4 steps to picking a veterinary wellness plan

October 1, 2019
Patti Christie

Heres how this dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year finalist picked a wellness and the results she saw.

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Picking a pretty perfect practice manager

Patti Christie is one of 10 finalists for 2019 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year. Learn more about the contest and read more stories from other entrants, finalists and winners here.

Here are the steps I took to pick out a veterinary wellness plan and a client loyalty plan that would work for our clients, our practice and our team members:

Step 1. I reached out to vendors for resources and recommendations. I was especially looking for the ability to create wellness plans that were right for our clientele-not prepackaged plans. With our choice, we wound up with complete control on what's included as well as what we charge and the terms of the contracts. For the loyalty program, I needed it to be as simple as possible so that our CSRs didn't have to spend a lot of time figuring out how much a client earned on a particular visit or how many reward points they have available. I also wanted a loyalty plan that didn't cost us in administrative fees on top of the percentage we were “giving back” to the client.

Step 2. I contacted the companies providing the programs I was looking for and scheduled demonstrations and webinars. They were all very willing to schedule these for myself and key staff members.

Step 3. I got feedback from the client service representatives (CSRs), as I knew they'd be dealing the most with administering the new wellness and loyalty plans. The wellness plan we went with integrates seamlessly into our practice software, and it's a hit with them. With one button, they see which services have been used and which are still available for the patient. It's always easier to get buy-in from the staff to implement plans if they have a voice in the process.

Step 4. I asked the big cost vs. benefit questions:

> Would the wellness plan increase compliance on wellness care, and would the potential volume make up for the revenue "lost" by offering a small discount for the package? Initially, I felt a discounted offer would be more attractive, but it doesn't seem to be the primary motivation for purchase-rather, it's the convenience of monthly payments that appeals to clients. I'm cutting the discount from future packages.

> Would the loyalty plan incentivize clients to stay with our clinics based on the rewards they could earn? Other clinics and vendors generally recommended 5% for rewards, but we started with 3% and that worked well.

> What would the two providers charge us to implement the plan? For the wellness plans, we pay a flat dollar amount per plan each month for administration. We also are charged a processing fee through our merchant services processor, which I negotiated to a very competitive rate. We encourage clients to sign up using eCheck instead of a credit card as the processing fee is minimal. For the loyalty program, the client pays an annual fee directly to the company that administers the plan, but we offer them a free service equal to the annual fee (a nail trim).

The end result? One hospital definitely saw an increase in wellness care compliance-the hospital with the demographics I expected would be most open to the program. They were young, urban professionals often just starting out with a first pet. These clients are used to paying for things on a monthly basis, and their cash flow is pretty tight. Our other hospital has different demographics, enrolled fewer patients in the wellness plan, but more in the loyalty rewards program. That hospital is in a more established neighborhood, with long-term clients and families with more disposable income. They're used to paying for annual wellness care during a single visit, but they enjoy the “perks” of earning rewards to use for future visits.

These two programs helped set us apart from other independently owned veterinary clinics in our area, as we've been the first to offer them. At the clinic seeing success with wellness plans, several people say they read about our plans on the website and chose us for that.

Patti Christie, CVT, CVPM, is practice manager at Minnehaha Animal Hospital and Pet Doctors Animal Clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a 2019 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year finalist.