A naysayers guide to pet insurance and third-party payment plans
Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.
No money means no care means no healthy pets. We know you dont want to be a pet insurance salesman or pitch veterinary care credit cards, and you dont have to be. Here are some ways to fight through your reservationsor the worries of othersabout these two kinds of products.
Say "No!" to ways to help clients pay and you could be saying "No!" to affordable care at your awesome veterinary hospital. (Shutterstock.com)The ‘nays' of pet insurance
The nay: “They turn down some of my best clients for insurance or reimbursement!”
The yay: Do you talk up a particular pet insurance company with clients, but you're not happy with their recent service? Or have you had a bad experience in the past with a particular pet insurance company, personally or professionally? Dump ‘em and pick another one. (Unsure? You can start here on Products360.)
That's what 2017 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year Judi Bailey, CVPM, did. She lost her favorite sales representative, and they struggled to get her brochures in time. Worst of all, her team members started to complain.
“I listen to staff when there are complaints,” Bailey says. “The one pet insurance we recommend hasn't been approving treatments for some well-loved clients, so we're switching. Team members felt heard when I announced we'd be interviewing other companies to see if a change makes sense.”
The nay: “I'm too busy to talk about pet insurance!”
The yay: You must really love exam room and front-of-clinic complaints about how expensive care is. You don't have to know every nook and cranny of every pet insurance plan to be versed in the basics of one (or two). And, c'mon, wouldn't it be worth a little time in your workweek to reduce the number of money conversations you have?
“We're not a hard sell for pet insurance,” Bailey says, “but we definitely educate.” Because Bailey thinks pet insurance is a good solution for affordable pet care for some clients, she's on board with taking the time to educate-not sell. And if pet owners are interested, they fill out paperwork right then and there in the exam room.
If you think you're too busy to research pet insurance, what about pet owners who know less than you do? “We recommend teams do the research, pick two companies they like and trust, and only display those options,” says Embrace Pet Insurance's Chrissy McGregor. “When hospitals expect clients to do their own research, they get overwhelmed. Pet parents consider you the experts for all things pet-related, including pet insurance.”
At Bailey's practice, the veterinary technician or assistant asks new clients, especially with a puppy or kitten, if they have pet insurance. If not, the pet owner gets a brochure and looks it over while the team member manages some of those first steps to a pet visit.
Next, the doctor shows up and says, “I see my assistant gave you information about the pet insurance we recommend. Do you have any questions while I get started on the examination?” If they're interested, pet owners sign up online in the exam room on the computer or the team rings the pet owner back in three days to see if they had any trouble getting signed up from their home computer.
“The whole team believes in having insurance because our prices are not cheap, so they encourage clients to look into it because they know how much of the invoice gets reimbursed,” Bailey says. “They feel like they're helping the client."
Need some ready-to-use team education on pet insurance to get you started? We've got a Team Meeting in a Box for that.
Third party payment plans
The nay: “They turn down too many pet owners for credit!”
The yay: The same pet owners your hospital won't extend credit or give free services to may also not be able to get credit from a provider like CareCredit, Wells Fargo or Scratch. (You can see a complete list of today's big providers here on Products360.) That can lead to a perception that anybody who'd want veterinary-specific credit can't get it. But Bailey tries to remind team members not to bias themselves early and to use the product to show you're trying.
Remember when you had to take down all the financial information and manage a third-party payment plan application over the phone? Yeah, that doesn't have to happen anymore. Let clients use your internet-enabled, web-browsing computer to sign up on CareCredit Direct or on a smartphone with Scratch. It can be done in privacy for clients' sake.
“If we only recommend third-party payment plans to ‘low on money' clients, the decline rate is going to be much higher than if we offer it to everyone,” Bailey says. “I also tell team members that one of the main reasons I offer it is because I want to give my client service representatives an ‘out' when a client gets declined. My staff automatically say, ‘OK, Wells Fargo is not an option for you? I'll get our manager to help see what the next step will be.'”
The nay: “I don't have time to learn about all these payment options!”
The yay: Again, you must really dig those difficult client payment conversations that end in, “But you won't let Fluffy die, will you?”
Bailey recommends that every team member-“including the kid who gives a client a kennel tour”-knows the payment and insurance options the practice recommends. Team members don't need to know all the pet insurance reimbursement rates or credit card financing options, but they should know the basics of how to sign up, how they work and who in the practice can talk about the details (like, y'know, the manager).
And don't shoulder the burden yourself: Make those product sales representatives earn their keep.
“I've included all my product and service reps in our new-hire onboarding process,” Bailey says. That goes for parasite preventive and medication reps as well as third-party payment plan and pet insurance reps, she says.
“Each rep knows they'll come in and do a demonstration or training on either products or services to all new hires each quarter," Bailey says. "This allows new employees to ask all the questions and get all the answers from someone besides my trainers or me.”