In a country where we are not accustomed to paying for medical care for ourselves, clients will often underestimate the actual costs involved.
Many animal owners have a nasty surprise when they first have a serious medical issue with their pet. This inevitably leads to concerns, and fuels the misconception that vets make a fortune out of their client’s hardship. All of this can potentially result in bad debt for the practice.
Maintaining a positive client relationship can go a long way towards minimising this. Being more open about the costs of veterinary practice and the reality of life as a veterinary surgeon can also help, as people often don’t realise how much of their consult fee contributes to the day-to-day running of the practice rather than straight into the vet’s pocket. It is much harder for people to justify not paying their bill if a) they like their vet and get on well, and b) they see them as a real person working hard to make a living. Good relations aside, there will always be those that think the normal rules don’t apply.
Another way to mitigate against bad debt is to encourage clients to pay for more of their treatment in advance. Certainly, this can be done easily when booking the original appointment – particularly if booked online. Not only does this have the obvious benefit of receiving payment before any treatment is provided, it is also useful in ensuring that clients are more aware of the costs (no more – “I didn’t know there would be a consult fee, we only came in for…”). Also, appointments that have been pre-paid are far less likely to be forgotten or cancelled.
It is also possible to monetise the time spent on a telephone call with a concerned client, by asking them to book a telephone consult.
Managing expectations and nipping late payment in the bud does not just go for the consultation itself. There are many standard treatments with a clearly defined pricing structure. These can be paid for in advance at the time of booking the appointment if using an online booking system.
Making it easy for your clients to pay you remotely and making it easy for staff to nudge payment will also help reduce the burden of bad debt. Again, this can be done by taking payments online through a simple transaction window such as PayPal or VetConsult.
The beauty of using VetConsult is that you can have customised branded messaging to confirm appointments, payment requests, and payment confirmation. You also have a handy dashboard to see at a glance who has paid. The one click system for reminding clients of outstanding invoices makes it easier than ever to chase unpaid invoices and remind debtors of what they owe.