No-call, no-shows are a familiar problem for most veterinary practices and are particularly frustrating when your schedule is jam-packed and clients are waiting weeks for an appointment.
Missed appointments at your veterinary practice cost time and money. According to the AAHA, 11% of appointments will result in a no-show. So, if you’re booking 2,000 appointments per year at an average doctor transaction of $200 per appointment, 220 no shows for that year equates to $44,000 in lost revenue. That’s a big chunk of change.
If you feel as though your practice has seen more and more no-shows lately, you’re not alone. As new pet ownership boomed during the pandemic and vet clinics experienced understaffing, it has become harder and harder for pet owners to get appointments. As a result, some clients have resorted to calling to schedule appointments with multiple vets, and honoring whichever one can get them in the soonest.
Of course, missed appointments can happen even with reliable and well-meaning clients. Emergencies pop up, dates get confused, or life gets in the way.
Missed appointments can be frustrating, but there are some steps you can take to prevent or reduce them. Follow these best practices for preventing no-shows at your vet clinic.
Appointment confirmation and reminder texts
Text message appointment reminders can go a long way toward preventing a no-show. Texts are, for most people, an easier and more reliable method of contact than phone or email. Phone calls frequently go to voicemail and emails don’t always get checked in a timely manner. What’s more, text messages can be automated with your appointment management software, reducing the burden on your staff.
What makes this method especially effective is the request for reply, such as “Reply C to confirm, or R to reschedule” or a similar message. If the client does not reply, then you can have someone call them to confirm.
That said, determine your client’s preferred method of contact when making the appointment to give your staff the best chance at reaching them. You can take this idea one step further by confirming appointments via multiple methods – email, text, and phone call – to give you the best chance of reaching your client. While it is standard practice to send a reminder the day before the appointment, you may also wish to try sending reminders a week before as well, especially for annual exams or appointments made far in advance.
Add the appointment to your client’s calendar
It’s no secret that so many of us rely on our smartphones to keep track of our schedules. If your booking system or scheduling management software can integrate with your clients’ Google calendar, iCal, or Outlook calendar, they’ll be less likely to forget an appointment. When scheduling an appointment, you can send an email and/or a text message with an “Add to Calendar” link.
Consider pre-paid appointments or deposits
When people have already paid for something, they’re more likely to honor their commitment. Even a small deposit can be enough of an incentive to keep the appointment.
At the same time, you should be careful not to implement too-strict policies that will turn off your “good” clients who have been loyal to your business and always keep their appointments. Perhaps you’ll only require a prepayment or deposit for certain procedures, or for new clients. You might choose to sweeten the deal by offering a small discount to clients who pre-pay. A discount of 2-5 percent is worth saving the 10% or more in lost revenue that results from a missed appointment.
Charge no-show fees
A no-show fee can be a powerful deterrent against missing appointments. You can decide on a policy that works for your practice: perhaps you’ll charge a fee after the second or third missed appointment, or for no-shows and cancellations made less than 24 hours in advance. Whatever your policy, be sure to clearly communicate it to your clients at the time of booking, verbally and in writing.
Send a follow up
If your client misses an appointment, a “Sorry we missed you” message can politely let them know that a no-show won’t go unnoticed. This will also give your client the opportunity to reschedule. Similarly, sending a “thank you” note, email, or text after an appointment can reinforce “good” client behaviors and build connection.
Develop strong client relationships
One of the best ways to reduce missed vet appointments is to improve your overall customer experience. When clients feel valued and respected and have a personal relationship with their vet and/or vet clinic staff, they’re less likely to miss an appointment without calling first. Personal touches like birthday messages and holiday cards can reinforce that connection. As much as possible, try to ensure that your clients see the same vet each time they visit.
Appointment scheduling protocol
You can help prevent a no-show appointment at the time of scheduling. Take these steps when making an appointment:
- Confirm the appointment date and time more than once
- Verbally communicate your clinic’s cancellation or missed appointment policy
- Politely ask for confirmation from your client that they will give you a call if they need to reschedule for whatever reason
- Take a moment to convey appointment availability; be sure your client understands a missed appointment may result in a wait of several weeks before they can get another one, so the earlier they call to reschedule the sooner you can get them in
- Confirm their contact information and best method of communication so you know how to reach them when sending reminders
- Personalize the interaction by using the client’s name and their pet’s name
Be sure your front receptionist and any other vet clinic staff responsible for scheduling, receives proper training on your policies and customer service. A positive, friendly, personal interaction with your office helps to build stronger relationships, and strong relationships are the key to preventing no-shows.