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Stop making patients think cancellations are normal.
I think we all agree that broken appointments are not good for the practice. Through our investigations into the causes of broken appointments, we’ve discovered many times they could have been avoided if the practice had been more proactive. It's easy to blame broken appointments on the patients and it’s easy to start threatening a broken appointment fee. I believe practices have a lot more control than they may realize.
The actions and words of the dental team may make patients think cancellations are normal. Using the word “cancellation” when speaking to patients can actually train the patients to think it’s okay to cancel.
I recommend that you take “cancellation” out of your vocabulary. Inform the entire team that you guys will not be using it in the office. Stop saying things like, “If we get a cancellation we’ll give you a call,” or “we’ll probably get a cancellation this week and we’ll be able to get you in.” You want patients to think that it rarely if ever happens.
Stop calling patients and saying something like, “Hi Susan, this is Mary from Dr. Green’s office. We had a few cancellations for next week and I was just wondering if you guys could come in.” This verbiage sends a message to the patients that schedule changes are normal and the practice expects them to happen.
If you call patients that requested an earlier appointment date when scheduling, try saying something like, “I've worked it out so that we can see you sooner.” If you are trying to fill open spots on the schedule you can say something like, “We had a change in the schedule.”
If you want patients to think canceling an appointment is something that rarely happens in your practice, take the word cancellation out of your vocabulary. You see, if you expect cancellations, chances are you will get cancellations.