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Making more of worming opportunities

by
01 June 2009, at 12:00am

Dr EMMA BATSON of Merial Animal Health talks with practices about the options

IN the current economic climate practices need to grasp every opportunity they can to add value to the services they are providing. 

Although equine wormer sales are not usually considered a significant profit source by the veterinary profession, some practices have found that an opportunity exists to use wormer sales as a platform from which to build on client relationships and increase customer loyalty. 

According to a recent horse owner survey, 53% of those questioned said they sought worming advice from their vet. For 37% of respondents (the largest majority) their vet was considered as the most valued information source. Yet despite this worming relationship with their vets, just 19% of those questioned said that they purchased their wormers from their practice, a figure which is backed by industry wormer sales statistics. 

An obvious opportunity exists for vets to make the most of this trust which is clearly present between the horse owner and their vet. The Arundel Equine Hospital and Hook Norton Veterinary Surgeons are two such practices which have taken advantage of this opportunity. 

Both practices take a different approach but the result is improved customer loyalty, and both are able to compete very effectively against other retailers. 

The Arundel Equine Hospital 

The West Sussex-based Arundel Equine Hospital is a specialist equine practice employing 15 veterinary surgeons. Rob Van Pelt, partner, explains why he is keen for the practice to take a proactive stance in selling wormers to his clients. 

“Although we are often competing with retailers selling wormers for less, there is little doubt that we, as veterinary surgeons, have the advantage. We have the unique ability to offer clients the ‘whole package’ by making worming part of the veterinary care offered by the practice.” 

As part of the practice’s worming initiative, it provides wormer offers around three times a year. “We send out flyers with invoices offering a specific wormer that is appropriate to the worming season. All the owner has to do is fill in his or her details and send back the flyer with a form of payment. The wormers are then sent to the clients by post,” Mr Van Pelt says. 

“The flyers also reference a website that provides clients with easy access to general advice about responsible worming. Regular client newsletters and specific factsheets covering worming protocols also act as a valuable source of information for the client. 

“Many of our clients tell us that they view these offers as a reminder system – a convenience which really adds value to the service they get from our practice. “We send out around 800 plus wormers by this method and although we only make a small profit on the actual wormers, we feel this scheme is invaluable for increasing customer loyalty.” 

Mr Van Pelt is also in the process of adding a tick box to the flyers asking if clients would like to take advantage of a worm egg count offer. “We hope that this diagnostic service will encourage responsible worming in an attempt to help reduce the risk of resistance,” he says. 

“In recent years, the vet profession has had some bad press regarding profiteering on the drugs they sell. This scheme helps to create a positive image for vets and shows the value of the service that we provide.” 

Hook Norton Veterinary Practice Hook Norton Veterinary Practice is a 14- vet mixed practice with five dedicated equine vets based in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Liz Harwood is the SQP responsible for the worming initiatives implemented by the practice and explains the services offered to clients. 

“We run a worming programme for our clients currently being advertised through newsletters, client evenings and in-house promotions. This initiative is offered to all our clients, from the ‘happy hacker’ to livery yards, and is run on a three-year cycle based on the active ingredients rather than the brands,” Ms Harwood explains. 

“A nurse sets up individual worming programmes based on the drug used previously and the history of the horse. 

“It can be time-consuming initially but once the programme is set up the whole process becomes much easier. The workload involved can vary and the nurse involved may be setting up as many as four programmes a week or as few as one per month. 

“Once the client’s worming programme has been set up they are given a worming pack containing all the wormers they need for the year as well as two sample pots for worm egg counts. 

“We encourage clients to get faecal samples for worm egg counts about one week prior to when they are due to worm. These are performed in-house and the results are given the same day. We hope by offering this service we are encouraging clients to worm responsibly and only treat when necessary. 

“We are competing with a large equine and farm retailer situated only a few miles from the practice, so whilst we make sure we are as competitive as possible, by offering a tailored service we know that many clients choose us over the competition. Clients also have the benefit of having a vet to speak to for further advice if needed. 

“Although selling wormers is not a major profit source for us, it offers another tool by which we can bond clients to our practices,” she adds.