The cost of free advice

3 minutes
Published on October 09, 2020
“Do you have a minute? I just have a quick question!”
Sounds familiar?

This type of situation happens often, as many clients are unaware of the real value of advice. Unfortunately, this issue has also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which created a more urgent need for telemedicine.

You may feel it’s your duty to ensure that every animal receives proper care and treatment, but the toll it takes on your revenues and stress levels is actually quite sizable, especially during this pandemic. Moreover, a lack of policy surrounding phone consultations often disrupts your daily agenda, leading you and your team to fall behind on schedule.

Thankfully, industry changes caused by the current health crisis have opened up the perfect opportunity to turn the tables around.


How to approach the issue

Charging for phone consultations may seem like a big leap. You might worry about offending clients or even losing a few. Or maybe you are at a loss as to where to begin. These concerns are all valid and setting up a solid game plan may help alleviate your preoccupations. Here are a few tips on how to approach the issue with professionalism while continuing to show compassion and integrity.


Set clear boundaries

Make sure that everyone on your team is informed on which fees to apply and that they follow the practice’s policy. If possible, try not to make exceptions; one 5-minute phone call will inevitably lead to another and then another. Soon enough, you’ll lose control of the situation.


Be upfront

It’s crucial to discuss prices right from the start so that clients know what to expect. Consider writing a script to help your team focus on the advantages while introducing your new fees: “We now offer phone consultations at your convenience. This will help you save time and prevent your pet from experiencing a stressful visit. I want to be as transparent as possible about the fees that could apply to this consultation. Let me break them down for you…”


Adapt the process

Set up a screening process at a small fee through which a technician determines if an in-practice visit is required. This creates convenience for both you and the client. You may also choose to offer a discount on certain types of advice such as behavioural problems, which often don’t require patients to visit the practice. You could also show good faith by offering to credit the cost of the phone consultation if the problem requires in-clinic treatment.

Roll out your new policy all at once

Making sure it applies to all clients creates a sense of fairness and equality. Don’t worry; most clients will be understanding and appreciate the advantages that come with this new service. Reach as many people as possible by displaying your new policy in both the “News” and “Contact” sections of your website. Also, don’t forget to include it in following newsletters.

To help you announce that your practice now offers telephone consultations for which a fee will be charged, we provide a sample email that you can customize before sending it to your clients.

In short, policies like these are rarely “one size fits all,” so it’s best to find solutions that work for you and your clients. Your time is valuable and creating a fixed policy will benefit not only yourself but also other members of the vet community. The key is to open a line of communication between you and your clients to foster a sense of inclusivity and fairness, helping you manage your time and revenues more easily.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help managing your communication channels. We can provide advice on how to showcase your value while maintaining a strong vet-client relationship. In addition, we have recently published articles offering advice on the implementation of virtual consultations as well as content aimed at helping veterinary teams better prepare clients for their online appointment.

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