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Veterinary Forum February 2009 (Vol 26, No 2)

Doctor to Doctor — Selling your surgery profit center

by Ronald E. Whitford, DVM

    Surgery can offer tremendous potential for practice growth. Although this profit center requires expertise, it is not price-shopped and can be challenging.

    For a surgery profit center to be successful, the client must use it. This requires client education, client awareness and marketing expertise. Clients want safe anesthesia, pain management, lack of trauma and individualized care for their pets. Give them what they want, and show them how it can benefit the pet. Minimizing the fear of anesthesia also is important.

    In addition, it is important to educate the staff about the benefits of the new service and how to promote it. The best sales team is one that is sold on the product.

    Setting up

    If you decide that surgery is right for your practice, you must then choose the right surgeon — one who has both interest and expertise. Make room in the budget for surgical CE courses to help the surgeon keep abreast of the latest techniques and products.

    Price your surgeries for perception of value. Often people do not want to pay what your service is worth. Instead, they want to pay based on what they think it is worth. Therefore, charge for knowledge and expertise rather than parts and labor. Clients then believe they are paying you to return a live, mobile, healthy pet that is not in severe pain.

    On the other hand, cost can be less of an issue when terms are offered. Financing is always better than discounting. In addition, pet insurance companies can help make quality pet care more affordable. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) analyzed medical claims submitted in 2007 and found that the costliest conditions affected pets of all ages and breeds and often required diagnostic testing and emergency surgery. Average claimed fees for the most expensive conditions ranged from $500 to nearly $3,000.

    The big day

    Leaving a pet at a veterinary hospital on the day of surgery can be a stressful time for both the owner and the pet. Put them both at ease by streamlining the drop-off.

    For example, you can maximize convenience by offering to board the pet the night before the procedure or arrange for an early morning drop-off service. Have clients complete forms ahead of time, and use standardized estimates. Conduct laboratory work at the time of diagnosis rather than waiting until the morning of the procedure.

    After the procedure has been performed and the pet is ready to go home, release the pet professionally. The client should be escorted to an examination room, where the veterinarian can discuss the case and any home care instructions.

    After all of the client's questions about the procedure and aftercare have been answered, have a technician walk with the client to the cashier to make payment arrangements. Then the pet should be brought to the client, and home care instructions should be reviewed once more. If possible, have a staff member escort the client and pet to the parking lot, which allows time for more staff"client interaction.

    A telephone progress report should be made the next day. Clients love when you call to check on their pet. It allows positive feedback, heightens goodwill and can address any client concerns. It also may allow additional marketing opportunities.

    Always remember: The two main things you provide the client are a healthy pet and peace of mind.

    NEXT: Editor's Note — Measuring quality of life


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    These Care Guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions. They are formatted to print and give to your clients for their information.

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