Thinking of Starting a Wellness Plan Program? Let’s Explore the Options

In recent months, we’ve engaged in a robust discussion in this blog about the advantages of the Practice of Wellness and the Business of Wellness. By now, you’ve decided you’re interested in rolling out a wellness program at your practice. You now recognize the benefits, and you understand that a well-run wellness plan program is a competitive advantage in today’s environment. You want to grow your clientele, while providing excellent care to pets.

 

Now, it’s decision time.

 

You may wonder how to start. It’s a logical question. Your choices include:

  • Creating an in-house, self-run wellness program from scratch
  • Using wellness features from your PIMS module
  • Enlisting the help of a vendor who specializes in launching and operating wellness plan programs in the veterinary industry

At first glance, creating a wellness plan in-house may sound like a smart approach. You make plans by species and age group, offer the plans to clients, and begin debiting their accounts.

 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

 

However, as your program grows, the wellness program becomes more work for you and your team than you originally anticipated. The day-to-day tasks not only add up, consuming your team’s time, but these tasks also take your employees away from other equally important responsibilities, such as client education and communication.

 

As Bob Richardson, president of VCP, is quick to point out, “Wellness can be hard work — the question is, Are you ready for it?” Recognizing ahead of time what a successful wellness plan program requires helps to establish a solid foundation for success.

 

If you’re serious about launching wellness at your practice, you first need to take into account all of the day-to-day tasks that a new wellness plan program requires.

 

Here are the chief ones:

 

Missed payment management
Missed payment management is a significant area of responsibility in a wellness plan program. Missed payment management spans the process of chasing down payments, such as making outbound calls to clients, maintaining month-to-month accounts receivable balances, accounting for partial payments, and much more.

 

Missed payment management is no small task. Industry averages suggest you should expect a missed payment rate of 6-8% each month. You also should expect to make an average of 2.5 calls to track down payments. For a 300-plan program, you’re looking at roughly 53 calls per month to track down clients and resolve payment issues.

 

Given the amount of work involved, it’s generally not a great idea to expect you and your team to manage this sizable task without some form of assistance.

 

Plan renewals
Plan renewals are an aspect of wellness that are rife with complications (We reviewed major pain points here). Plan renewals involve making sure that puppy and kitten plans automatically renew to adult plans, coordinating plan launches with annual price increases, and ensuring that previous versions of wellness plans renew to a new version of the plan.

 

On top of all these tasks is managing pet owner’s custom requests, such as adding or subtracting optional services on an annual basis.

 

Beyond these day-to-day activities, you need to consider how you intend to gain visibility into your renewal rates. Tracking non-renewal rates and understanding the reason for non-renewals can be quite a headache. These tasks are often challenging for a practice to track and manage manually.

 

Optional services
You may wonder why optional services are a worthwhile element of your wellness plan program. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, optional services differentiate your practice, build pet owner loyalty, and avoid pricing wars with nearby competitors.

 

By personalizing your core plans to the lifestyle and needs of each pet, your wellness plan program serves as a vehicle to promote value-added services beyond preventive care, such as boarding, grooming, daycare, and beyond. VCP data shows that tailoring plans to the pet can increase overall spending by 20% or more.

 

Unfortunately, the vast majority of self-run programs cannot offer optional services that allow you to tailor plans to the individual pet. Optional service are simply too difficult to track for most self-run programs.

 

Even if you use a solution that offers optional services as a feature, most of these modules lack the flexibility to decide which options to add and most don’t allow you to add optional services mid-stream (which requires proration of the cost over the current year with a different amount for the full renewal year).

 

Some solutions that offer options aren’t automated, meaning you’ll lack the capability to renew or discontinue options when the plan renews. Instead, your team will be saddled with the time-consuming exercise of renewing each option manually.

 

Beyond the day-to-day basics of managing your wellness plan program, you’ll want to ensure your program is as positively impactful as possible. To do so, you’ll want easy access to data to evaluate, which includes questions like:

 

  • How is my program doing? New enrollment, renewal rates, cancelation rates, and more are important to understand about your program.
  • Does your practice earn more revenue from wellness pets than non-wellness pets? And if so, exactly how much.
  • How does your program stack up against similar practices? Are you faring better or worse?
  • How do you build a membership club concept that fosters loyalty and encourages referrals?
  • How do you track progress against goals that you set for your program?

What’s more, you’ll want to see what you can learn from other practices and apply ideas that work to your program.

 

If this all sounds like a heavy lift, it is. However, when you consider that a well-run program generates spending of $1,250 to $1,600 per pet each year — and multiplied by 300 plans that’s a $480,000 piece of business annually — then your wellness plan program certainly deserves your focus and attention to ensure it thrives.

 

Next week, we’ll continue in this vein, diving into factors to consider if you decide to self-manage your wellness plan program.

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