How Veterinarians Can Avoid Bad Debts
You want to keep your practice healthy. You want to be good to your customers and treat their animals well. Additionally, you want to get paid.
Vets operate their business with customer relations in mind, for good reason. It’s a competitive field, and you want to be able to maintain and grow your market share. Here are several tips to help you do just that by avoiding bad debt:
- Do not offer pay-later accounts. Sounds mean, right? It’s not. The pet is sick, yes, but you also need to get paid. Consider adopting this as your company policy – no treatment without pay. Explain clearly that you have a policy of not opening accounts for customers – no exceptions.
- Make alternative financial accounts available. These accounts are not advisable for all customers, but they do offer a payment option. Many vets who offer them have found that, when confronted with the paperwork, the majority of customers pull out a credit card instead to pay.
- Accept all major forms of payment. You should accept credit cards, debit payments, checks or cash. Have a spot available on your website where customers can pay. Subscribing to a web-payment service makes this an easy feature to offer.
- Understand your value. Billing people for your time at a rate commensurate with your training and experience is only fair. Do not undervalue what you bring to your work, and do not give customers a deal because you like them or feel sympathy. Your services are important and you have financial responsibilities you need to meet.
- Do not offer deals to get paid. “Well, I can knock off $20 if you pay now” is not a strategy. It sends a bad signal not only to that customer but also to the friends of that customer who may hear the story and look to take advantage of you.
- If you must offer deals, advertise them upfront. The time to offer a deal isn’t two weeks after a patient visits and leaves without paying. It is when the treatment happens. Many dentists, for instance, advertise 5 percent off for paying immediately after treatment. That sounds fair, it shaves a bit off the bill without hurting your business, and it allows your customers to feel good about the exchange.
- Consider a collection agency. If all else fails, hand over invoices to a collection agency. Since vet bills tend to be lower than other forms of health care, many people will pay immediately once a collection agency calls.
From insisting on immediate payments and refusing to make deals to accepting all forms of payments and using a collection agency, you can clear up receivables quickly and have a more profitable business.