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Making the most of your best clients
It's past time to start focusing on the clients who have stuck with you during this recession.
It's past time to start focusing on the clients who have stuck with you during this recession. And have you ever performed a qualitative analysis of them? Before the recession, these clients were in the top 55 percent in spending. This 55 percent provided 95 percent of the profit for your practice. The clients who are no longer coming in are mostly from the previous years' bottom 45 percent; they sought minimal services only. This 45 percent brought in only about 5 percent of your profits.
Your top clients have bonded with their pets. They see them as family members that need care—recession or not. By fostering that belief, you can increase your net earnings even in a recession. Here's how.
Bust the age myth
How many times have you heard this scenario play out? "One dog year equals seven human years. That means my 18-year-old poodle is 126 in human years. To put her under anesthesia to correct dental disease would be insane!"
Too many Americans misjudge their pets' life expectancies, and we've let it continue for too long. Many pets are living well into their senior years thanks to our profession.
Our entire industry has allowed age misperceptions to stand, even as they burden our ability to provide maximum service. The 7-year myth has become common knowledge among unwitting pet owners. It's more than a minor annoyance. It hurts our earning ability.
We could increase the care of millions of pets fast by managing age expectations at the start of each client visit. In fact, the first item on every invoice should be a pet's equivalent human age. The client visit would go something like this: "Let's see. Fluffy is 9 years old and that makes her 52 in human years. With the good care we know you can provide, we can very possibly expect to celebrate her 18th birthday. Then she would only be 88 in human years and probably pretty comfortable."
Step up your game
We all develop bad habits. Are yours preventing you from realizing potential profits? How does your most recent patient examination compare with the examinations you performed while under the supervision of a faculty member? Most practitioners would wind up with a mediocre grade if that same faculty member were grading them today.
When was the last time you asked if a patient's water consumption had changed? How long has it been since you've asked about coughing, sneezing or wheezing? Vomiting or diarrhea? Lameness, stiffness, tremors or seizures? When was the last time you examined a dog's prostate as part of a routine exam?
There is no better time to reform ourselves and our practices than now. For many, appointments are down and free time is up.
Exam forms can help
For your own economic health, it's time to get back to basics. Our patients almost always have problems that escape us for lack of asking. And missed medical issues add up. I've never seen them total less than one hundred dollars a day or about $30,000 per year per veterinarian.
An exam form or medical history questionnaire can help. Clients are grateful for a copy of the written examination form to take home, checked off as to his or her pet's health, normal or otherwise. That report card, once in the home of a bonded client, becomes a research tool. Clients surf the web for information to understand their pets' needs. You don't really believe your clients understand everything you say in the exam room, do you?
Never underestimate a client's willingness to provide the maximum in health and well-being for his or her pet. When you do, you can seriously impair your career. You took an oath to care for your patients. They deserve your best, and so do you.
Dr. Snyder, a well-known consultant, publishes Veterinary Productivity, a newsletter for practice productivity. He can be reached at 112 Harmon Cove Towers Secaucus, NJ 07094; (800) 292-7995; Vethelp@comcast.net; fax: (866) 908-6986.