Maintaining a competitive edge - Veterinary Practice
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Maintaining a competitive edge

Ros Norledge explains how the adoption of a pet care plan at her practice has been a positive move in enabling an excellent standard of service and care to be provided to clients at a price that suits them

MORE and more veterinary
practices are offering clients the
opportunity to budget the cost of
pet care through monthly pricing
plans and we realised from the
number of enquiries from
prospective customers that such
plans are a major influence in the
choice of veterinary practice.

At Cootes Veterinary Clinic in
Burgess Hill, West Sussex, we had
been thinking
about introducing a
plan for some
time and the
London Vet
provided the
opportunity to talk to three different
providers about the plans they offered.

We are a stand-alone practice
without the support network usually
available to larger operations. When we
learnt that a large chain of vets
planned to open a branch near us, we
knew we needed to act promptly to
consolidate our client base and
increase reasons to stay with us.

A significant number of phone
enquiries about pricing plans had
already made it clear that we needed to
offer competitive client payment
options. Providing existing clients with
a budgeting option for their pets’
routine care would also help client
retention, as well as improving overall
compliance rates.

Nevertheless, committing to a plan
is a large undertaking and it was
important that we got it right – for the
practice as well as for our clients. We
chose the Premier Vet Alliance’s (PVA)
Pet Care Plan for a number of reasons.

Understanding our business

Firstly, PVA is very commercially savvy
with a proven track record and it was
important that we had confidence in
the provider we had chosen. PVA
combines hands-on clinical expertise
with business entrepreneurs and it was
reassuring to know that they had the
experience to recognise and address
potential issues as they’d introduced
the plan into their own practices. This
meant the systems and methods in
place had already been tried and tested.

Our in-house administration of the
plan is reduced thanks to PVA’s direct
debit system, which further added to
its appeal. Setting up the plan was
straightforward. We had a couple of
meetings with their head of
development, Gerry Harkins, who
explained how it worked and how it
was set up. PVA worked hard to
answer our queries and to make sure
we were happy before we went live.

Any concerns we may have had
about getting the pricing right were
alleviated by James Tudor, pet care
plan adviser, who visited the practice
with his magic spreadsheet into which
we input our prices and discounts
from suppliers and wholesalers. This
showed us that the plan would still
work for us financially even though we
were giving good discounts to clients
on the products and services involved.

Marketing materials

They provided us with a suite of
marketing materials which helped
create the right image in-house for the
plan and we generated client enquiries
from the point-of-sale display items in
our waiting room. We also produced
our own banners for the front of the
building and used our website and
Facebook pages to tell people about
the plan and what it offers.

The two key elements for success
in making the plan go live are staff
training and system organisation. PVA
excelled in both! They provide
excellent training for staff as to why
the plan is good for the clients, the
animals and the business, which really
helps to get the staff on board with
the plan. If your staff understand and
believe in the benefits they can explain
them clearly to the clients.

The second element relates to the
functionality on the practice
management system – this needs to be
organised properly from the start and
made simple so staff can do sign-ups
and charge for treatments on plan
appropriately. PVA helped us set this
up in a slick, organised manner so the
“go live” day ran without a hitch.

In fact, it was the level of training
offered by PVA that really sold the
plan to us. Their initial two-day
training and set-up was really helpful
seeing us through the set-up and the
customer support team is always at the
end of the phone to answer queries and continued training support is
available for the first two years of the

They are always available to talk us
through the statement each month if
we have any problems and they make
sure we are on top of administration.
Also if there are unusual problems or
cases, they have often dealt with them
in their own practices and have
suggestions for handling them.

Happy clients

Our clients are delighted and have
given very positive feedback. They
recommend the plan to their friends
and we now have more than a third of
our clients on plan. The biggest plus
points for them are: the budgeting
element; the plan’s simplicity; 10%
discount for members on anything else
they buy from us; the increased
contact with us that results from being
on plan.

With our plan, their extra text
reminders for their pets’ flea and
worm treatments and the addition of a
six-month health check has had a
positive impact on our compliance

One client whose cat developed
diabetes has already saved hundreds of
pounds with the plan as it covered the
stabilisation phase, then a period when
their pet developed complications and now his long-term maintenance on
insulin with regular blood glucose level

As well as keeping our clients
happy, the plan has also benefited the
practice enormously from a financial
viewpoint. Our turnover in the last
financial year – our first full year with
the plan – was up 12% year on year so
we are delighted with the impact it has
had on practice profit.
As well as the regular revenue
generated for the practice through
sales of the plan, we have also seen an
increase in secondary sales as a result
of more clients visiting the practice.
Sales of Advocate have gone up 60%
since introducing the plan, Drontal for
dogs has increased 35% and our cat
wormers have all increased across the
range – particularly Profender which is
up 262% year on year!

Plan members are entitled to 10%
discount on food which has led to a
25% increase in food sales, as well as
an increase in the number of clients
using life-stage diets. With our recently
launched webshop, plan members can
even get their discount with us online!

Taking up the PVA Pet Care Plan
has been a very positive step for
Cootes and has enabled us to provide
an excellent standard of service and
care to our clients at a price that suits

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