Currently, the trend for clients needing a veterinary appointment is to treat the process like they are booking a reservation at PF Chang’s. The general concept is to book a reservation, but if you don’t want to wait that long, you call around. Eventually—maybe two to three reservations later—you find that there is no wait at Olive Garden, so you head right over, forgetting to call the other restaurants and let them know.
I imagine the initial restaurants are having a “Bueller? Bueller?” moment when they call out the reservation name over the loudspeaker and no one replies. (Please don’t tell me if you had to Google the Bueller reference. I’m not that old, am I?)
So, how is it that veterinary practices have become similar to restaurants when it comes to no-shows? The reason is clear: People are less loyal and less likely to wait to see their primary veterinary care provider when their pet needs attention. Who can blame them?
But no-shows put tremendous pressure on the veterinary practice when the schedule is unpredictable and other clients are being turned away in anticipation of an appointment that never arrives.
Read on for five tips to minimizing veterinary appointment no-shows.
1: Add the appointment to your client’s calendar
2: Schedule rechecks via telemedicine
Encourage your recheck appointments to schedule a virtual exam.
3: Give your clients options
Your clients will love the convenience of dropping their pet off for an appointment while they run errands, so this will help keep them loyal to your practice.
4: Create space for same-day appointments
One of my favorite ways to eliminate veterinary appointment no-shows is to adopt a first-come, first-served, walk-in strategy for the first one to two hours of your day. That means the early bird gets the worm and you will have the full day to work these cases in if they need diagnostic testing or time-consuming treatment. No reservations are allowed for these slots and no preference is given to anyone, meaning these spots can be used for anything from critically ill pets to nail trims.
5: Ask your clients for a personal commitment
Getting a client to verbally agree that they will let you know if they can’t make it can decrease veterinary appointment no-shows significantly.
This idea comes from a study done in a Chicago restaurant that was experiencing about 30% no-shows. People would call and reserve a table, then 30% of them wouldn’t show up or call to cancel. So, the owner had the receptionist change what she said when she took a booking. Instead of saying, “Please call back if you need to change or cancel your reservation,” she was instructed to ask, “Will you please call if you need to cancel your reservation?” and then pause. The pause was crucial because it allowed people to agree, verbally holding themselves accountable.
By laying a little preemptive guilt trip on your clients for not calling to cancel their veterinary appointment, you can help prevent no-shows.