How We Gather (and How to Interpret) Our Data
We regularly survey area Consumers' Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers for their feedback on services they have used. For our survey on veterinarians, we asked consumers to rate their experiences with practices they had most recently used "inferior," "adequate," or "superior" on several aspects of service, including "listening to/communicating with you," "arranging to see you quickly," "giving helpful advice by phone," "keeping down office waiting time," "maintaining a pleasant office and staff," "giving prevention/self-help advice," "helping keep pet's medical costs down," "spending enough time with you," "apparent competence/thoroughness," "overall care and advice." Our Ratings Tables show the percent of each company's surveyed customers who rated it "superior" (as opposed to "inferior" or "adequate") on each question.
We have included on our Ratings Tables all of the practices for which we received at least 10 ratings on our customer surveys. If a practice is not listed on our Ratings Tables, it simply means we did not receive at least 10 ratings for it.
Since many practices were rated by rather small numbers of raters, small differences between two practices in the percentage of raters who gave a particular rating (say, "superior") should be ignored. The table below gives a rough guide to minimum differences you should look for in deciding on one practice over another.
When using these survey data, remember that the questions are to some degree subjective and that the differences among practices might be explained by differences in the personalities, backgrounds, critical standards, and other characteristics of the raters or by biases these raters might have.
Price Index Scores
To compute our Price Index Scores, we calculated an average price for each job or item for all the companies that quoted on that job or item. Next we compared each company's price to the average. One company might come in at 120 percent of the multi-company average for a particular job, and another company might come in at 90 percent. We took each company's percentage score on each job or item, standardized it, and assigned a weight to each job or item, based on our judgment. We then averaged the standardized, weighted percentage scores to find how the company compared to other companies overall. Finally, we multiplied this overall percentage score by a flat dollar amount, say, $100.
The price index score, then, is intended to indicate the relative prices we found for the companies, adjusted to the base of this flat dollar amount. These index scores are imperfect for various reasons: for instance, the jobs or items checked may not be representative; the weighting of various jobs or items in the index may not accurately reflect typical expenditure patterns; and the number of jobs or items is small.
Animals Cared For
Information reported on our Ratings Tables regarding types of animals practices care for came directly from the practices' representatives. We mailed each practice a survey. For practices that did not respond to our mailed survey, our researchers called each practice to complete a survey over the phone and then followed up with a mailed verification form.
Timeliness of the Data
All of the data must be interpreted in view of timeliness. Our customer survey data are from surveys conducted from January 2006 to December 2017. Survey respondents were asked to report on experiences in the preceding year. The data from our survey of practices were collected from November 2011 to January 2012. Our price data were collected from July to November 2011.
For the most part, our tables include practices for which we collected 10 or more ratings on our customer survey during the customer survey period mentioned above, but we do not report data for periods prior to practices' changes of name and ownership. As a result, some large practices are not listed at all. If only name or ownership changed, we do report the data. Changes subsequent to the dates listed above may not be taken into account.
We give checkmarks to companies that score highest on a scoring system that we devise for each service field. Our scoring systems weight the various data in our tables and text based on our subjective judgment of their importance. Since the scores are based entirely on information presented, you can apply your own subjective judgments, and decide whether you prefer companies we have not given checkmarks. Where we do not have important data on a company, we cannot give our checkmark.