Dentists do it, so can Veterinarians! The Hows and Whys of Forward-Booking Your Veterinary Patient Appointments

by Brandon Hess / January 31, 2019


You’re sitting in the chair, with those pearly whites and a toothbrush in hand. Before you even get out of the seat, what does your dental hygienist do? They hand you a little card with your next dental appointment. It’s not an option, it’s a standard. Facing the same challenges that we do in the veterinary industry, dentists have become known for their amazing forward-booking skills. How do they do it?

What dentists do: three easy steps to successful forward booking

  1. It’s not an option.

    It’s not a “yes” or “no” question. Dental teams take one of two approaches. Approach number one: they give you a day and a few options of times and ask you what works best for you. Approach number two: they just schedule it for the same day of the week at the same time as the current appointment.

    IMPORTANT: The millennial generation (I am one!) hates rejection. So, when we are not trained appropriately and we ask closed-ended questions, more times than not we will get a “no”. Clients will always lean towards “I’ll call you and schedule it” if they are unsure.

  2. Schedules don’t matter.

    They don’t let the fact that they don’t know their dentists’ schedules hold them back. A dentist’s office has no idea who is going to be working a year from now. If a client wants to book with a specific person, the staff puts it in the notes and handles it when they send the appointment reminder (see point 3).

  3. Reminders.

    Your dentist’s office reminds you of your appointment at least a month ahead of time. That way, if you need to reschedule, they have plenty of time to fill that spot. Not doing a month-ahead reminder increases the chances of no-call-no-shows or open spots that should be filled.

With these 3 easy steps you should have no problem getting your forward-booking rate to 40-50%. Prior to VetSuccess reports it was nearly impossible to find your forward-booking rate. Now that it is measurable, we are seeing practice averages go up. According to Brenda Tassava’s 2017 blog, the forward-booking rate benchmark was 12% at that time. As of November 2018, the average is 17%. While not an amazing increase, it shows us that since we are able to measure this now, practices are starting to catch on to the importance. Yet, why is it still so low?

a calendar for forward-booking

Why do forward-booking rates continue to be so low in the veterinary industry?

a vet writing with a patient in the backgroundThe main reason the benchmark is so low is because the standard usage of forward-booking up until this point has been getting boosters and re-checks on the schedule. It’s been almost like I’m from an entirely different planet whenever I’ve discussed scheduling anything more than 3-4 months out with veterinary teams. I’ve seen the panic on people’s faces. Yet, after talking to them for 15 minutes, and getting past the roadblocks of doctors’ schedules and staff buy-in, I’ve been able to gain understanding of the business impact that forward booking can have.

What are the benefits of forward booking appointments?

Not only is it essentially guaranteed revenue in the future, but forward booking also:

  • Minimizes your lapsing and lapsed patient rates (those patients that you haven’t seen in 14+ months).
  • Increases your compliance rates (measurable on the Preventive Care Snapshot).
  • Reduces the number of day-of appointment requests you get; because they are already booked!
  • Reduces the amount that you have to spend on reminders; because they are already booked!
Not only does forward booking veterinary appointments guarantee future revenue, it increases bonding rates, retention, increases patient compliance and provides better customer service! Click To Tweet

How to get started with forward booking your veterinary patients

forward-booking staff meeting in a box cover

Where do you start?

Well, step one is to educate your team on the “why” of forward booking. The “why” shouldn’t be about the financial impact on the practice—it should focus on how forward booking provides better customer service and increases patient compliance. VetSuccess offers a Forward-Booking Toolkit to help with this.

Step two, set goals. Staff love incentives and competition. Forward booking is a team task. It must be started with the medical team and finished, or confirmed, by the front desk team. Click To Tweet Set monthly or quarterly goals for your hospital and reward your staff when they achieve them.

Forward booking is a customer service standard that the industry is starting to recognize, but few have taken the time to implement. Set yourself apart from your competitors and incorporate this simple step into your customer service flow. Your clients will thank you!

 


Brandon Hess CVPM, CCFP is an Associate Consultant with VetSupport  and a founding member of the Southwestern Ohio Veterinary Management Association. He can be reached at brandon@vetsupport.com.

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