Last week I read a very long discussion on a chat forum that began with a dentist asking a question as to how to reduce “Cancellations and No-Shows” in his dental appointment schedule.
What ensued in this discussion was a distinct polarisation of viewpoints.
On the one side was the group suggesting that more appointments would be kept and less would be cancelled or conceded if the patients were made more aware of the urgency for their treatment and the consequences of delay.
On the other hand, there was a significant group of respondents who adamantly believed that patients cancelled appointments because they were not made aware of the dental office *Policy* and that if time was spent outlining and going over the policy or policies with each and every patient then these patients would certainly never consider missing an appointment.
Such policies that were suggested was to provide written copy of the *Cancellation Policy* to each patient, to have said copy on the practice website and to direct all patients to said page, and to even sit with the patient and read the policy to the patient, presumably until the patient cried for mercy.
Thank goodness there are dental practices out there offending their patients and driving them away by lecturing and scolding them in this manner.
Those actions of pre-scolding simply create a wave of dissatisfied patients looking for a dental office that will treat them with respect and courtesy.
I really could not believe what I was reading.
On top of this, these offices made it clear to each and every patient that they would be billed a “Cancellation Fee” if they ever failed to attend their appointment or rescheduled with insufficient notification in advance…
Here’s my take:
Every time that you find that you have a patient who does not want to go ahead with their next scheduled visit, and who cancels or no-shows, then take a look in the mirror.
Firstly, it is you who has failed to create sufficient urgency and concern in that patient for the state of their mouth, or specifically, their next tooth to be treated.
It’s your fault. You did not tell them enough for them to be motivated to take the necessary action.
Secondly, you and your office may have attracted the wrong patient.
It’s a fact. There are idiots out there who do not see reason.
If an idiot finds their way into your dental office and fails to possess even a skerrick of sense or reasoning, then simply send them on their way.
Don’t make them another appointment that they are most likely never going to attend.
Finally, don’t become reliant on automation to schedule and confirm appointments.
Use your voice. Not an SMS.
The cost of employing the right person to engage personally with your patients is insignificant compared to the cost of broken appointments that do not get filled, and usually block others being put into those times.
Punishing and threatening patients does not work.
People do business with people they like. Patients will keep appointments if they are made to feel valued and understood.
It’s about the service.
It’s not about the lecture….
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