Don't let no-shows slow you down


Work to eliminate these schedule gaps and wasted opportunities for revenue.

Missed appointments, or no-shows, can be disruptive and costly if you've set aside a sizable block of time for a new client—or, worse, if the appointment is for multiple pets. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the downtime caused by no-shows:

1. Publicize your policy. Include the following statement on your appointment card: "If you need to cancel, please call 24 hours in advance to let us know." It informs clients that you expect a courtesy call.

2. Encourage clients to call in advance. Let your clients know you appreciate it when they call in advance to cancel an appointment. Sometimes pet owners hesitate because they don't want to hear one of those degrading sighs of annoyance from the receptionist.

3. Let clients pick the appointment time. According to a recent human-medicine survey conducted by the University of Minnesota, patients who suggested the most convenient time for an appointment were more likely to show up than those who'd made appointments according to the times suggested by the scheduler.

4. Call to confirm appointments. When you call to verify new-client visits or other lengthy appointments and you end up leaving a message, ask the client to call back to reconfirm. Or, consider installing a software system that continues to call clients until they've been reached. It may be somewhat impersonal, but at least you'll make sure you're confirming your appointments.

5. Be gentle with repeat offenders. Dr. Marvin Mansky, a human dentist in New York City, has found an effective way to deal with patients who repeatedly miss appointments. His practice informs these people that they should "call on the day they'd like to come in and if we have the time, we'll be glad to see them." "It seems kinder than charging for broken appointments or, worse, dismissing the patient," Dr. Mansky says.

If practice growth is one of your goals, it makes sense to give clients the benefit of the doubt regarding missed appointments. It will make your practice easier to manage and foster client loyalty, which is the single most important key to practice building.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).

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