Certainly in the UK, with the energy bills having astronomically risen, extreme volatility with the GBP currency and macroeconomic factors rendering pet health care a global issue, the cost of living crisis across the world has certainly triggered a worry for practices as pet care demand may become sluggish.
With customer counting their pennies and watching their spend, it’s important your practice proactively assist existing customers and continue to attract new customers, encouraging them to continue to take care of their pets.
5 helpful tips and ways you can help pet-parents survive in the cost of living crisis
1. Offer discounts front and centre
The first thing your customers or potential customers will do is be on the lookout. They’ll scour the website and socials for any offers where they can save money. Provide discounts in a social post, on your Facebook advertising, on your website, in your mailers etc. And be creative – it can be anything, such as a 10% discount for new customers, £5 off their next vaccination appointment, a voucher for every third appointment they book, £20 for every customer they refer to your practice with referral codes etc.
See the example below on how one practice activates “pop-ups” on their website as soon as someone visits:
2. Clearly communicate your partnership with key animal insurance providers
In your newsletter or regular emails to existing customers and prospects, it’s important you show off your partnership or integrations with key insurance providers. This will provide reassurance to customers as well as an opportunity to educate them on what is covered and what isn’t covered. You’ll be seen as a top choice if you have a good ground with reputable insurance brands and for any newbie’s, this might just be what attracts them to your clinic – if they know that your practice makes it nice and easy to process claims.
3. Guarantee affordability by offering pet health-care/wellness plans
Do you know what enables you to not only reassure clients and potential new customers with affordable care plans, but ensures you have a consistent stream of revenue?
A streamlined practice management system usually allows you to integrate pet healthcare plans and pricing into the products and services you offer. Pet healthcare plans differ from insurance in that it’s not for emergency care. It’s where you can bundle benefits and preventative care, so customers have the option to pay direct debit on a monthly basis, much like a subscription. It encourages routine treatments, check-ups, vaccinations etc. and also improves appointment compliance. This structured care, gives the client and pet, the best care possible, at something that is affordable for them.
“Wellness plans can help you develop trust with your clients. They allow you to craft and shape a service, to bundle benefits and preventative care which is going to help retain and more importantly engage with your clients throughout the year. It’s good for them, it’s good for their pets, and it’s good for your business.” Camilla Morrison, Business Analyst
Check out our blog specifically on wellness plans and it comes with a free ebook!
Also not sure what to include in your pet-health care plans? Vet practice marketing and business consultant, Practice Made Purrfect already created a guide on what to include here.
4. Use compassion and kindness to support your clients during difficult times
It’s obvious once you read it, but also easy to forget since there are many affairs to take care of in practice life. The Veterinary Practice has encouraged non-judgment and compassion:
“Don’t judge your clients – you never know who will be able to afford more and who will not. You do not know who has had a sudden change in circumstances or why. Instead, bring the owner with you on the decision-making journey and share the responsibility of the risk-taking. Where there is less money to spend, it’s an effective use of resources that will pay dividends if or when clinical management plans have to be adjusted or outcomes aren’t as you’d hoped.” Ian Ramsey, Professor, Small Animal Medicine, University of Glasgow
Don’t underestimate the value of customer rapport and relationship-building efforts. This can also help to reduce “veterinary bashing” occurrences which happen as a result of financial difficulty.
Encourage your clients to talk to you if they’re having financial difficulty through the use of open, transparent and trust-building dialogue. This could be posters in your clinic, social media posts and website blogs, simply posing the question “Are you experiencing financial difficulty, but want to ensure your pet is still taken care of?” – “Come talk to us today about our flexible finance plans” and include a discount or offer to get them curious and engaged.
At the moment, national papers are encouraging citizens to ask their vets about payment plans, so it is worth ensuring your clinic meets these needs.
5. Train your staff and offer proper mental-health and well-being breaks
Again, your staff were already under the pressures of the Covid-19 crisis; mental health crisis; global veterinary shortage; energy crisis and now the overall cost of living crisis. Yikes! As it has been one thing after the other, veterinary practices have not had much respite. And this undoubtedly has an impact on your staff, their well-being and their ability to serve customers. Whether the receptionist, nurse or veterinary surgeon, you’re all under quite severe pressure every day and it’s important your practice is factoring in regular, long and well-deserved breaks.
Whether in the form of holidays, key mental health or CPD courses, rejuvenated and satisfied staff are better placed to serve and help customers who may be struggling. It’s always important to think beyond the immediate impact, but what the domino effect will be if there are certain actions or inaction. A fantastic way to incorporate this is to look at the advice of Dr Alex Hynes who works in Animal Emergency Services and she talks about scheduling to success and managing resources in the right ways.
Danny the Vet, Trustee of VetLife and veterinary surgeon, also advises individuals on stress management in our podcast.
“There’s normally a system or an organisation setting you up where you can or cannot deliver the care and services that are necessary. Finding the right team and clinic to work for is important. There are clinics that exist to support you in every way possible. If there’s an emergency or lack of resources, the right team will pull together to address it, and you really feel like you’re solving it together and looking after each other. You also feel like you’ve done a really good job. You shouldn’t be in a situation where you’re leaving each day after 8pm and overworked – that is not your fault.”
This is critical so that your practice is in an optimum environment meaning staff are happier, aren’t overburdened and are perfectly able to cope with customers experiencing difficulty in the cost of living crisis.
Taking care of your staff = happy staff AND happy customers. It’s a win-win for everyone if well taken care of!