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IS the ‘wallet’ that clients have to spend on their pets as a whole going to increase or decrease over the next 10 years, and will the veterinary share of this go up or down?
The companion animal sector was seen as being split into healthcare and non-healthcare spending, with the non-healthcare sector currently having a higher proportion of the wallet spent on it. The group felt that not all of pet owners’ needs were being met, so it was most likely, if attention was paid to what customers wanted, that spending would increase.
For many clients, the trip to the vet was still seen as a ‘distress’ purchase, ie, undertaken when something went wrong rather than being for preventive healthcare services. This, coupled with a lack of tangibility about the service that had been bought, led, they felt, to pet owners seeing the vet in a less positive light than other sectors of the veterinary business.
There was also little or no regulation required on the non-healthcare side, which meant that this aspect was easier to market.
But what could be done to increase the spend? Increasing the positive experience for clients, through better value or services, would mean they were more likely to use the vet more. One approach might be to think about how to increase the tangibility of the services that are offered; this approach could be used to make more of existing clients, as well as to attract new clients to the practice.
Related to this, practices could consider ways to increase footfall – for example, offering franchises for provision of new services, such as dog grooming. Marketing the practice through effective websites, apps and using social media intelligently could also drive up the footfall.
Another way of increasing footfall was increasing convenience for clients. Could a mobile service be run to allow easier access to the vet for more clients, or could surgery hours be changed, perhaps running later into the evening so working clients might find it easier to attend? Perhaps a service could be offered where a pet could be left for the day to have vaccinations, a health check and also be groomed.
Once any additional services had been put in place, clients would need to be informed about them. One group member suggested that practices need to ‘collectively and collaboratively’ communicate to showcase all the services available to increase the health of the pets they treat.
Once a practice owner had decided on a strategy, it was important to identify the skills that would be needed to achieve it and recruit an appropriate team.
Client power was what should drive these business decisions, and all members of the team should consider the practice as a business. As one of the group said: ‘Run it like you own it! See it as a business and run it like a business.’
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