Curbing Cancellations

One of the most frustrating things for a dental front office team is to build a productive schedule only to see it fall apart from cancellation after cancellation.  At times this may happen as cold and flu season takes its toll on patients.  But too often last minute cancellations occur because dental teams “invite the problem.”

First, the mindset for cancelling is often set at the time of scheduling when teams tell patients, “If you need to cancel for any reason, just let us know.”  Or when confirming appointments, team members leave voice messages or send emails with the dental practice phone number and the instructions, “If you need to cancel, please call us.”  Too many times, patients do.

And that leads to the second problem: dental teams make it too easy for patients to move around their appointments.  The main reason patients cancel at the last minute, other than illness, is something has come up and the visit to the dentist seems expendable.  Patients are often trained that if the dental appointment is not convenient for them, they can cancel and get right back in the schedule, sometimes the very next day.

How do you put a stop to this?  Stop making it so easy to reschedule.  If patients are not ill or facing another legitimate challenge, make them wait several weeks or a month to get back in the schedule.  Even if you have twenty openings, do not reschedule the patient right away.  Practices commonly report when you make people wait they often keep their appointment.

Also make sure to remove the word “cancel” from your vocabulary.  Do not set the expectation when you schedule or confirm that the appointment is optional.  Build value for the dental visit, reminding patients you have reserved the time just for them.

You can effectively curb cancellations by retraining your patients.  Although it takes time and effort, the net result is much more rewarding than having to consistently rebuild your schedule.

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