When I picked up my 17-year-old cat, Ollie, from a dental treatment, the client service representative said, “I’ll get you checked out first and then let the technician know that you’ve arrived for your discharge instructions.”
Although I was comfortable with the price, the receipt was my first notification that Ollie had 12 extractions, not the eight anticipated. Medical staff should have communicated this information before I saw the bill.
Here are four ways to enhance the client experience during checkout.
1. Discharge First, Pay Last
Many practices have clients pay before discharge instructions because they’re nervous that some clients may leave without paying. While I understand the precaution, it’s poor client service. Clients need to understand all the medical services that were performed before they see final bills.
To provide a better client experience and ensure that you get paid, the client service representative would say, “I will let the technician know that you’ve arrived for your discharge appointment, and then I will see you again at checkout.”
So the pet won’t distract the client, keep the patient resting comfortably in the treatment area. In the exam room, the technician explains the results of the procedure, the signs to watch for at home and how to give medications, and demonstrates dental home-care products. The technician would ask, “What questions can I answer about the dental treatment and home-care instructions?” This phrasing invites the pet owner to clarify instructions and is more effective than “Do you have any questions?”
Once discharge instructions are finished and to avoid clients slipping out without paying, the technician would say, “I will meet you at the front desk with (pet’s name).” The happy reunion occurs at the checkout desk.
When discharging patients, provide a business card for pet owners who have questions later. Say, “If you have questions at home, please call and ask for me. Here’s my business card.” The client also may pass along the business card, generating a referral. Watch my video on using business cards here:
Print free business cards at www.vistaprint.com.
2. Present Service First, Price Last
When asked about prices, 34 percent of pet owners say veterinary care costs more than they expected.1 Stand to greet the client as she approaches the checkout desk, smile and make eye contact. Read the list of services and products off the computer screen, and then state the total. Don’t say prices for each item, just the sum.
In addition to showing value, this approach allows the client to add items such as preventives, medication for other pets and food. Say, “Today your dog had a preventive care exam, vaccines, an intestinal parasite screen, heartworm/tick test and skin cytology. You have medication for his skin infection and flea/tick and heartworm preventives. Do you need any other medications or food today for your pets?” (Client responds.) “Your total is $_____. Which payment method will you be using today?”
Summarizing services before presenting the total shows value for the care delivered. Use easy-to-understand terms such as “intestinal parasite screen” instead of “fecal examination.”
If the client has a multipage invoice for a surgical or dental procedure, state categories rather than reading every line item. Say, “Today your pet had surgery, which included a presurgical exam, preanesthetic blood work, anesthesia, surgical monitoring, an IV catheter and fluids, pain medication and postoperative nursing care. You’re also going home with an E-collar and pain medication. Your total is $_____. Which payment method are you using today?”
Saying “You’re going home with …” confirms that all medications are in the client’s hands and not delayed in your pharmacy. I’ve seen technicians chase after clients’ cars, waving forgotten E-collars and medications.
When checking out a new client, say, “Which payment method will you be using today? We accept cash, checks, all major credit cards, CareCredit and Citi Health Card.” Besides professionally and subtly indicating that payment is due at the time of service, you’ve let the new client know about all payment choices.
[The Citi Health Card is available through Henry Schein Animal Health. Learn about it at www.henryscheinvet.com. Get information on CareCredit at www.carecredit.com/vetmed.]
3. When bills are $500 or greater, present invoices in exam rooms
In the privacy of an exam room, the client can openly ask questions without others overhearing the conversation. Imagine a new client standing behind a pet owner who is checking out and hearing the invoice is $1,500—and she’s next!
If you have computers in exam rooms, install credit-card swipes. Alternatives would be putting a credit-card unit in the lab or pharmacy hallway near exam rooms or using mobile devices such as Square Up (www.squareup.com) or Chase (www.chasepaymentech.com).
Another option is to print the invoice and bring it into the exam room. Say, “For your convenience, we’ll take care of payment in the exam room today. We accept cash, checks, all major credit cards, CareCredit and Citi Health Card. Which payment method will you use today?” Walk to the front desk to swipe the credit card and return with the receipt to sign.
4. Implement Exam Room Checkout
Ask your practice management software company about integrated payment solutions. Idexx (www.idexx.com) and McAllister Payment Solutions (www.mcallisterpaymentsolutions.com) offer signature capture devices and swipe readers. Taking payment in private lets clients comfortably ask questions about fees or discuss financing programs. Clients don’t need to control or restrain a Jack Russell terrorist while attempting to pay.
Avoiding lines at the checkout desk lets your client-service team focus on phone calls and arriving clients. Because exam room assistants were present when care was delivered, they can confirm the accuracy of charges while checking out clients.
Have your client service and technician teams discuss ways to improve efficiency during checkout. Ask your practice manager to research costs for software payment integration, mobile devices or swipe readers. Then the team can present findings to practice owners for a decision. Collecting payment is the last step in the client experience at your veterinary hospital, so create fond farewells.
1. 2011 Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study conducted by the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, Brakke Consulting, and Bayer Animal Health. Accessed December 26, 2013 at http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/full/10.2460/javma.238.10.1275.