Our lives are busier than ever, it seems, and it's all too easy for pet owners to overlook their follow-up appointments and annual exams. For the benefit of their pets as well as your practice, try putting a system in place for reminding and encouraging clients to keep their appointments. 

Schedule your client's next appointment before he or she leaves your hospital, "reserving" the next visit before checkout. Follow up with a reminder postcard to help ensure the appointment is kept.

If you're experiencing a high volume of missed or canceled appointments, a reminder phone call can be more effective, even if you just leave a message. It's harder for your clients to ignore a personal contact from your office.

Use these guidelines when placing reminder phone calls or handling cancellations: 

Appointment reminders

  • Be specific. Provide details about the appointment when calling with a reminder. For example: "Hello, Mrs. Taylor. This is Mary from ABC Animal Hospital. I'm calling to remind you that we have an appointment reserved for Snowy on Friday, June 12 at 12:30 p.m. for his annual exam and vaccinations. We look forward to seeing both of you on Friday. Thank you."
  • Instill a sense of commitment. Use phrases that encourage your client to honor the time you have set aside, such as, "We have reserved this time especially for Snowy."
  • Build value. Use words that communicate the value of the appointment and give it greater urgency. Some examples include annual exam, vaccinations, geriatric exam, regular physical exam for suspicious lumps
  • Do not offer an opportunity to cancel. Don't say, "If you have to cancel your appointment, please call us 24 hours in advance." This is an invitation to reschedule. 
  • Be prepared. Have two alternative appointment times at hand when calling in case the client must reschedule.

Canceled appointments

  • Encourage clients to keep appointments. When a client calls to cancel, ask if there is any way he or she can make the original appointment. Many will choose to bring their pets in as scheduled, or at least they will be less inclined to cancel in the future. But only use this approach if you believe keeping the appointment will not genuinely create a hardship for your client. 
  • Reschedule cancellations immediately. If your client cannot keep the original appointment, immediately reschedule if possible. Remind the client how important the appointment is for his or her pet. 
  • Record cancellations. Note in the patient record each time a client cancels, breaks, or is late for an appointment. For clients who chronically abuse the office schedule, consider charging a cancellation or late fee to compensate for lost production time.

By establishing a routine follow-up system and using these guidelines for increasing your client recall rate, you will likely see a meaningful improvement to your overall level of production. 

To learn more about Wells Fargo Practice Finance, call your financing specialist at 866-4MY-PAWS (866-469-7297) or visit us at wellsfargo.com/veterinarians

All financing is subject to credit approval. 
©2015 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Wells Fargo Practice Finance is a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

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