A five percent no show rate for 20 years equals ONE YEAR of lost production.
If a client can’t make their appointment, we ask that they give us 24 hours notice. If they show us this courtesy we will re‑schedule them. If they give us less than 24 hours notice, chances are we won’t be able to fill their spot in the schedule. Since we have lost productive time, we will use them at our convenience to fill future holes in our schedule. If we reschedule them immediately, it tells them it’s ok to fail appointments with us, and you can bet they will! Even if there are spaces in the next day or two, wait at least one week before offering them a time. If they can’t make that time, but want another, politely thank them and let them know this is the only opening you have now, and you’ll call them as soon as something else opens up!
When they break an appointment with us, follow this procedure:
Broken appointments handled effectively
Cancelled appointments with less than 24 hours notice are one of a secretary’s biggest headaches and result in as much as 30% in lost productivity in some offices. Cancellations should be treated as a broken appointment. You might think that the only reason for a cancellation or no show is the client forgot. Here are a number of real reasons:
Seven minutes past the client’s scheduled appointment time call him/her. Show concern, but don’t reprimand. If you reach the client on the phone, see how long it would take them to get to us. There are two situations.
a) Client is already late ‑ determine how long the appointment is, how long it would take them to get to us, how much time is left and if treatment could be completed in the time remaining.
b) Client calls to cancel with less than 24 hours notice. Before accepting the broken appointment, see if you can get the client to come in. Do they need a ride (Handivan, friend), can they get a baby‑sitter (neighbor or last resort bring them in)? Re‑emphasize how important the appointment is.
One type of response you will get occasionally is “I’m sick.” Often the client is actually sick. They should NOT be in the office spreading germs to everyone else! However, about 25% of those calls are from people who have the “sniffles” or other minor complaints. Use your communication skills to separate them out from the really sick and try to get them to come in. “Gosh, Mrs. Smith, I’m sorry you have a cold. You don’t have to worry about giving it to us. Everyone wears mask, gloves, and eye protection. I know how much Doctor _______ wanted to do your treatment today. Why don’t you come in and try? If you’re uncomfortable, we’ll reschedule then.” If you can’t keep the appointment, put them on the broken list and the back staff will note the cancellation on the client’s treatment sheet.
A well managed practice with clients who appreciate the office should have no more than five cancellations per week per producer.
Clients who break appointments with less than 24 hours notice are never given another appointment immediately (unless they have an excuse that was beyond their control). A tactful way to say this might be: “I’m sorry, Mrs. Jones, but our schedule is completely filled right now. I’ll make a note of how much time you will need for the appointment and call you as soon as we get an opening.”
Client who comes in late for an appointment:
Patient comes late ‑ Don’t ever look or sound irritated with the late client. Always show concern. After all, all our clients are on time, aren’t they (as far as your delinquent client is concerned)? Show concern. “Oh Mrs. Gabel, I’m so glad you’re alright! I was worried about you! Please have a seat and I’ll see if we have enough time to provide your care.”
Secretary then checks with the provider; if there is not enough time say “Thank you for coming but Dr.’s next patient is scheduled for ______ in ______ minutes, and we won’t have time to complete your _________ today. We appreciate you coming, but we’ll have to reschedule your appointment.” If there is at least 1/2 hour remaining in this appointment, check with the doctor. He may be able to do some of the treatment. Let him decide. If it is a cleaning appointment and at least 1/2 hour remains, accept the appointment. Expect to charge a full fee on the cleaning appointment and a generous fee on the doctor’s appointment.
Besides a poor financial arrangement, the client may cancel because they don’t value the appointment. Be sure to share with the staff the next day why the client canceled, but be sure not to blame or point fingers. Make sure the staff is stressing the benefits of the appointment.
Okay, your client has “no showed.” What do you do now to try to control the damage to your schedule? Actually, you’ve got a number of possibilities.
1. Look on the ASAP list in the appointment book. Keep it up to date. When contacting these clients, never use the word “cancellation.” Say “Mr. Smith, we’ve had a change in our schedule and I immediately thought of you. I know you want to get ___________ done. Would you like to come in at ______?” Make sure your call list notes where the person lives or works so you will know if they can
a) Come on short notice
b) How quickly they can be here
2. Warn the provider of the problem. Have them look at the rest of the clients being treated that day. Can any of the appointments be lengthened or come in earlier?
3. Let the other providers (dentists, chairsides, or hygienists) know that there is a hole in the schedule. Keep them alert to look for fill in procedures.
4. Try to move up a client scheduled later in the day. This will buy you more time to fill a hole later in the day.
5. Emergency clients are often the keys to filling in these holes. They think we’re wonderful for meeting their needs so quickly and we appreciate their help.
What could be better? Make sure you make a good financial arrangement before the provider begins this unscheduled treatment! As you can tell, this is a time consuming hassle. Is there any way to reduce the number of no shows? Sure. Try these ideas:
***When you are ready, keep track of every broken/missed appointment for one month. Also note:
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