Will the rising cost of living lead to fewer visits to the vet?
Almost every person who has a pet views them as being part of the family. But when pressure is placed on the household budget due to the rising cost of living, the healthcare of furry companions may well be one of the items that slip down the priority list.
While we in the veterinary industry know how essential regular vet visits are, attendance rates are typically influenced by monetary factors. According to research by the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, financial pressure is the most common reason pet owners do not seek veterinary care.
Are you already seeing a decline in appointments?
While the increase in pet ownership during the COVID pandemic (30.4 million pets in Australia in 2021 compared to 28.5 million pets in 2019) kept vet clinics busier than ever throughout the past two years, vet visit numbers are forecast to decline as financial constraints take hold in more households across the country. A number of vet clinics are already seeing this decline in appointments.
In a 2019 survey of pets and people in Australia, it was reported that approximately 79% of pets were taken to the vet at least once a year. However, in a follow-up study released in late 2021, this figure had dropped to 71%. And the main reason reported for not visiting the vet was an inability to afford veterinary care.
With interest rates, food and energy costs all forecast to continue to rise well into next year, it’s likely that more households will make the decision to defer their pet’s attendance at the vet.
Encourage your clients to prioritise pet healthcare
While you can’t control the external pressures on people’s budgets, there are a few things you can do to encourage your clients to prioritise their pet’s healthcare.
1. Educate your clients on the importance of preventative care
Even when not under financial pressure, a fair proportion of pet owners think that a visit to the vet is only needed when their pet is sick.
It’s important that you educate your clients on the importance of regular check-ups, regardless of the age of their pet, as many do not understand how vital these annual checks are.
Some pet owners may see that paying to see a vet every year when nothing is wrong with their cat or dog is wasted money. Many pet owners are often unaware that regular health checks can actually save them money in the long run by detecting the beginnings of any health issues that could become serious (and much more costly) if left untreated.
Social media is a great way to get this message across.
You could even highlight some common diseases or conditions (such as dental issues, diabetes or skin problems) and how they can be easily treated if picked up during the early stages.
2. Don’t assume your client knows when their pet is due for their annual check-up
When life gets busy and people have a lot on their minds, things like annual health checks for their pets will not be top of mind. Consider your client demographic, and utilise text messages, emails or even postcards in the mail. But don’t just remind them of the impending check-up due date – use your messages to inform them about why a check-up is so important for their beloved pet.
Even better, tap into the information you have about your patients, and personalise your communications based on the pet’s age and pre-existing conditions.
3. Have different financial options available for your clients
When a pet’s health (and sometimes their life) is involved, talking about money is always an emotional subject. Having a wide range of payment options – and openly publicising these on your website, social media and in client communications – will go a long way in making people under financial strain feel more comfortable in seeking treatment for their pets. Payment plans and “buy now pay later” options are commonplace in retail settings, so it’s well worth investigating them for your veterinary clinic.
Wellness programs are another option to help make both preventative healthcare and treatment more accessible and affordable for your clients. These pre-paid plans allow your clients to choose a package that suits their pet’s needs and spread healthcare costs out over a 12-month period.
The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing
As a vet, your key focus is providing the best quality veterinary care possible. However, even if you provide consistently great care to your patients, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a full appointment book week after book.
But that doesn’t mean you need to do the hard sell. The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing because you are helping, educating and connecting with your clients.
And that’s where we come in.
For a set monthly fee we develop and implement your marketing and communications to bring you more patients while you look after your current ones.