Lets face it… we are all human, and have a lot on our plates. I am sure every single one of us has forgotten an appointment, or double booked our schedule. So as a practice, how do you take in to account human error?
Here are a few ways to remind patients of their appointments, and encourage re-booking when something else comes up.
1. Call your patients and remind them.
–Everyone needs a reminder now and then, and we find that it works best when it comes a few days in advance. When you call your patients the day or heaven forbid the night before, often times this is too late to move around schedules when double booking has happened, and typically the dental appointment loses in the priority game.
2. Don’t expect your patients to call you back.
–As previously mentioned… people are busy. If you rely on your patients to give you a call when they have a free moment, it might not happen for several months. Have a list of patients to call back and schedule, or reschedule.
At Dental Game Plan, every appointment booked is followed up with by our call center operators when the patient cancels, or is simply a no show. We find that speaking to the patient, that we pursue, allows us to reschedule, find out why the appointment was not kept, and helps us to better ourselves when it was not kept for a specific reason on the office’s part (i.e. not getting an appointment soon enough in an emergency case).
3. Do not be afraid to be tough.
–When extending a promotional deal (low prices) to a new client, do not be afraid to ask them to pay in advance, especially when a large block of time will be held for their appointment. This will ensure that you have a patient booked who will most likely show up. It also is reassuring to the patient that no hidden fees are associated with the visit. We find this works best in non-emergency cases, such as routine cleanings. However when a patient is coming in for an unknown visit, like a tooth ache, it makes it nearly impossible to ask them to pay anything upfront.
–When you have a existing patient no-show, or cancel, remind them of your cancellation policy. Of course use discretion, but when you have a repeat offender, applying a no show fee or late cancellation fee is acceptable. Many offices use a three strike system, and the patients who come to the office are informed on the policy, and warned when they have used up a “strike”.
4. Tracking your results.
–Companies like Dental Game Plan track your monthly results. Each appointment made is followed up with through the office to be sure that the patient made it to their appointment. If they did not, the call center follows up with the patient to see if rescheduling can happen.
Knowing that people are busy, and your office is also busy, makes having a third party company who tracks your appointments and no- shows very beneficial to everyone involved.
Often times when a patient calls in to your office directly, they are greeted with a busy receptionist with a lot on their plate. Most likely scenario is they are probably sitting in front of a patient that is waiting to be checked in or out, and they have 5 other telephone lines ringing to be picked up.
Of course we know your office cares deeply about each and every patient that comes in to see you. Moreover, you we know you care about the overall customer experience and how that translates to long-term success for your practice in the form of loyal clientele and glowing reviews online. The question is; are your office staff currently doing what is necessary for you to realize these goals for every, single person that picks up the phone and dials your number?
In our abundant experience we’ve learned that the main reason(s) a new patient calls is to book a routine appointment, an emergency appointment, or get a quote on a service. At Dental Game Plan, our operators are never too busy to answer even the most long-winded questions a potential patient can come up with. We’re thorough, kind, understanding and above all good listeners — when it’s all said and done our goal is to get them to come in to your office for a new patient consultation or exam.
We like to think of any patient that actually calls in for an cleaning, exam or other routine appointment, as “gold-star” patient. If handled correctly, these patients will be return patients, or patients that show up on your online review sites — and know the value and importance of regular oral maintenance. We typically pass these patients directly to the office to book an appointment, and know a bit of a wait for the appointment will usually not be a big deal.
When an emergency patient calls in for an appointment, we always like to get them in as soon as possible. Sometimes a “tomorrow appointment” will automatically result in a hang-up. Having space in your schedule, every single day, for these inevitable calls is of utmost importance. Though, they are not always return patients, they will know you will be there for them if they need you again.
We know that prices given over the phone are valuable to the patient, but they can often be inaccurate, and exaggerated. Having the patient come in for a free exam is a huge benefit to the patient, and your office.
When you receive a quote for a service, what is the first thing you do? Whether it be auto, home repair, or a medical expense, you typically call around for a second quote. If your office is giving quotes, without seeing the patient, and your quote turns out to be too high, or too low, you will have an unhappy patient, guaranteed.
At Dental Game Plan, we believe the most important thing to do with a potential new patient is relay a general, honest sense of care for their comfort and well-being. We have staffed our call-center with people whose main goal is to be there for your potential patients-in-need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our compassionate operators always ensure that callers know we believe their time to be valuable, that we care about their financial situation and are sensitive to any extenuating fears or anxiety.
Booking a new patient appointment, for you (our client) is our number one goal; however, we always go that little bit extra, to show callers that our focus is 100% on them — we want to make that first impression the foundation for a quality long-term relationship.