Pet Health Plans: How your practice can set them up for success

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I’m evangelistic in my belief in Pet Health Plans, and in their value for you, your practice, your clients and your patients. 
 
To me, every practice needs to be prioritising their plan in order to grow, to become more efficient and profitable, and to put themselves in the best position to focus on what they do best – looking after clients and their pets. And I’ve already gone into detail about just why that is the case. 
 
Today I want to focus on how you can achieve these gains, and how you can maximise the profits you reap from your plan, both financial and otherwise. 
 
I’m starting with my first five top tips – once you've digested these check out my final five, after which you’ll be ready for anything!

 
What should your plan include?
 
Take a look at the mix of services you include in your plan – or if you don’t currently run one, consider what you would. 
 
How can you add value? How can you do more of the things that you and your team really believe in? 
 
Adding in quality services allows you to create incredible value for the pet and their owner, and leads to you providing a plan aligned with your beliefs.
 
We should be providing everything an owner needs to get the most out of your practice. 
 
Legally every pet should have a microchip. 
 
Video consultations have been proven to be accessible and helpful to practices and clients, whether with vets or nurses, breaking down barriers to care. 
 
Unlimited consultations allow you to build a bond with the owner and spend more time with the pet. 
 
Blood and urine tests help to identify underlying issues. 
 
Free home delivery of flea and worm prophylaxis enables us to help people who are balancing busy lives – providing a ton of value to our clients. 
 
All of which is to say, why shouldn’t all of the above be in our plan? Previously we may have seen a pet health plan as a rigid set of benefits offered at a rigid price. 
 
But the truth is, modern pet owners want more for their furry friends, and by including more options in our plan, we’re tying them more conclusively to our practice.

 
Support pets while they’re healthy
 
During the pandemic, everyone rushed out to buy puppies and kittens.
 
During the first year of that new pet’s life they’re going to visit the practice more than ever: cuddle clinics, primary and secondary vaccines, pre and post neuter checks, monthly worming, puppy classes etc. At that point it is a no-brainer to join a plan. 
 
But we see a real dip in how often a pet comes into practice between the age of two and seven, before an increase towards the end of life as they age. 
 
We need to think about how we make our plan relevant for the entirety of the pet’s life so that we keep on seeing them in practice. There’s lots of ways we can achieve this.
 
We can offer great discounts on pet diets, which also helps to get clients into practice more often. The same goes for dentals, as we know that monitoring and acting on dental conditions in a pet’s peak years reduces the chances of more problematic issues in old age.
 
We can add value in ways that don't cost our practice anything. 
 
If you’re paying for a bank account you get added value services attached, be that discounts or exclusive access to other products or businesses. That model can absolutely work for our plan.
 
In our industry, we know a lot about our clients. That means we can tailor benefits to match. 
 
On one of the health plans I ran I offered a discount on family pawtraits with a local pet photography, celebrating the bond between pet and owner. You can look at offering discounts at local cat or dog cafes, simultaneously strengthening your bond with your community. 

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This bespoke Pet Health Plan marketing was created for Strand Vets

Keep it simple

 

I do mystery shopping for practices that I work with. That involves calling with inquiries to listen to how front of house and client care teams talk about services. 

 

And take it from me, pet health plans can get so complicated. 

 

Teams get wrapped up talking about best starts in life, vaccinations for life, complete care in different levels... and before you know it, you’re listening to a five minute monologue. 

 

If we keep it simple, our teams can feel more confident prescribing it, and our clients can feel more confident buying it. I call it reducing the mental load. 

 

Tiers are a good example of how we can simplify things. When health plans were first launched, offering tiered options such as gold, silver or bronze were seen as best practice. 

 

But over time we just saw an even 33% split between the three – because clients couldn’t distinguish between the tiers. They just wanted a strong recommendation from their vet team, who they trust implicitly. 

 

We should also remove weight bands. 

 

Look at the products and services you have included in there. Whether it’s a Dachshund or a Dogue de Bordeaux, the cost of delivering everything apart from the parasiticides are the same. And where they’re not, say with flea and worm treatments, what you lose on the giant breeds you regain on the toy dogs. 

 

For the sake of simplifying and selling more plans, that’s a good investment to make. 

 

Life is complicated enough. We want our plan to be easy to explain, easy to understand, and easy to trust. 


 

Trust your clients

 

Sadly in life there is always a minority of people who do things a different way. Outliers.

 

In terms of your plan, our fear is that may mean they sign up and get as much stuff as possible before doing a runner. 

 

What I have found is that some practices design their plan to protect themselves from this. Clients can join online, and are asked to make the first payment. But then when that client first comes into practice they’re asked to pay again.

 

That’s just punishing the majority of honest, well-meaning pet owners. If you take inspiration from other industries, I could sign up for a gym now and start enjoying the benefits later this afternoon. 

 

Another example comes with the concept of unlimited consultations. 

 

In one of my previous practices I spent time studying how many times a client brought their pet into practice against what tier of the plan they were on. And there were the odd clients who took advantage. One client brought their cat into practice 30 times in a year. 

 

But that was very much the exception to the rule. And what we found is that the average number of consultations a client was using was between two to three. 

 

Most clients do not want to be in a veterinary practice every week. But by offering them the option of visiting the practice free of charge when they’re worried, we provide a better service while also removing a barrier to care. 

 

By all means monitor what’s going on, and take action against anybody who tries to take advantage.

 

But build your practice in the right way and trust your customers. Don’t design your plan for the outliers.


 

Keep that bucket rising

 

It often feels like we have to work really hard to sign people to the plan just to keep the level rising, as there are inevitably clients who drop out of the plan. 

 

People do leave plans. People move house, or rehome their pets, and of course, unfortunately, pets do die. 

 

That’s why we need to minimise leaks.

 

What we should look at is calculating our average failure rate. On average across the UK, this is between 1 and 3% per month. Practices should be aiming for the bottom of this. If you’re above 3%, it is crucial to know why.

 

Think about offering clients a choice on what day their direct debit comes out. Everybody’s situation is different, so allowing them to tailor that to their needs can help reduce failures. 

 

What is in our control is that we consistently deliver the products and services we promise on our plan to a high standard. 

 

There may be a short term gain if a large percentage of your plan customers don’t collect the flea and worm treatments they’re entitled to, but you can bet those customers won’t be renewing their plan the following year if they don’t feel they’ve received value. 

 

Reminder systems are so important. People will just forget. And we can draw them back. 

Veterinary practices have so many legitimate reasons to be contacting pet owners to help them to take the best care possible of their pet. 

 

Use those opportunities to draw people into your plan, and to keep them there. Remind people of the services they’re entitled to for being members of the plan, and help them to schedule a time to receive them.


 

Anything else?

 

Hopefully by now you’re fully bought into the concept of your pet health plan, and how it can help your practice. 

 

But if you’re having any doubts, please do check out my previous blog, where I argue the case for their value – and if you’re still not converted, we’re obviously just not meant to be together!

 

L👀king for more? Then check out the second instalment of my top tips for building the best pet health plan for your practice, focusing on communicating the plan in the best way to all the relevant stakeholders. 

 

And if you have any further questions, or want to find out how I can help your practice to get this right, get in touch today.

Let us guide you through the process of creating your ultimate Pet Health Plan