve succeeded!”
That aside, I think he raises some important points about the Vet Dynamics approach that I would like to address.
I wouldn’t, for a second, disagree with Mr Wright about the importance of fair pricing in practice, although whether it is ‘the most important reason’ for falling clientele is certainly a more debatable point. Research suggests otherwise.
Regardless of the reasons for falling clientele, preventative healthcare (PHC) is categorically not just a cynical way to squeeze more money out of clients. Nor will it result in further erosion of their numbers. On the contrary, it represents a standard of clinical excellence; a standard which our counterparts in human medicine and dentistry have practiced successfully for some years now; a standard which could go some way in alleviating the very ‘dinner-party-grumbling-about-vets-bills’ to which Mr Wright refers.
In fact, our contention is exactly the same as Mr. Wright’s – currently, our clients do not perceive ‘value for money’ from many vets. However, lowering prices or not offering a full preventative and clinical service to those clients only reduces veterinary income, veterinary standards and business viability – a lose/lose situation.
What we are saying as a solution is to offer PHC comprehensively, consistently and cheaply to ALL clients with the primary purpose of attracting and keeping as many clients coming through veterinary practices, as often as possible, to demonstrate our integrity and care through education and disease prevention.
Preventative Healthcare Schemes (as proposed by Vet Dynamics, at least) are NOT there to make money. They are there as a primary marketing tool to Attract, Convert and Retain the best possible clients to your practice so that you can practice the best medicine you know how. Done well, they will also make some money….
If that were the case veterinary practices may actually be able to charge realistically and profitably for their skill, expertise and training in veterinary medicine and surgery instead of subsidising it with overpriced drugs, overpriced vaccines and overpriced preventative healthcare – and isn’t that where the Competitions Commission came in??
In an ideal world, the excellence represented by the preventative approach would be standard across all practices and adopted by all clients. Of course, it is not. So at this stage, regardless of whether you consider it from a financial perspective, a clinical one, or a caring one, it is surely pragmatic to begin by offering PHC to those clients that will be more receptive to it. This approach is not ‘unworthy of any self-respecting professional group.’ Rather, it is the approach that will benefit the greatest number of animals.
It is also a harsh reality that in today’s competitive world, veterinary surgeons need to ‘sell’ themselves and their services as never before. There is no doubt that the most effective professional selling is by educating the client to the ‘facts’ and providing the client with safe, effective and informed choices as to the costs, consequences, treatments and preventative options available to them. In that regard, there is nothing unprofessional about describing a (realistic) worse case scenario, or using aggressive educational techniques to encourage a client to use an effective treatment.
That may seem ‘unprofessional’ to some, but remember that the ultimate aim is to ensure that the client actions your advice, for the benefit of the animal. If that requires a ‘double-glazing’ approach, so be it. Indeed, judging by the acres of reinforced glass that lines the leafy suburbs of Surbiton, maybe the veterinary profession could learn a thing or two from those Mr Wright appears to so criticise.
I wholeheartedly and absolutely agree with both of Mr Wright’s tenets of good business practice. Avoid over-charging and over treatment. Treat the public with professional integrity. But these things alone will not bring clients flocking back. For that, be in no doubt that we need to sell the value of what we do. And to do that, we need to give clients a good cost-effective and compelling reason to come through our doors more often. “Selling” and “professional integrity” are not mutually exclusive concepts. Indeed the preventative healthcare approach offers the ideal platform from which to sell with integrity.
I’d rather get pets RIGHT, than be Mr Wright….