Something very frustrating dealing with as a dental practitioner is when people flake on their appointment. With so many obligations, people tend to prioritize social commitments and such. With this, one of our most asked questions is, “how to get patients to keep their appointment.”
Many things seem more important to some patients, but this can be detrimental to your practice as well as their health. When patients tend to cancel as a result of a busy schedule, we have some great tips on how to decrease the number of cancellations as well as fostering a stronger relationship with your patients.
Schedule When Present
Before letting your patient leave the office, make sure to schedule them a return appointment for their next check-up. It’s always easier to communicate with your patient in person about scheduling when in person. Things become more personal as well as memorable in comparison to a phone call or a text.
Take for example, after you finish with the patient’s appointment, the front desk should be able to schedule a cleaning right as they check-out with them. The patient should feel clean and ready to take another step to maintain their oral hygiene. This makes it so that they become more committed to paying more attention to their health.
Reminders To Your Patients
One of the most simpler tasks that you can do is send a reminder to your patients about their appointment. Sometimes, your patients may have forgotten about their appointment so it’s best to set up a system that promotes an orderly reminder.
In some instances, even the more organized patients tend to forget sometimes. We’re all human, we all make mistakes! So even a quick call/text to remind them would be appreciated. However, don’t overstep your boundaries. No one likes it when they are spammed with reminders. It’s best to remind them 24 to 48 hours before their appointment date. That way, it gives the patients the potential to be able to either act as a reminder as well as enough time to reschedule their appointment if needed.
There are a variety of different contacting systems and methods you can use to remind your patients of their appointments:
- Text Message
- Phone Call
Something to keep in mind when you are sending out appointment reminders is to ensure your system is up to date. The contact information of your patients has to be correct or else it’s pointless to send out reminders to an old phone number. If the numbers and the email address are outdated, none of the messages will get through.
A simple method is to confirm the phone numbers and email addresses bi-annually or annually. That way it isn’t too much of a constant bother to your patients.
When people do tend to cancel on their appointments, it can be inconvenient for your dental practice as it disrupts the rhythm and patient flow. Generally, most dental practices make it fairly easy for people to cancel. This can lead to more rescheduling and cancellations in the future which would just be inconvenient for you. To ensure that cancellations aren’t as frequent, we suggest that you implement a policy that makes it a little more inconvenient for them when they cancel, but not enough for you to lose business.
Rather than letting the customers reschedule their appointments, establish some rules and policies that have to be put in place when rescheduling.
For example, if a customer does cancel their appointment and attempts to reschedule, they aren’t allowed a prime-hour appointment slot. This way, it reflects the professionalism and scarcity of your business. Your front desk can something along the lines of, “As part of our policy, the time between ___ and ___ are our busiest hours so we, unfortunately, can’t reschedule to these times.”
As mentioned above, many dental practices do tend to be a little sensitive to introduce this type of policy into their practice. The risk of scaring away customers can be a concern. However, by establishing a policy like this, it can prevent unnecessary hassles and arguments with your patients. It can also demonstrate to your customers that your time is invaluable as well as attract a more professional demographic. This increases the productivity of the office as an entirety.
If cancellations are becoming too frequent, then you may also implement a cancellation/no-show fee. With the more extreme cases, some offices charge from the range of $5 to $25 to enforce their rules.
A majority of dental practices avoid fining their patients but instead, disclose their policy to patients when scheduling as well as in their office (plaques, etc). This tends to prevent most cancellations.
Another very simple method is just to let them know. Ask your customers if they can notify your office with at least 24 hours in advance so that you can plan around that scheduling. Explaining that there are also other customers waiting for a spot in the schedule, your patients will usually comply.
There have also been offices that offer a reward system for customers as an incentive to promote a more consistent show-up. For example, you can either do a raffle or a mini gift bag. The winner of the raffle could win an iPad or a gift card for Amazon. There are many different possibilities. This method also has the potential to increase the number of patients in your dental practice as well.
Establishing Proper Relationships
When working with your patients, you have to nurture the relationship properly. When you develop a positive affinity with your customers, they tend to come back enjoying your office a little more. People tend to cancel more appointments when they don’t look forward to it. However, if you do manage to nurture a relationship where patients genuinely look forward to seeing you, it decreases the chances of them canceling their appointment.
Concluding this article, there are a variety of different methods that you can use to get patients to keep their appointment. Whether it is to establish a strict policy or even schedule right after the patients’ cleaning, any method you choose to implement into your dental practice should decrease the numbers of no shows and cancellations within your appointment schedule.