Pet ownership boomed 4% in 2020 as people who shifted to remote work welcomed “pandemic puppies” and “covid kitties” into their homes. According to research from PetAge, the total number of pet-owning households in the U.S. has reached nearly 71 million, or 56 percent of households overall. The result is more pets that need to visit vets.
Veterinary experiences are often stressful for pets. They come in close contact with other animals, are handled by unfamiliar people, and sometimes are already in discomfort and pain due to an injury or medical condition. Therefore, pets often develop negative connotations associated with veterinary visits.
Creating a Fear Free® Experience
Increasingly, veterinary practices are adopting measures and techniques that reduce fear, anxiety, and stress to create an experience that is more enjoyable and safer for all involved: humans, pets and staff. Pet owners seek out Fear Free Certified® Practices, which represent the pinnacle of care in the industry by emphasizing the importance of emotional wellness for pets.
The Fear Free® practice strives to make every pet feel comfortable and emphasizes low-stress handling techniques ... like lots of treats! In addition to direct pet interactions, many Fear Free Certified® clinics ease pet anxiety by reconfiguring the physical layout of their facility to minimize uncomfortable situations. Examples include:
- Separate wings for dogs and cats
- Separate entrances for veterinary care vs. boarding, grooming and daycare
- Separate entry and exit points
- The elimination of waiting rooms
- The continued practice of curbside servicing
Practice managers should also examine operations, workflow and software (such as a practice management system that offers demeanor rating) that accommodate these new techniques. One part of that deals with payment acceptance.
Safe and Efficient Payments for a Fear Free® Vet Practice
Here are five ways that veterinary practices can take payments aligned with the Fear Free Certified® Facility tenets:
- Put a terminal in each exam room
Placing customer-facing payment terminals in each exam room allows clients to pay in privacy and depart through a separate exit— eliminating the need to bring nervous patients back through the lobby—a practice that adheres to being a certified fear-free facility. The terminals accept payments via the insert, swipe, tap of a card, phone or wearable. Digital signatures eliminate the exchange of paper, and transaction information is paired with patient records, and can be retrieved and emailed to customers with just a few simple clicks.
- Capture and store customer payment details
Most pet owners have an ongoing relationship with their veterinary practice. The ability to create and manage customer records, including securely storing payment card details, means that future charges can be applied to the card on file without requiring the customer to juggle leashes, purses and wallets.
Make sure your card-on-file solution uses tokenization to securely swap out sensitive data, which makes it useless in the case of a breach.
- Send remote payment requests for curbside pickup
Facilities that don’t have the ability to support separate entrances may continue to utilize curbside servicing—the primary business model adopted by vet practices during COVID-19—so that vet techs can bypass the lobby to retrieve and deliver pets directly to customers waiting in their cars. To take payments, the staff creates an invoice associated with the patient’s file and emails a request for approval and payment. Customers waiting in their cars simply open the request on their phone, enter their payment details into a simple form, and press “pay” to submit it for processing.
- Set up recurring, subscription or installment payments
Securely capturing and storing payment information associated with customer records makes it easy to collect one-time, installment or recurring payments for services such as prescriptions, doggy daycare and wellness plans. With the ability to store clients’ cards on file, scheduling a veterinary payment plan takes just a few clicks.
Unfortunately, some visits to the vet are emergencies, which further adds to the stress of patients and their humans, especially for expensive surgeries and treatments. Offering the option of payment installments to cover expenses removes financial stress and allows the animals to get the care they need, becoming a lifeline for the family. You can set up a payment plan to automatically process payments based on an agreed-upon schedule.
- Implement payments for telemedicine appointments
One way to eliminate the stress of a visit to the vet is to replace the in-person appointment with a telemedicine session, another practice that grew during the pandemic. Not all exams require hands-on service, so the ability to connect via video call can be an effective replacement that fully adheres to the Fear Free® standards.
Customers can pre-pay over the phone or by using the card on file when they book the telemedicine appointment. An email is sent to the customer for approval and remote signature capture. The payment is applied to the invoice on the day of the appointment. This streamlines the customer experience by eliminating the need for the office manager to reach back out to the client following the appointment.
Alternatively, you can direct clients to a payment page on your website to allow them to pay for the appointment from their desktop, phone or tablet. Hosted Checkout adds a simple “Pay Now” button to your website that directs customers to a secure billing page where they enter their payment information.
We no longer have to worry about payment being something we have to work the process around. We cater the payment solution for whatever situation is best for the patient and client. Having that flexibility is essential as a Fear Free Certified Practice.
Interested in more smart ways that veterinary clinics are adapting to meet customer preferences, streamline operations, and deliver a paw-sitive payment experience?
Download our Guide: 12 Tail-Wagging Tricks to Boost Vet Clinic Payments.
Has your practice implemented any of the above payment practices to extend fear free practices beyond the exam room? Tell us about it in the comments below!