An untypical end of year is expected: make sure you are prepared early
Missed appointments and last-minute cancellations not only affects your daily flow of patients, it costs your practice money… A lot of money.
While it is impossible to eliminate missed appointments altogether, there are strategies you can put in place to reduce their frequency.
By reducing the frequency of missed appointments, you are also turning patients into loyal customers.
Send an automated reminder the day before the treatment. With appointments being made weeks or even months in advance it is not uncommon for patients to forget.
A text message to a mobile phone is ideal. While email might work for some, there are lots of people who don’t check their emails frequently, but text messages are read almost straight away.
People appreciate the reminder, and by sending out the message 24 hours before the appointment, it gives them the opportunity to reorganise their day to make sure they can make it. Or it gives them the prompt they need to cancel so that you can fill the time with someone else.
Respect your patients time
Keeping a well-managed schedule that limits waiting time is important. If customers feel that your practice does not value their time then convincing them to value yours won’t be easy.
Try to fit in new patients quickly so they do not look elsewhere and forget to cancel their appointment with you. The longer the time frame between their call and their treatment, the greater the chance of a no-show.
Develop strong patient relationships
Establishing a strong practitioner-patient relationship creates loyal customers. The rapport you build is vital from the first time you meet. First impressions are planting the seed for them to work out if returning to your practice is the best option.
Loyalty needs to be rewarded with superior service by listening to the patients wants and needs. Take the time to explain the why and how of their treatment plan and make them feel involved.
Plus you have year-round opportunities to enhance the relationship. Sending out birthday or holiday cards, offering helpful information on your website or via an email newsletter are all ways to stay top of mind.
When customers feel valued they are far less likely to miss their appointments in the future
Gain insights from missed appointments
Sometimes even with reminders, customer will still not show. Call your patient five minutes after their appointment time to find out the reason, rather than making assumptions as to why they are not there.
If the patient does not pick up leave a voicemail and request they call back to rearrange a new time. Sometimes personal emergencies come up, but taking the time to ask why the patient missed their appointment as it can give you insight into how to make changes in your practice to reduce the incidence.
In your customer relationship management software add a note to the client profile whenever they cancel or miss an appointment. This allows staff to be aware of the client history and you can recognise trends in excuses that can help point to solutions.
If you have patients who continually miss appointments make this clearly identifiable in the patient record. When they call to make an appointment, staff will know to offer the patient a time that will be the least disruptive to your patient flow. Such as at the end of the day or just before you break for lunch.
Once you have been tracking no-shows for a few months you will be able to identify patterns in the days and times when this is more likely to occur. This allows you more options to be able to manage the problem and look at your staffing levels during these times.
Charge in advance or a deposit
If your missed appointments are making it hard to run a profitable practice you might like to consider charging either full payment in advance or at least a deposit. This gives customers the motivation to keep their appointment to avoid losing their money.
If penalties are not your style, then incentives can work too. When customers stick to their appointment time a few times in a row, offer them a discount on their next one, or hold a prize draw and all patients who show up on time each month go in the running to win a small gift.
While missed appointments can hurt the bottom line, with the right processes in place you can patients into loyal customers by respecting their time, building a solid relationship with them and managing your schedule and policies appropriately.