I’m sure this has never happened to you or your team, but sometimes patients or clients have the nerve to cancel their appointments or fail to show up at all!!! And sometimes doctors and staff find this frustrating and annoying. Can you imagine?!
That was an attempt at light humour on a subject that all offices have to deal with weekly if not daily. The skill of the staff at the front desk can hugely influence how much of this happens and ultimately, the bottom line of the practice.
First of all, it is really all about service to the patient, isn’t it? Your practice exists to service patients, and ideally, exceed their expectations. The question then becomes how to get them to keep their appointments. Re-scheduling over and over again with certain patients or clients is a total waste of Reception’s valuable time. How can you then prevent these cancellations and no shows?
Scheduling the Appointment
When a patient or client is making an appointment to see the professional, they must be encouraged to pick a time and day that they are sure they can keep. “We are here to give you the best possible service, so I would like you to pick a time that you KNOW you can keep and I will reserve that spot just for YOU.” You can present a few options if their first choice is not available. If the person is unsure if they can come at a time that you have offered, do not say, “Well, I’ll put you down for that time and if you can’t keep that appointment, just let me know.” That is the most common error made when scheduling a patient and leads to cancellations and no shows more often than anything else.
Most practices now have a cancellation fee that is charged when the person cancels within 48 hours or no shows completely. Your team’s time is after all very valuable and it is discourteous to back out at the last minute. If everyone was informed of this very nicely when they first come to your office, it will in most cases handle most of the cancellations and no shows.
However, if someone blows it and cancels or no shows and you invoke the fee and the person gets upset, your Receptionist can say something like: “Mrs. Jones, I see in the computer that this is the first time you have ever done this, so you know what? I have one FREE PASS for anyone who misses their appointment the first time, but only the first time. Would you like to use your FREE PASS for this time?” The person is usually very relieved to have gotten off the hook but have been suitably warned that they will not get the same opportunity if they do it again.
Sometimes a person may call in early in the morning and say that they can’t keep their appointment for later in the day because their car broke down or something. There are times when this answer may work: “Is there any way that you can take a bus or find someone to give you a lift over? Even taking a taxi would probably be cheaper than the $50 cancellation fee that I would have to charge you if you cancel, right?” Work out your own way of saying that but that is one way of backing someone back into their appointment when it is not a very valid excuse (like they are dying of pneumonia or some highly infectious disease, in which case you probably want to PAY them to say away).
The Short List
Of course, the ideal situation is that you have a short list of patients or clients who wanted an earlier appointment than what was available at the time when they were making their appointment, and they would love to hear that you can get them in sooner. This way you can keep the appointment times all filled.
Which makes a happy boss and therefore a harmonious team, right?
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