Top 5 Reasons Your Practice Has No-Shows (and What You Can Do About It)

At last check, the industry-wide veterinary no-show rate averaged between 9-11%. That means that even on the lower end, most clinics experience a no-show rate of about one out of every 10 appointments. That adds up to anywhere between 23 and 29 missed appointments per year.

What all of this really boils down to is lost revenue. In order to reduce this risk, it’s important to first understand what’s actually causing these no-shows to occur in the first place. Only then can you take the appropriate measures to avoid them down the road. Let’s take a look.

Reason #1 – They forget.

Life gets hectic. Keeping up with appointments can be tough, which is why client forgetfulness is the number one reason for no-shows. Admit it – it’s happened to the best of us. Thankfully, there’s a pretty straightforward solution to this, and that is scheduling reminders.

Providing a courtesy confirmation call a few days prior to a scheduled appointment can be enough to keep the majority of your forgetful clients on track and cut down on costly no-shows. Beyond just phoning, however, text confirmations or push notifications can be even more effective, as they eliminate the risk of a missed voicemail message.

Reason #2 – Last minute issues or emergencies crop up.

Unexpected situations arise for everyone, including your clients. In fact, last minute problems or emergencies are the second most common reason for veterinary visit no-shows. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton you can do to prevent these scenarios from occurring in the first place. You can, however, make an effort to drive home the importance of calling ahead to cancel (whenever feasible).

You should also have a plan in place for managing those unavoidable situations when a client simply can’t keep their appointment. Be understanding and flexible, and do your best to reschedule them as soon as possible.

Reason #3 – Their sick pet gets better.

When a sick pet takes a turn for the better and his or her health appears to improve, a client may feel that their scheduled appointment is no longer necessary. Ideally, your clients will be courteous enough to pick up the phone and call in to cancel in advance, but we all know this isn’t always the case.

You and your team can reduce the chances of no-shows by specifically requesting that they call if anything changes. For instance, when your receptionist is on the phone scheduling the appointment, a simple reminder to call in and update if the pet starts to feel better can do wonders.

Reason #4 – Financial constraints.

Like it or not, keeping a pet healthy costs money, and for clients struggling with finances, this looming expense can be enough to result in a no-show. For instance, a client may simply no longer have the funds today to cover the appointment he or she booked six months earlier.

There are a few different strategies for addressing this no-show reason, and the approach you take will ultimately depend on your preferences and your practice policies. One option is to offer payment plans to accommodate those who may be experiencing financial difficulties. You could also promote the use of pet insurance to help defray some of the costs and make your care more affordable. At the very least, try to be understanding.

Reason #5 – Bad weather.

Depending on where your practice is located, inclement weather can have an impact on whether or not your clients will keep their appointments. Like emergencies, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to avoid a weather situation, but thanks to the increasing accuracy of meteorologists, you can prepare for such an event in advance.

When bad weather is in the forecast, plan ahead by sending out a notice to all of the clients who are scheduled for visits. Politely request that they call ahead if they are not going to make their appointments and then use the available slots to handle last minute emergencies.

While there’s no way to prevent no-shows entirely, there are certain practices that you can implement to help keep them at a minimum. Remember that communication is the most important factor. If you take a proactive approach and treat your clients with respect, they’ll be much more likely to return the favor by calling ahead when they can’t make it in to the clinic.

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