I think hate is a pretty strong word. In fact there aren't many things I would say I 'hate'. Life is too good to go around hating things, but I have to be honest. I HATE LAST MINUTE CANCELLATIONS AND NO SHOWS!!
How do you deal with them?
Here's how we do it...
We take a CC number for new patients and inform them it is to 'reserve their time'. We tell them it's fine to change their appointment time we just need 24 hour notice, that's all. If we do not receive 24 hour notice we'll charge $40.
Simple right? Let's just end the email here.
Oh no.... that's not where the story ends.
We all know how much patient's like the cancellation fee charge. How often do they call to cancel and we remind them about the cancellation fee, and they gladly accept it? Sometimes, but not very often.
In fact in the past we've had patient's cancel and never reappoint because they got so ticked off with the cancellation fee.
I would venture to say I hate patients leaving our office even more than I do cancellations!
If we tick a patient off then we've lost twice in my book. Even though sometimes that's what my ego or pride wants to do, part of being a leader inside your office is keeping those things in check
So here's what we do....
We let everyone know there's a cancellation fee, even if we never plan to enforce it. This WILL decrease the number of no-shows and last minute cancellations. Patients don't know if you're bluffing or not.
This next step is where we do our best to make lemonade out of the lemons we were just given. When they call and have this wonderful reason why they are cancelling 15 minutes before their appointment, you let them know you understand, and that since they are such a good patient, or that you are so looking forward to meeting them for the first time, that you're going to waive the fee for them this ONE time.
This makes you a hero, and builds up your rapport and trust!
The other option was to maybe get the $40, at the risk of losing the patient, their family, friends, co-workers, etc...for life. Who knows what their lifetime value will be in your practice, or how many people they may refer to you.
Are you willing to take that chance to allow your pride to bask in the sun for 30 seconds by sticking it to them? Most of the time I'm not...even though it would feel good sometimes.
When I'm at the office...it's not about me!
In reality we do a little of both in our office, but I usually err on keeping the patient happy.
Everyone knows about the cancellation policy, but you usually know your patients who are good and something probably really came up, and the ones who could care less about your schedule so you are welcome to pick and choose. Sometimes you even have those patients who you hope may leave your office.
I think it's a very good idea to have the policy in place because it will decrease your last minute cancellations and no shows by a percentage.
Just be wise in how you use it.
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