Instituting key messages into the clinic protocol can help team members feel more comfortable addressing multiple situations regarding cancelations and no shows. These quick scripted responses will ensure that the team always acts in a professional and friendly manner, yet not be too lenient and let unreliable patients off the hook too easily.
SCHEDULING THE NEXT APPOINTMENT:
“I would like to see you in 6 months so we can check that molar on the upper right.”
When a patient is in your office and you are discussing their next appointment give them a reason to come back. Often we say “you will be due in 6 months for your next appointment”. Instead of just giving them a date, which like an oil change is a suggestion, give them a specific reason to return.
“I have reserved time for you with Dr. Smith on Monday at 4:00.”
Once that patient has scheduled the appointment make sure they know the appointment is a reserved time specifically for them. Sometimes they assume if they don’t show up for their appointment that the dental office can easily schedule another patient in their place.
“Hi Joe, I wanted to let you know that Mary is looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday at 3:00.”
Although, we call them “confirmation calls” it is best to avoid the word confirm when calling to remind a patient about their upcoming appointment. Confirm implies that the appointment was not confirmed prior to the phone call. You also want to avoid saying things like “Will you be able to make it?” or “If you can’t make it just let us know.” These all give the patient an easy out, and allow them to easily cancel or reschedule. Instead simply let the patient know that the clinical team member is looking forward to seeing them.
CALLING REGARDING A MISSED APPOINTMENT:
“We had time reserved for you today with Dr. Smith at 1:00. Please return our call at 555-333-1234.”
When a patient has missed an appointment let them know in a friendly, yet disappointed, manner. If a patient apologizes in office for missing an appointment simply respond with “Yes, we missed you.” It can be very easy to respond with “that’s ok, those things happen”. While we don’t want to scold the patient, it is important to not tell the patient that it is okay.
RESCHEDULING A MISSED APPOINTMENT:
“Our schedule is pretty full, we could see you next month on the third at 2:00.”
When re-scheduling a patient that has missed an appointment do not schedule them within the next few weeks, even if you have an opening. Schedule them a month or two out to build a higher perceived value for your time. You can always call them back the next day to say there was a change in your schedule and you thought of them.
SCHEDULING A PATIENT WITH MULTIPLE NO-SHOWS:
“It looks like we are having difficulty finding a time that works for your schedule. Why don’t you call our office on a day when you have availability, and should we have a change in our schedule we will contact you.”
It is important to track how often a patient misses their appointments and develop a protocol to determine when a patient will only be eligible for same day appointments. For these chronic no-show patients it is better for the practice not to hold an appointment time that could be scheduled with another patient.
These are some simple things every practice can do to help decrease the number of cancelations and no-shows. Having all team members trained on how to talk to patients in each of these situations is a big first step in keeping your chairs full and maximizing revenue.