4 things pet owners aren't telling you


A wildly innovative session at all three CVC shows this year puts pet owners in a room on camera with a classroom of attendees listening to their exam room and practice experiences. Here are four things moderator Brian Conrad, CVPM, learned at the first one in Virginia Beach.

Pet owners were thoughtful, nuanced, critical and kind as they explained their opinions and experiences in veterinary practices in an innovative new session at CVC Virginia Beach. (Getty Images)If you could sit and listen to pet owners talk amongst themselves, what would you learn? (You may feel you already get this experience when you stumble into some Facebook discussions.) And if you could ask them questions, what would you want to know?

Why they consult Dr. Google?

How much price-shopping goes on?

Whether they're getting ready to jump ship from your practice and take their money down the road?

Answers to these questions were the big takeaways for practice manager and current Veterinary Hospital Managers Association president Brian Conrad, CVPM, who moderated "Ask the pet owner: A LIVE panel and learning session" at CVC Virginia Beach. The two-hour session featured a group of pet owners live, on camera, answering Conrad's-and some of the audience's-questions.

These takeaways are strictly anecdotal-the thoughts, opinions and stories of a handful of pet owners in a room. But you can learn a lot from a great conversation ...

Pet owners talk to Dr. Google like crazy-after the visit

We all know veterinary clients use the internet to answer questions about their pet's health. (What do dog owners and cat owners ask the most? Click on the links.) But a number of pet owners on the panel said they hold off on investigating signs and diseases until they get in to see their veterinarian. Once the doctor's given some guidance on what a problem could be, then they want to know more-lots more-and the internet is there for them.

Pet owners price-shop-even the loyal ones who love you

Pet owners who come to the veterinarian frequently, who have multiple animals that visit the practice, and who respect and admire their veterinarian still price-shop once a veterinarian prescribes a drug or recommends some other product. (For a little more reading on clients, see how the "Price Shopper" stacks up against other client types.) Panelists at CVC Virginia Beach who had nothing but glowing words for their veterinarian and veterinary team still acknowledged asking friends for other places to buy ongoing products for their pets' health.

Pet owners are loyal to doctors-not practices

Some veterinary practices-especially multi-location chains-focus on the strength of their brand, their customer service and their consistent experience more than the one-on-one relationship a pet owner builds with an individual veterinarian. These client panelists weren't having it, and they emphasized their strong positive feelings about their chosen veterinarian.

A couple of these happy, loyal clients were questioning how long they were going to stay with hospitals where their favorite veterinarian had retired or moved on. These pet owners seemed to feel the greatest loyalty to their veterinarian and the fantastic licensed technicians and client service representatives working with them. (What's it take to be beloved? Read why Dr. David Jackson was "the world's greatest veterinarian" to his clients.)

Pet owners like an all-inclusive price

One pet owner was willing to travel two hours' round trip to go to a private practice that offered an all-inclusive price for dental procedures. While panelists said they understood why there was sometimes hundreds of dollars' difference between the treatment plan and the final price (after all, veterinarians can't possibly know what will be needed for a pet's treatment in the early stages), the pet owners also clearly appreciated veterinary hospitals that did a better job up-front of settling on a cost and sticking to it. (Here's some basic advice for talking about treatment plans.)

If you want to see Brian Conrad ask a brand-new set of pet owners the tough questions and hear individual stories to inspire you from folks who appreciate the work you do, watch the next panel at a CVC near you.

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