Sample script: What to do when the veterinary client says, I cant pay

August 30, 2019
Gabrielle Roman, Content Marketing Manager
Gabrielle Roman, Content Marketing Manager

Gabrielle Roman is the Content Marketing Manager for the dvm360 team. She helps brainstorm, produce and promote all the excellent content you can find on dvm360.com and the print publications dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted. In 2018, she was named a Folio: Rising Star Award Honoree.

When a client hesitates to pay or cant pay an unexpected veterinary bill, make sure youre delivering understanding.

Most clients faced with a big bill probably don't have a jar full of cash stashed away somewhere. (Svetlana/stock.adobe.com)

“I just can't pay that today.”

You've probably heard this from veterinary clients who've been delivered large treatment estimates for their sick pets. Maybe they're just shocked at the price and need some time to digest the information. Or maybe they're genuinely struggling and can't afford to pay the amount presented. What can you do in this situation? Lay out options.

Don't say something like this: “Our policy requires that you pay at least the bottom end of the estimate before we move forward on Sammy.”

While you're simply trying to communicate the rules of the hospital, what the client hears is this: “We don't care whether your dog lives or dies. We just want your money.”

When facing a client who's hesitant to pay, the key is to respond with empathy. Your goal is to communicate not that they have to fork over the money to get the procedure done but that you understand the client's difficulty and want the same thing they do: to make sure their pet gets well.

Try this approach the next time you talk to a client who says they can't pay.

Client: I can't pay this much today.

You: I understand your hesitation. If I were in your situation and saw an estimate like this, it would be tough for me to swallow too. I know what's going on with Sammy is serious, and we want to make sure he gets the care he needs. I want to do everything I can today to make that happen for you.

Client: What are my options?

You: One option we have is a third-party creditor. Here's a simple application you can fill out now-they'll be able to extend you the credit to get Sammy taken care of today. If that's doesn't work for you, let's talk some more and see what else we can figure out. Do you want a minute to talk with your family about your options?

Remember, clients don't necessarily know the level of medicine you're practicing or why certain procedures have to take place. They can feel taken advantage of when they see an estimate for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Taking the time to talk through how they can pay rather than just telling them they need to pay can go a long way.

Editor's note: This script originally appeared on dvm360.com as a video starring Brian Conrad, CVPM. Watch it here!