Tackling No-Shows at Your Veterinary Practice
Client calls in for an appointment.
You set one up.
Client doesn’t show up.
Now not only is that slot wasted, your employees are twiddling their thumbs - which is not what you are paying them for. You are frustrated, you hate it, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I bet it sounds familiar.
Here’s the deal:
No-shows hurt your practice at two ends. You lose a precious client slot, and the productivity of the entire staff goes down as well.
No-shows are an industry-wide problem in the US. And according to a report by AAHA, the vet industry has an 11 % no-show rate.
What does that mean?
It means that out of the 10 appointments your clinic makes every day, one of them won’t show up. It means you are missing out on 250 clients in 250 working days.
The bottom line?
This is wasting a lot of your time and money.
I think you will agree with me when I say that when you have other clients waiting weeks for an appointment, this is inexcusable.
You are literally bleeding money with every missed appointment, and we understand how painful that is.
Well, here’s the good news:
It turns out that with a few simple solutions, no-shows can be reduced to almost zero.
With just a little focus, you can make sure that your clients show up for their appointments. Every single time.
In our ongoing series on how to boost your clinic growth, today, I am going to show you some simple solutions that will reduce no-shows to almost zero.
Sounds too good to be true?
Well, there’s only one way to find out.
But first, let’s explore...
...why do no-shows happen in the first place?
1. Forgetting appointments
We are all busy people. Most clients are not maliciously skipping appointments. Sometimes they remember the wrong date. Sometimes they just forget they even had an appointment.
To counter this, most vet clinics make appointment confirmation calls.
But according to an AAHA report, most confirmation calls go to voicemail and only 14% get checked. So, it is not full-proof.
2. Life getting in the way
Life is messy and complicated. Sometimes, emergencies crop up. A school meeting with the kids, or something at work. Sometimes your client just gets stuck in something they can’t get out of, no matter what.
The bottom line?
Sometimes you can’t do anything to counter no-shows. There is no fix for life, after all.
But hold your horses there.
Here’s what can you do in such cases:
Be patient with your clients. Help them get another appointment asap. And ensure that you have regular communication with them.
A little touch of humanity, patience and kindness can go a long way in client retention.
3. Bad weather blocking your way
If it’s raining incessantly, you should probably not expect clients to show up. Again, this is nobody’s fault, and not something you can control.
But hang on a minute.
You CAN use situations like this to improve overall client experience. That will further help you with client retention.
Look at it this way:
In situations like this, you have an opportunity to take your client experience (CX) a step further.
Inform all your clients about bad weather. Create an alert for everyone. Tell them how the bad weather can affect the route to the clinic. Figure out detours, if any. And if a client can’t make an appointment, offer them a way to reschedule ahead of time.
There is a silver lining to every cloud.
And the best part? You can now hand over that slot to another emergency pop-up.
4. The money problem
Financial problems contribute to a significant portion of no-shows in the industry. For the most part, this one is unavoidable.
But here’s what you can do:
Offer flexible payment plans for clients. Try to be accommodating to your patients.
Again, this will go a long way in client retention and improving CX.
5. Sudden improvement in patient health
Pet gets sick.
Client makes an appointment.
Pet health improves.
No-show at the clinic.
Yes, it’s more common than you think.
Clients often think, “Okay, Charlie is all better now. I don’t need to take him to the vet. "
Again, this cannot be helped - for the most part.
Here’s what you can do in such cases:
In the initial call, if it sounds like the patient has a bug that may improve within 24 hours, ask the client to call and cancel in case that happens.
This will save everybody’s time.
Having examined why no-shows happen, I think we can all agree that no matter the reason, skipped appointments are a headache.
And here’s the real deal:
No shows are costing you. Big time.
Have you ever tracked your no-shows? Have you ever asked yourself, “How much is this client missing their appointment costing me?”
If you are like most practice owners, probably not.
Let’s do some maths to see the effect on no shows on revenue.
If a doctor sees 3,000 patients every year, and the revenue per appointment is $150 – here is the revenue loss per year if the rate of no-shows is:
The bottom line?
No-shows are expensive.
An average clinic with 3 doctors, therefore, loses over $100,000 per year in revenue because of no-shows.
You can turn this upside down.
If you can reduce no-shows by just a few points, ample revenue can be generated from small improvements.
If you bring down the no-show percentage from 11%, here’s how much revenue you can add:
You can add up to $50,000 to your clinic if you just reduce the no-show rate by 3%, from 11% to 8%.
Yeah, you heard it right.
So, the natural question now is – what next?
What should you do to reduce no-shows?
Should you charge clients for missed appointments?
It’s a great way to save some of the money lost, sure.
But at what cost?
People don’t like being told they’re wrong. And you might lose clients with this policy.
How To Prevent No-shows From Happening (Or At Least Reduce Them)
Yup, it’s possible.
Let’s get right to it.
1. Use texts for appointment confirmation.
Remember when we said the solution to prevent clients from forgetting their appointment is sitting in your pocket?
Well, here’s the full story:
The most assured way of reaching your clients is to text them.
Since the introduction of smartphones, it’s become imperative to schedule automated appointment reminders. And very few people miss a text.
Avoid emails – sometimes people don’t check them for days.
Phone calls can be missed if your client is not holding their phone at the exact moment you call (unlikely, we know).
Plus, there’s the additional advantage:
An automated text does not feel too invasive, yet it does the job of giving your client adequate notice.
And you know what’s even better about text reminders?
Most Practice Management Systems already have this feature built-in.
You can also add another layer of security to this whole process.
Request your clients to confirm appointment by sending Y or 1. Give them a deadline to do it.
And if they don’t respond, have someone call and confirm.
Simple, but effective.
2. Make pre-paid appointments an option
Here’s the deal:
People want to get their money’s worth.
If you allow patients to prepay for their appointments, they are much more likely to keep it.
The incentive to show-up is enhanced here. Their money's on the line.
And the secret sauce?
You can offer a small (between 2-5%) discount to clients who pre-pay.
This will encourage them to pre-pay too.
An absolute win-win.
3. Send a “Sorry We Missed You” message
No matter how many measures you employ, sometimes clients will miss an appointment out of forgetfulness.
And if they do, a text may jog their memory.
This will encourage them to reschedule and make another appointment.
But the biggest benefit?
They’re less likely to miss an appointment again.
4. Remind them that the next appointment won’t be available soon
Sometimes you need to remind your clients that getting an appointment is difficult.
Especially if you are a busy practice.
Here’s how you can do this:
Add a tiny line in the automated message that the next appointment won’t be available for, say, another 2 weeks.
This creates a sense of urgency.
If your client knows the next appointment won’t be available for a long time, they are much more likely to keep it.
Which brings me to my next point…
5. Keep wait-time expectations manageable.
Sometimes, clients do show up, but they are late and you have already moved on to the next patient.
It’s often a problem if your clinic has a wait-time of more than 30-minutes.
What can you do in such a situation?
Try to make the wait time more manageable.
Explain why there is a delay.
Avoid unexplained waits.
Inform the patient, well in advance, if there is going to be a delay.
It will save everyone’s time, and you will have a better handle on things, instead of descending into chaos.
Plus, it will improve overall CX.
6. Handle new clients swiftly
New clients often need to fill up a lot of paperwork for the first time.
And if you have heard of the term activation energy, you know that can be a deterrent to keeping an appointment.
But there is a simple way to fix it.
Cut back on no-shows by new clients by emailing them necessary paperwork beforehand.
This way, they won’t spend time on it when they arrive.
7. Use clients’ preferred method for connecting
Sometimes, you can’t get hold of a client over calls.
Others complain that they often miss your text or email.
A quick and easy way to solve the problem of communication is:
Ask you clients what method of communication they prefer.
And this has another benefit:
It will help you personalize your services and improve overall CX.
8. Thank and reward clients who keep appointments
It doesn’t have to be elaborate.
Just send a thank you text when a patient keeps their appointment.
Or give them a discount the next time.
The best part?
By showing clients that you appreciate when they keep appointments, you are encouraging them to keep up the practice in the future too.
9. Schedule appointments as soon as possible
Here’s the thing:
Clients are more likely to forget appointments and become a no-show when the date of the appointment is set out way too far in advance.
Like I said, life happens and sometimes things just slip from your mind.
The solution is simple:
Set up appointment dates as soon as possible.
If the appointment is only a few days ahead, most patients will keep it.
But a word of warning here:
Be careful not to double-book. Keep your expectations realistic.
If you start rushing patients because of overbooking, this can have an adverse effect on your practice and even contribute to negative CX.
10. Improve patient relationships to encourage clients’ commitment to your clinic
Improve overall CX.
Make your services personalized.
Send holiday cards and birthday wishes.
Become a part of your clients’ family.
You have countless opportunities around the year to inculcate a sense of commitment and respect in your clients.
Make them feel valued with your actions.
Because when they feel valued and respected, when they know you are personally interested in the well-being of their furry friend – they are less likely to become a no-show.
These simple solutions can help you cut down no-shows significantly.
But here’s the most important part:
No-shows will happen, no matter what
You can never ensure that every single client who makes an appointment will show up.
No-shows are a part of the service industry.
There’s no way you can circumvent them completely, and there’s no ultimate guide to fully stop them.
But here’s the deal:
90% of the patients are not doing it out of malice.
Life is hard – and sometimes things just slip out of clients’ minds.
A simple reminder, an incentive for showing up, and some prevention tricks can work wonders.
The bottom-line is – quit waiting around for no-shows and take proactive steps to manage them.
Because the sooner you do, the sooner you will be on track to boost the growth of your clinic!