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The Awkward Conversation: How to Discuss Costs with Confidence

Did you know that nearly 40% of Americans can’t afford a $400 unanticipated expense1, and that percentage rises closer to 60% for a $1000 expense2?

These statistics may surprise you, but what’s undeniable is the ripple effect when clients find themselves unable to afford proper pet care. The pet’s well-being hangs in the balance, the pet parent grapples with guilt and stress, and the veterinary team responsible for the pet’s care is often left feeling helpless and frustrated.

While the solution may appear straightforward – offering financing options to make care affordable – the reality is that most practices only offer payment options when pet owners ask. However, this practice can harm all parties involved as many pet owners are reluctant to mention cost concerns because:

They are embarrassed about their financial situation. Our society places a strong emphasis on self-sufficiency, and financial success. As a result, payment challenges can be seen as a personal failure or a sign of incompetence, creating feelings of shame for your clients. 

They are worried about being judged. Pet owners are also reluctant to bring up their financial limitations because they fear being judged by the staff and worry that their inability to afford a treatment or procedure could be seen as neglectful or irresponsible. 

Adding to the clients’ concerns, pets are cherished family members, and the pet owner may be experiencing other complex emotions at the time estimates are presented, such as guilt or fear.

To complicate matters, staff members also hesitate to discuss possible payment concerns. Some don’t want to imply the pet owner can’t afford care and possibly insult them. Others may have a general discomfort surrounding money-related conversations or were raised to believe discussing financial affairs with others was rude. 

However, if you proactively offer financing, you’ll experience:

Increased Treatment Compliance Many pet owners can’t pursue recommended care when faced with high upfront costs. However, by presenting affordable payment plans, you can remove this financial barrier, enabling more pet owners to move forward with the recommended treatments and ensuring better outcomes for their pets.

Improved Customer Satisfaction Taking the initiative to discuss financing options demonstrates a genuine commitment to the well-being of both the pets and their owners. It sends a clear message that the clinic recognizes the financial challenges many pet owners face and is actively working to find solutions that make quality veterinary care accessible to all. This approach fosters trust and enhances the overall client experience. When pet owners feel supported and understood, they are more likely to develop a lasting relationship with the veterinary clinic, leading to increased loyalty and positive word-of-mouth referrals. They are also unlikely to write negative reviews citing “making money” as the practice’s primary objective. 

Financial Benefits for the Pet Owner The average credit card interest rate is 20.68% – 22.58%.4 When a pet owner chooses to pay using their everyday credit card, they usually must pay off the balance in full by their next billing statement to avoid paying interest charges. This requirement to pay in full can create a financial strain for some of your clients. However, when a pet owner elects to use All Pet Card, for charges of $250 or more, they can pay over time without incurring interest charges as long as they pay in full by the end of the 6, 12, or 18 month promotional period – easing that burden. 

Financial Benefits for the Practice Some practices hesitate to offer financing due to concerns about the fees they pay. However, offering a 6-month special financing plan only leads to a modest increase in expenses, ranging from 0.75% to 2.75% beyond the standard credit card processing fees paid by your practice 3. This slight increase is minimal compared to the potential positive revenue generation created by improved client satisfaction and treatment compliance. 

With time and resources in short supply at hospitals and clinics, many worry that discussing financing will require too much energy or effort, but that is not the case. Offering financing proactively is quick, simple, and may save time as cost objections are removed from the conversation with your client.

Discussing Costs with Confidence

  1. Offer Proactively. Any time cost is discussed, the availability of financing options is presented to every client – with no exceptions. 
  2. Be Prepared. Memorize and use the following script.
  3. Utilize Marketing Materials. Direct your clients to the resources provided by your financing partner, such as brochures or posters. These materials provide all the information needed for the pet owner to take the next steps, if desired, without creating additional work for your staff.

“The estimate for care is $X, which must be paid in full before we begin treatment. Many of our clients take advantage of payment plans where you can pay over six months. It only takes a minute to find out if you prequalify and doesn’t impact your credit score. Is that something you’d be interested in?” 

The words used here are crucial. By saying, “Many of our clients take advantage of our payment plans…”, you are removing embarrassment or judgment fears by letting the client know that cost concerns are commonplace and that they should not hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity to pay over time. 

In the end, incorporating these practices into your daily routine enhances your relationships with clients and contributes to a more holistic and effective approach to veterinary care by upfront acknowledgement of cost concerns. By addressing the financial aspect of pet health with empathy and practical solutions, professionals can uplift the well-being of the pets, their owners, and the veterinary team alike.

1 Federal Reserve Board’s Economic Well-Being of US Households Report 2022

2 Bankrate’s 2023 Annual Emergency Savings Report

3 March 2023 Forbes Advisor Credit Card Processing Fees (2023 Guide)

4 August 2023 – WalletHub’s Credit Card Landscape Report