While the days of hefty accounts receivable backlogs are - thankfully! - largely a thing of the past, some veterinary practices still extend credit to clients from time to time.
The vast majority of clients will make good on the debt.
If left to go unchecked, non-payments can quickly eat into your bottom line and may have a significant impact on the overall financial health of your business. But how can you reduce the risk of non-payment without jeopardizing your customer-centric reputation or damaging the positive relationships you’ve built with your clients?
From revamping your communications processes to leveraging accounts receivable management tools, here are eight practical strategies you can use to reduce the risk of unpaid veterinary fees.
1. Clear communication
Clear communication is the foundation of a successful veterinarian-client relationship - and that’s particularly true when it comes to payment policies. Many payment issues arise from misunderstandings, so it's crucial to communicate your expectations clearly.
There are a bunch of different ways to achieve this, including:
- Welcome packets: Providing new clients with welcome packets that include your payment policies can set the tone for a transparent financial relationship.
- In-person conversations: During initial visits, take the time to explain your payment policies to clients and address any questions or concerns they may have.
- Website and brochures: Make sure your practice's website and brochures include detailed information about payment methods, fees, and what clients can expect when it comes to billing.
- Reception sign: A simple sign at reception stating, “All accounts are due in full at the time of service” can help set expectations.
By establishing clear communication from the start, clients are more likely to understand their financial responsibilities, reducing the risk of disputes and non-payment.
2. Always provide a written estimate
A written estimate is, of course, one of the most effective ways to help clients understand the financial commitment of a treatment, procedure, or product purchase.
Putting a dollar amount on paper allows clients to make an informed decision and minimizes ambiguity. Written estimates also serve as a form of documentation, reducing the risk of billing disputes further down the track.
For best results, ensure that your estimates always include the following:
- Detailed estimates: Written estimates should be detailed, itemizing the costs of each service or procedure.
- Best and worst case scenarios: Discuss the most common risks involved with the treatment and how those complications could affect the overall cost. Ideally, you should try to provide a best and worst-case scenario.
- Consent: Require clients to sign the estimate to indicate their consent and acknowledgment of the expected expenses.
3. Discuss payment options
Veterinary care can sometimes involve unexpected expenses, and not all clients are financially prepared for these situations. By discussing payment options with your clients, you can provide them with more flexibility, and this can make a significant difference in payment compliance.
Consider the following:
- Payment plans: Offer payment plans for clients who may struggle to pay the entire bill upfront. Clearly define the terms and schedule of payments.
- Insurance coverage: Help clients understand their pet insurance coverage and how it can be used to offset costs. Verify their insurance coverage before treatment and assist in filing insurance claims. ezyVet integrates with the world’s leading pet insurance providers, allowing you to manage claims and grow your insured client base directly within ezyVet!
- Third-party financing: Provide information about third-party financing options that can help clients spread the cost over time.
By discussing these options, you demonstrate a commitment to working with clients to meet their financial needs while ensuring you get paid for your services.
4. Prompt invoicing and transparent billing
The invoicing process is obviously a critical component of managing non-payment risks. Promptly sending clear, itemized invoices helps clients keep track of their expenses and prevents any surprises.
Here's how to enhance your invoicing and billing process:
- Timeliness: Send invoices as soon as services are provided or within a reasonable timeframe.
- Itemization: Make sure your invoices are detailed and transparent, so clients can see exactly what they are paying for.
- Multiple payment methods: Offer various payment methods, including credit cards, cash, checks, and online payments, to make it as convenient as possible for clients to settle their bills. ezyVet integrates with a range of leading payment providers, allowing you to streamline your payment processes, collect payments remotely, and deliver a seamless payment experience for your customers.
A well-managed invoicing system reduces the risk of non-payment due to confusion or delays. Clients are more likely to pay promptly when they have clear and convenient billing information.
5. Accounts receivable management tools
ezyVet is designed to simplify just about every aspect of running a modern veterinary clinic - including your accounts receivable! ezyVet integrates with a variety of finance and analytics tools, including TekCollect, a powerful accounts receivable management tool that helps busy North American veterinary practices quickly identify and recover slow-paying accounts without alienating their clients.
Here's how TekCollect can make a difference:
- Seamless integration: With just a few clicks, staff can submit slow-paying accounts directly from ezyVet’s Client Record tab to TekCollect.
- Fixed fees: TekCollect operates on a fixed fee basis, allowing your practice to remit slow-paying clients earlier in the aging cycle, increasing recovery rates.
- Gentle approach: A gentle and conscientious approach to recovery helps preserve your reputation and maintain positive client relationships.
Utilizing practice management software and accounts receivable management integrations can be a game-changer in reducing non-payment risks while making financial operations more efficient.
6. Follow up
Effective follow-up is essential to maintain financial stability in your veterinary practice. Some clients may unintentionally overlook their invoices or face temporary financial difficulties. A systematic follow-up process can help address these issues and ensure payment compliance.
Consider implementing the following practices:
- Reminder emails and texts: Send friendly reminders about upcoming or overdue payments through email or text messages. ezyVet’s built-in communication tools make it a breeze to stay in touch with your clients and keep your business front of mind.
- Monthly statements: Provide clients with monthly statements of their account balances to keep them informed.
- Courtesy calls: In some cases, making courtesy calls to discuss outstanding balances can lead to resolutions and payment commitments.
A consistent follow-up system not only helps recover outstanding balances but also demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a positive financial relationship with your clients.
7. Client education
Educating clients about the importance of preventive care can have a significant impact on reducing non-payment risks. When clients understand how preventive care can ultimately save them money in the long run, they are more likely to prioritize it.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Informative materials: Provide clients with informative materials, such as brochures or pamphlets, that explain the benefits of preventive care.
- In-person discussions: During appointments, take the time to discuss the advantages of routine check-ups and vaccinations.
- Online resources: Consider offering online resources on your website or through email newsletters to reinforce the message. Check out this comprehensive guide for more information on how to market your veterinary services.
By emphasizing the long-term value of preventive care, you encourage clients to be proactive about their pet's health, which can reduce the need for costly treatments and minimize non-payment risks.
8. Staff training
Your staff plays a crucial role in managing non-payment risks. They are the face of your practice and often the ones who interact with clients regarding billing and financial discussions. Training your staff in this area is essential to ensure consistency and professionalism.
Training should focus on the following:
- Empathy and communication: Train your staff to communicate with clients sensitively, particularly when discussing payment-related matters.
- Billing procedures: Ensure that your staff are well-versed in your practice's billing procedures, from generating invoices to handling different payment methods.
- Conflict resolution: Provide training on handling disputes or non-payment situations with professionalism and problem-solving skills.
- Role in client relations: Emphasize to your staff that their approach to financial discussions can impact client relations positively or negatively.
Investing in staff training not only minimizes the risk of non-payment but also contributes to maintaining a positive and professional image of your practice.
Incorporating these strategies into your veterinary practice can go a long way in reducing the risk of non-payment while maintaining positive client relationships. Clear communication, transparent billing, and payment options provide clients with the flexibility they need, while the use of technology and investing in staff training can help streamline processes and minimize misunderstandings.
Accounts receivable management tools can play a key role in helping veterinary practices prevent non-payments. Learn more about how you can use ezyVet and TekCollect to recover slow-paying accounts and fuel revenue growth.