Block sticker shock

Feb 01, 2006

You've seen it before: Sweet little white-haired Mrs. Smith turns into the Queen of Mean when she gets her first gander at her bill. Karen Sabatini, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and receptionist at Ardmore Animal Hospital in Ardmore, Pa., says offering estimates may head off these ugly client transformations. Since her practice started offering estimates, client complaints have dropped by at least 75 percent, she says. Team members at Ardmore Animal Hospital use these guidelines to make estimates effective:
  • Offer regular updates. "With hospitalized pets, we explain that initial estimates may only include diagnostics," Sabatini says. "Then we get back to clients if we need to update the estimate." Team members invite clients to call for balance updates, and if the pet may be hospitalized for a lengthy stay, they call the owners with daily totals.
  • Always overestimate. "If the bill is $50 less than they expected, clients feel pleasantly surprised," Sabatini says. For example, if you expect to take four to six radiographs, build your estimate based on six to seven. And include a statement that indicates the charge could be 25 percent higher than the estimate.

"Offering clients estimates and updates makes them feel involved in their pets' healthcare," Sabatini says. "And they know what to expect before they get the bill."