Why I hate discounted examsand love free vaccines
Use your prices to show clients you value your veterinary staff's time and knowledge.
This was written by one of 10 finalists for the Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year award, sponsored by VPI. For more from each finalist and a slideshow of the nominees, visit dvm360.com/PMOY.
My philosophy is to never discount services, but I will discount products all day long. I know that this seems contradictory, but I believe that services are medicine and are thus sacrosanct, whereas products are just that, products, and as such can be had anywhere.
Services are what make veterinary hospitals stand out. They are what we provide that no one else can. Online pharmacies can take away our entire pharmacy business (and probably will), but services have to be done through a veterinary hospital. Services are where owners see value and where we as hospitals need to place our value in our staff, our profession and ourselves.
I believe that when we, as veterinary hospitals, discount our services we do a disservice to our profession. Services represent our time and our knowledge. These things have value; value that we should never compromise. The prices we set for our services is the value that we place on our time and knowledge. I don't believe in discounting that.
I know that discounting services works, or vaccine clinics and Banfield wouldn't exist. Discounting services can help drive hospital growth. I just (philosophically) wonder at the quality of the growth. We don't want just any clients-we want the right kind of clients.
Having said that, a fair argument can be made that vaccines are a service, not a product. I did consider this, and then I realized that they are:
> available at feed stores
> have been commoditized by our own profession at vaccine clinics.
I implemented a free vaccines for life program at my last veterinary practice because I wanted to reverse the expectation that free exams come with paid vaccines. I wanted to put the value on the veterinary team's time and expert knowledge during an exam and minimize the financial contribution of the commoditized vaccine.
I don't see the free vaccines for life plan as a discount. The practice is upfront about the fact that people who come in twice a year as opposed to once aren't going to save money by not being charged for vaccines. Vaccines are cheap but exams are not. Our goal is to put the client focus on care and reward them for that with a small perk. We want to focus on care, and the money saved by clients is saved in the long run by providing proper preventive care for their pets.
Liane Ehrich is a Certified Veterinary Technician and former practice manager at Ventana Animal Hospital in Tuscon, Arizona.