Opinion Surveys

We regularly survey area Consumers' Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers for their feedback on services they have used. We sometimes also survey subscribers to various other websites and publications and survey a sampling of other area consumers. 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 Comparison Scores

To compute our price comparison scores, we calculated an average price for each veterinary service for all the practices that quoted on that service. Next we compared each practice’s price to the average. One practice might come in at 120 percent of the multi-practice average for a particular job, and another might come in at 90 percent. We took each practice’s percentage score on each service, standardized it, and assigned a weight to each service, based on our judgment. We then averaged the standardized, weighted percentage scores to find how the practice compared to other practices overall. Finally, we multiplied this overall percentage score by a flat dollar amount, say, $100.

The price comparison score, then, is intended to indicate the relative prices we found for the practices, adjusted to the base of this flat dollar amount. These scores are imperfect for various reasons: for instance, the services checked may not be representative; the weighting of various services in the scores may not accurately reflect typical expenditure patterns; and the number of services we checked is small.

Animals Cared For

Information reported on our ratings tables regarding types of animals practices care for came directly from the practices' representatives. 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 2009 to October 2018. Survey respondents were asked to report on experiences in the preceding year. The data from our survey of practices were collected from January to March 2018. Our price data were collected from September 2017 to January 2018.

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.

Top Ratings

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.
 

A rough guide for deciding whether the difference between two percentages is important If one firm had this number of ratings: And a second had this number of ratings: Do not give much importance to the difference between percentages unless the difference is at least this many percentage points:
Assuming the average of the two firms' percentages is 50 percent 10
30
60
120
10
30
60
120
45
26
18
13
Assuming the average of the two firms' percentages is 80 percent 10
30
60
120
10
30
60
120
36
21
15
10