If you’ve been following along with this blog over the last six months, you’re already savvy to the value of a well-run wellness plan program.
Recent research by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association found that pets on wellness plans visit the vet more often, getting better care as a consequence.
The research also showed that clients appreciate how wellness plans spell out the cost of services ahead of time — avoiding surprises — and that wellness clients are more diligent than non-wellness clients about booking required veterinary services.
The chief takeaway? Wellness plans encourage a more airtight client-practice bond. Such a bond is good for pets, and good for your bottom line.
In our last post, we explored whether it’s realistic to launch a wellness plan on your own and to self-manage it without outside assistance. Read that post here if you missed it.
This week, we’ll cover whether your existing practice management platform is an effective avenue to manage wellness. We’ll describe the key features, such as recurring billing, smart renewal, and more, that you should look for in a wellness solution.
Do practice management solutions offer wellness?
Various practice management solutions claim to support wellness plans. Keep in mind that their claim is only to provide functionality on the Practice of Wellness, but not on the Business of Wellness. Certain software vendors state that their products permit you to bundle services, forward-book wellness appointments, issue appointment reminders, and spread wellness payments over several months to accommodate client budgets.
Unfortunately, these features fall well short of the capabilities necessary for a well-run, scalable wellness plan program. Before you consider using your practice management software to operate your wellness program, first evaluate whether it provides — or lacks — these essential features:
Various solutions offer recurring payments, but stop short of providing recurring billing. Understanding the major difference between recurring payments and recurring billing is vital. We’ve covered this in the past, to review click here.
Without recurring billing, your staff must carve time out of their busy schedules to send payment reminders, track down missed payments, manage all aspects of missed client payments, deal with wellness accounts receivable, generate accurate statements with balances, manually calculate cancelation amounts, and much more. Data (more than 12 million wellness payments in 50% of U.S. zip codes) shows an initial payment issue rate of 6-8% on average. Therefore, if your practice has 300 wellness plans, your employees could be tracking down 18-24 missed payments each month.
To avoid this headache, opt for a wellness solution that:
- Generates accurate statements with AR balances
- Issues payment notification reminders automatically
- Automates payment re-attempts to rectify issues based on error type
- Manages missed payments and provides customer outreach
- Incorporates a full accounts-receivable system
- Provides a practice-branded customer portal
The customer portal frees your pet owners to manage their accounts independently, allowing your staff to focus on client education and pet care.
Renewals are a make-or-break time for wellness plans. Programs that don’t proactively manage their renewal rates may experience non-renewals as high as 50% annually.
Opting for a solution that automates renewals, with intelligent renewal logic, may help you to retain more clients by streamlining the process. Here are examples where automated renewals save you and your staff an extraordinary amount of time:
- Spay/neuter or microchip: Wellness software should recognize that one-time items shouldn’t be auto-renewed the following year, and adjust the price of the plan accordingly.
- Optional services added mid-year: Wellness software needs to be smart enough to pro-rate the service in the first year, adjusting the monthly payment, and then re-prorate the plan in the renewal year to the full 12-month calculation. For example, when preventives are added mid-year, the pet may only need five doses, or one injection that year, but next year’s renewal should include 12 doses or two injections — with monthly pricing adjusted accordingly, in both years.
- Wellness plan price changes: Wellness software should offer renewal logic to handle complex changes, such as making sure existing wellness pets finish out the old year and renew to the new plan with new year pricing, if this has changed.
- Age-based renewals: Wellness software should understand that kittens and puppies should auto-renew to an adult plan, not a kitten/puppy plan.
Another issue is renewal flexibility. For example, you may run into a situation where your client asks to renew early to forward-consume services when their pet is just a few weeks shy of renewal.
Telling your client to wait and come back after the next year’s wellness plan kicks in is not a recipe for a strong client relationship. On the other hand, accommodating their request sets your practice apart, fostering lasting loyalty.
Your wellness plan program should allow you to differentiate your practice and outperform the competition in a continually evolving market. The ability to easily create base plans, which you can then customize with optional services, is important. These optional services may include: spay/neuter, microchip, dental, preventives such as heartworm/flea and tick, and virtually anything else you might want to add.
For example, your wellness plan offering should give you the opportunity to promote add-on services in your practice, such as grooming, boarding, holistic medicine, and more. Doing so enables you to form a relationship with each client across all of the services you offer, allowing you to deliver value — not drive discounts.
VCP’s research shows that wellness clients spend an additional 20-30% on optional services, on average, compared to non-wellness clients. However, optional services are not just good for your bottom line. Optional services set your practice apart from both corporate chains and neighborhood independent practices, while increasing pet owner loyalty with plans customized to each pet’s unique needs.
Despite these benefits, the reality is most practice management solutions lack the capability to add optional services or provide the flexibility to really drive an innovative wellness program. Frankly, this comes as no surprise because the main focus of these vendors isn’t wellness plans.
To maximize the potential of your wellness plan program, make sure the solution you choose allows you to personalize plans with optional services.
Next week, we’ll remain on this topic. We’ll discuss how to select a third-party solution to manage your wellness plan.