Part Two: Beat Churn with a Successful Wellness Program Renewal Strategy

Last week we introduced the concept of churn as the number of plans that do not renew over a given period, expressed as a percentage of total renewals possible. So if you have 100 plans up for renewal and only 60 of them renew, your churn is 40%. Clearly, then, the less churn you have, the greater the success of your wellness program.

Last week we also stated that when it comes to renewal strategies, ensuring that program participants perceive consistent and above anticipated value as a member is the best strategy to ensure low churn. And this needs to happen from the very first day they purchase their pet’s plan. The good news is that perception of value is almost entirely dependent upon communication, and good communication skills come with training and focus. You can’t expect your team to automatically know how to communicate value – that is an unfair expectation. But you can teach them.

Step One: Communicating Purpose and Delivering Value

A perfect example of the need to train and coach the team on communicating value is at the puppy/kitten plan level. Puppy and kitten plans literally fly off the shelf without any communication necessary, because new pet owners see them as “no brainers.” They know that their puppy or kitten will need multiple visits, vaccines, etc. in that first year, and enrolling in a plan ensures that it will all be taken care of. Being able to divide the cost of that care over 12 payments and receive a small discount makes it even more appealing. However, these easy selling points do not communicate the lifetime value of preventive care, which means that without additional communication it is likely that they will see no reason to renew to an adult plan the following year.

Here are some of the lifelong care concepts to focus on when training the team:

  • Plans are based on the practice’s ultimate care recommendations – their pet is receiving the very best medicine
  • Pets age faster than humans, which makes frequent physical examinations and annual diagnostics critical for catching conditions early when they are still treatable
  • It is important to discuss diet, exercise and behavior with your veterinarian regularly
  • Just as with humans, an emphasis on preventive care leads to longer, healthier lives
  • Plans are tailored to your pet’s needs based on age and other factors – optional items, discussed below, provide further customization
  • They will continue to have all of the other member benefits provided, such as additional exams, discounts, etc.

TIP: Nothing speaks louder than personal experience. If you really want team members to communicate value, consider offering wellness plans as an employee benefit. There are many ways to do this, but one is to significantly subsidize plans, so that they can purchase them at an extremely reduced price for their pets. How many of them are currently following the highest standard of preventive care for their own pets? It varies, but many cannot afford this and allowing them to do so will translate into personal recommendations that come from more than just a script.

Step Two: Customization – Optional Services and Treatment Plans

As a way to increase value, a well-run wellness program often allows pet owners the opportunity to choose from optional services and additional treatment plans. Optional services let you tailor the plan to the pet – for example, spay/neuter on an adult plan, microchips, heartworm/flea/tick medication, additional diagnostics for high risk breeds, etc. Treatment plans allow a pet owner to add a separate plan to manage their pet’s specific medical condition – for example, diabetes, pain management, holistic treatment, etc. Being able to tailor services or plans based on individual pet needs drives even more loyalty and value, further reducing churn.

Do treatment plans have to be medically oriented? No! For example, if you offer grooming at your practice, consider an introductory program as an option or treatment plan. Maybe your puppy plan includes a complimentary first haircut and when they are thrilled with the results they can then purchase a grooming package (treatment plan). In this case, you are actually solving a “problem” that they may not have even realized that they had yet, and for that will be even more thrilled with their wellness program experience. Think of the same for boarding and day care. Get creative and you can come up with programs for pets of all ages.

Step Three: Pre-Booking is a MUST

For a myriad of reasons, the last thing you want to have your team doing is chasing down clients right before their plan is about to expire to get them in to redeem important services. It shows disorganization and a lack of program management, which will not instill confidence in your clients or make it likely they will renew their plan.

Pets on a wellness plan need to be scheduled for their next bi-annual preventive care examination BEFORE they leave the practice. This creates a consistent 6 month scheduling cycle (just like going to the dentist), which increases perception of value and ensures that there is consistent communication between veterinarian and pet owner regarding the best plan for their pet. For example, a client with a plan that includes dentistry may think that just because they don’t want a dental every year, they should cancel their plan. If they have the opportunity to discuss this with their veterinarian, however, there is a much higher likelihood that they will be willing to change their plan for the following year to ensure that their pet continues to receive all of the other important preventive care services.

The good news is that clients are very willing to pre-schedule these exams because they are included in their plan, especially if you employ a comprehensive text/email reminder communication system. In fact, having this system in place is critical for the success of your program.

So what is the bottom line when it comes to churn? Team training on communicating program value, offering optional service and treatment plans and employing strategic scheduling protocols are the best ways to keep churn to a minimum and ensure year after year growth of your wellness program.