While scanning news clips I saw this headline….“Veterinarian bill stuns cat owner”.
I thought to myself, “Yes, I’m not surprised. It must have been a big bill. I wonder how much it was?”
Over the past year I’ve been receiving more comments like this from pet owners who are upset over the prices vets are charging for their services. Some pet owners write in asking for our help in finding someone who is good but cheap (the old saying of “You want fast, good and cheap? Choose 2” applies and we tell them that as well as recommend payment and financing options they may wish to discuss with their vets) and some are writing just to vent their frustration and upset.
So what was the bill that stunned the cat owner? It turns out it was not the amount of the bill that stunned her, it was the handling of the bill that did the damage.
Here’s what happened: A $200 quote on the phone got the pet owner to bring her cat into her regular vet, one with whom she’d been taking her pets to for awhile. But when she arrived with her ill cat she was told she needed to put down a $250 deposit before the vet would even see the cat.
The pet owner, rightly, was miffed.
There were three things wrong with how this was handled with the pet owner.
- She was given a ball-park amount for ‘fixing’ her cat by the clinic staff but when she got there she was immediately asked for an amount that was $50 more than what she was told.
- She was asked to leave a deposit for the entire amount. A deposit often means the actual price will be much more and that is cause for concern, especially today.
- Asking for the entire amount up front as a deposit also gives the owner another message. It says the person’s credit is not trustworthy.
Since she was an existing client and stated she had always paid her bills promptly with no problems and has never had to leave a deposit before, this was an insult to her and left her upset.
Although the story did not share the clinic’s side of things, I can imagine they have seen their share of pet owners who aren’t prepared for the amount of money proper care will cost, and they may be experiencing more instances where pet owners are not able to pay their final bills when they come to get their pets. They may have a new deposit policy as a result. We’ve had some comments of this type too and we understand why a clinic or hospital may institute requiring some payment up front.
So how could this have been handled better?
It’s pretty obvious that whoever first spoke with the pet owner did not ‘set her up’ properly so that she was prepared for the upfront payment. And then whoever helped her once she arrived (probably the same person), did not help matters and did not make it clear why they were asking for a deposit up front rather than the entire bill payment when she picked up her pet.
The story does not state how much the final bill was, but it does say that the cat owner is never going back to that clinic. She’s still very upset and she’s writing to advise other owners to make sure you get all the details before bringing your pet to a vet, even if you’ve used them before. And if she knows about leaving online reviews, I’ll bet she’s left some bad ones out there for this vet too.
It’s rather obvious to see where this went wrong. It’s worth the time and effort to make sure your staff are schooled on how to handle estimates smoothly so that ‘sticker shock’ is minimized when the final bill comes. One way to do this is to make them familiar with financing options like Care Credit, Chase and Healthcare Payment Solutions (pet owner’s don’t need good credit for Healthcare Payment Soltutions, just the ability to make payments).