My clients are taking their business to a practitioner with cheaper fees. Should I be worried? (sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health)

My clients are taking their business to a practitioner with cheaper fees. Should I be worried? (sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health)

Try these strategies to hold on to horse owners.

It's inevitable, and it's OK

When you offer the best care and service in your community and you charge appropriately, this kind of scenario is inevitable. You might even prepare for more of the same in the future.

However, you can take steps to retain clients. First, prioritize the patient's care so that you're offering options that maintain a reasonable level of health for the horse but keep the cost affordable for the client. Let long-term, well-established clients pay in installments.

What you shouldn't do is lower your fees, and you certainly can't reduce your practice's quality of care and service. Continue to provide excellent care, impress clients with your customer service, and maintain your fees. Even if some horse owners leave, many will return when they discover that an inferior level of care isn't worth the lower price.
Mark Opperman, CVPM
VMC Inc.
Evergreen, Colo.

Sort through your clients

Ask yourself two questions: Which clients are leaving, and why are they leaving?

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Worry about your "A" clients, who've been great, loyal clients for years. Don't lose sleep over the "C" clients who get the whole team groaning when they're scheduled for an appointment.

The same goes for services. Clients shopping around for less-expensive routine work is one thing. But if they're leaving you for more complicated procedures, you should be worried that your clients don't feel they're getting additional value for your higher fees.

It all boils down to that perception of value. How are you differentiating your practice from a competitor with lower fees? What do your clients receive that they can't get from your cheaper competitor? Now make sure your entire team is communicating that additional value to clients.
Nikki Quenette, CPA, CMA
Quenette Veterinary Consulting
Fergus Falls, Minn.

Client relationships are the key

Clients consider changing veterinarians when they've had bad experiences with service. Is the cheaper fee really the issue? Before you blame the fee, ask yourself about the client experience: How did you and your staff treat the client? Did you respond quickly to phone calls? Did you promptly provide drugs and medications?

Take the time to ask your current clients about your service in a questionnaire. Ask them to rate you. Take criticism constructively, and use it as a means to improve what you do.

You can also perform a fee survey in your geographic area to make sure your fees aren't out of line. But as long as you bond with your clients, fees will be less of an issue and you'll have more work than you know what to do with.
Gary Glassman, CPA
Burzenski and Co.
East Haven, Conn.