Our office is overwhelmed with patients cancelling their appointments. Most of the patients give reasons related to COVID. We don’t know if that is true but we are running out of patients to fill the schedule and the front desk team and I are frustrated. We don’t necessarily want to fine patients who are legitimately sick but we don’t know what else to do.
Late cancellations have always been the bane of dental practices but the problem has now exploded due to Covid, the usual illnesses and winter weather. I offer extensive training on this issue but it boils down to retraining your patients so that they only cancel when it is absolutely an emergency and not when it is only inconvenient. This means that you need to change your verbiage when scheduling patients so that patients hear your cancellation guidelines each time they make an appointment and they also hear how difficult it will be to reschedule them. “Be sure to keep this appointment, John because we are so booked that I can’t guarantee we’ll be able to find another opening that will work for you.” If patients do cancel, make it just a little bit more difficult; the front desk should not be saying, “Oh, no problem, we have an opening tomorrow,” even if you do. And finally, there is an art to finding patients who can fill an opening. These calls/texts should be less transactional (Hi, can you come in tomorrow?) and more relationship (How are you? We’ve missed you.) You can also consider offering thank you gifts to patients who agree to fill an opening. Contact me for a list of incentive possibilities.