A theme that comes up often in the media: veterinarians overcharge. Those of us who work in the industry know this is not the case. We know that the people we work with are constantly giving freely of their time and skills to help animals in need. I see my colleagues undervalue themselves time and time again.
So how do we get this message out to the public? How do we show our clients not only the value of the work we do, but also that our hearts are big and we DO care?
Should we turn to social media and post about the charity work we do?
That is certainly an idea, but one to be approached with care. As president of my provincial VMA, I receive emails from the public in response to what they see on social media. When you post about the charity work your clinic does, that does have an impact on what is being said.
So before you post about the charity case, there are 3 things I’d like you to consider.
1. How Will It Make Your Other Clients Feel?
A problematic scenario: Family that has never been to your clinic before comes in with a cat with a broken leg and no money, and you don’t have the heart to euthanize an otherwise healthy cat.
Your solution: The family can manage $100, and so that’s all you charge for fixing their cat.
Why this move is wrong: It sounds like the work you do to fix that cat is only worth $100. To the clients who paid bills more than 10 times that for similar problems, they are now wondering why they had to pay so much. Instead of combating the money grubber image, you are contributing to it. Now it looks like you are taking advantage of your more affluent clients.
Another tough scenario: Long-term client has a cat with a broken leg and is in a tough financial spot.
Your solution: You do not discount your services, but you do dip into your “Angel Fund” to help cover some of the fees.
Why this move is better: Now it isn’t about the money, it’s about helping someone in need. Instead of saying “Look at how cheaply we did this!” you’re saying, “Look at how we helped these people out!” To your other clients, you have demonstrated caring without reducing the value of your services.
2. Can The Generosity Be Repeated?
You want to be able to answer the question “Why them and not us?”
If your clinic does not have some structure in place regarding charity cases, then you shouldn’t be posting about them. If you do, you run the risk of people showing up at your door with unrealistic expectations or upsetting Client B because you posted Client A’s GoFundMe page to Facebook, but not theirs.
Have clear criteria on who can access financial assistance, such as your Angel Fund, and when that can be highlighted on social media. Additionally, explain where the money comes from. Make it clear how clients can benefit from this fund AND how they can contribute.
Help veterinary clients see other financial options:
- If a client is using a payment plan service you offer, such as VetBilling, to help deal with an expensive problem, tell that story.
- If a client is able to afford treatment because they have pet insurance, tell that story.
These stories show you care about the costs clients face, educate them on their options, and don’t take away from the value of the work being done.
3. How Will It Make The Veterinary Profession Look?
There is no markup on services. To discount services implies that they are worth less than we normally charge them for, yet we do it all the time.
Public perception can be: If you can charge less than normal for a service, then normally you are overcharging. Be aware of this when considering posting about giving away services at a discount on social media. Every time you don’t charge for services, you make it more difficult for the profession to prove its worth.
On a whole, veterinary professionals are a generous group. We should not hide this generosity, we should highlight it. But we have to be careful. You want to highlight that you care, without undercutting the value of the services you provide.