Ask Emily: What is the best way to start forward booking?

October 28, 2020
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP

Emily Shiver, CVPM, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.

Are you afraid of forward booking? Do you think it comes off as too pushy or intrusive? Dentists have successfully practiced this strategy for years. One obvious benefit: a sense of security that your client will return to your practice.

Our team at dvm360.com and Firstline magazine asked practice manager Emily Shiver to answer your questions about life in practice for managers, technicians, assistants, client service receptionists and more. Got a question for her? Email us at firstline@mmhgroup.com.

Q: How can I start forward booking at my clinic?

A: When patients have a scheduled appointment and receive a reminder a few days before, they are more likely to commit. That’s why it’s so important to forward book during checkout or any other time you meet or speak with clients. What follows are a few of my top tips for incorporating forward booking at your clinic.

The first step is to educate your team members about all your practice’s benefits so that they can confidently discuss and schedule clients. This may mean breaking the habit of asking if they can schedule future appointments and just doing it!

Consider the following wording suggestions that work:

  • “Thank you for stopping in to pick up Jackson’s heartworm prevention. I scheduled an appointment for his upcoming preventive care. We will see you in May!”
  • “Dr. Sims wants to see Jackson back in 2 weeks. I have Tuesday at 9 a.m. or Thursday at 2 p.m.”
  • “We loved having Jackson stay with us. We’re quite booked throughout the year. Let’s go over any future dates that he needs to stay with us, and get him booked.”
  • “Jackson’s haircut looks amazing! I went ahead and scheduled his grooming for the rest of the year.”
  • “Jackson is a healthy boy. I scheduled your next preventive care visit so we can keep up with this trend. See you in May!”

As you probably noticed above, you can use forward-booking strategies for more than just medical appointments. Every time your client visits your practice — regardless of the reason — it’s an opportunity to secure a return visit.

Here are some forward-booking opportunities we schedule at my practice — categorized by visit type:

Sick visits

  • Rechecks for a primary problem.
  • Preventive care.

Wellness (preventive) care visits

  • Lodging/day care.
  • Future preventive care.
  • Grooming or bathing.

Rechecks

  • Future preventive care.
  • Grooming or bathing.
  • Lodging/day care.

Prescription or food pickup

  • Future preventive care.
  • Grooming or bathing.
  • Lodging/day care.

Surgery

  • Recheck/suture/staple removal.
  • Preventive care.

Dental

  • Preventive care.
  • Dental assessment in six months.

Lodging

  • Next reservation.
  • Preventive care.
  • Grooming or bathing.

Grooming

  • Grooming for the entire year, since most pets are on a 4- to 6-week rotation.
  • Preventive care.
  • Lodging.

To get your team excited about forward booking, try putting together a forward-booking “don’t ask just do” 90-day challenge. You can even involve your drug representatives, who can help with challenge reward ideas.

Skeptics may be concerned that scheduling all these appointments will only result in a ton of “no shows.” From my practice’s experience, this has not been the case because my staff always conveys the value of booking each appointment. It is very attainable to achieve a 50% to 60% forward-booking rate after your 90-day challenge. Good luck!

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.