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5 Tips to Prevent No-Shows

Updated: May 4

There are few things more frustrating than when a client fails to show up for a scheduled appointment. Not only does it impact your staff’s daily schedule, but it’s also a hit to your bottom line. There a plenty of reasons clients give for skipping appointments, but the most common, by far, is that they simply forgot.

Life gets busy. Days fly by. Keeping track of everything on an already jam-packed schedule can be challenging. That’s why it’s up to your clinic to take action so you stay top of mind and reduce the risk of no-shows. Here’s how you can improve the numbers at your practice.

Confirm Right Away

Many practices hand out appointment cards when a client schedules a future appointment. These are all fine and well, assuming the client will go straight home and place the card prominently where it can serve as an ongoing reminder. In reality, these physical confirmations frequently end up lost or misplaced, and the client ends up forgetting anyway.

To prevent this, we recommend sending a confirmation electronically via text or email immediately after the appointment has been scheduled. This will enable the client to easily and automatically add the appointment to their online calendar. And most of the calendar apps on our phones or computers feature built-in reminders, so this will complement your own efforts to keep your clients abreast of their upcoming appointments.

Don’t Wait

Let’s say a client whose puppy just had her last checkup is now ready to book an appointment for her spay procedure a month from today. If you wait until a few days before the surgery to remind the client, there’s a good chance it’ll need to be rescheduled. And while this is certainly better than an actual no-show, it’s still a hassle for your scheduling team.

To avoid this, send more than one reminder in the weeks and days leading up to the appointment. A simple email or text message should do. We recommend scheduling these reminders as follows:

  1. Immediately upon booking;

  2. One week prior to the appointment;

  3. Two days ahead of the appointment;

  4. The morning of the appointment (along with any instructions, if applicable).

Perform Pre-Anesthetic Testing at the Time of the Booking

One reason a client may no-show is that they’ve simply decided to put off a particular procedure or surgery. In reality, if you’ve recommended it, chances are it’s important that the client stick to the schedule and bring their pet in.

A great way to ensure this is to perform things like pre-anesthetic bloodwork at the time the client books the procedure. This gets the ball rolling and sends the message that everything is already in process, which will improve the odds of the client following through. Plus, it’ll save you and your team time.

Encourage Clients to Sign Consent Forms in Advance

Getting signatures on consent forms and treatment recommendations at the time of diagnosis will not only allow your team to avoid the time waste of doing so the day of a procedure, but it’ll also provide written commitment that the client is going to show up.

If you don’t feel comfortable having clients fill out paperwork at the time of booking, an alternative would be to send all necessary forms and instructions via email. You can then follow up with a text reminding them of the appointment, letting them know you’ve sent the forms and prompting them to confirm that they’ll definitely be there on the date of treatment.

Personalize Your Communications

Another powerful and effective way to increase client compliance is to make appointment reminders stand out. Rather than simply sending a generic, cookie-cutter reminder, consider personalizing your confirmation communications. This nurtures the connection between your team and the client. And, as we all know, those relationships can really make all the difference.

We suggest having the doctor and/or practice manager write a personal message, such as “We loved spending time with {pet name} the other day and look forward to seeing her again on {date}.” It may seem simple, but it can go a long way toward developing that lifelong loyalty to your practice.

At the end of the day, no-shows are a part of the service industry, and veterinary clinics are no exception. By following the above tips and developing a solid no-show prevention policy, you can dramatically reduce the number of missed appointments and keep your book of business full.

Our Advice on Prevent No-Shows in 2024

Why do veterinary clients miss appointments?

Veterinary clients commonly miss appointments due to forgetfulness amidst busy schedules. Despite receiving appointment cards, physical reminders are often misplaced. Additionally, procrastination or hesitancy to proceed with procedures contributes to no-shows. To counteract this, clinics must implement proactive measures. Sending immediate electronic confirmations allows clients to integrate appointments into their calendars promptly. Timely reminders via email or text, starting from booking, reinforce commitment. Performing pre-anesthetic testing upon scheduling instills a sense of progress, while encouraging advanced consent forms secures commitment. Personalized communication fosters client connection, reducing the likelihood of missed appointments and ensuring a full schedule.

What's the best timing for appointment reminders?

The best timing for appointment reminders involves a strategic sequence. Send the first confirmation immediately upon booking to ensure clients add the appointment to their calendars promptly. Follow up with reminders one week prior, two days ahead, and finally, on the morning of the appointment. This staggered approach keeps the appointment top of mind without overwhelming clients. Additionally, including any relevant instructions in the final reminder ensures clients are well-prepared for their visit, reducing the likelihood of missed appointments and streamlining the scheduling process for veterinary practices.

Should you charge a fee for no-shows?

Implementing a fee for no-shows can be an effective strategy to reduce missed appointments, as it incentivizes clients to prioritize their scheduled visits. However, it's essential to carefully consider the potential impact on client relationships. While fees may deter future no-shows, they could also lead to dissatisfaction or reluctance to return. Veterinary practices should weigh the benefits of reducing no-shows against the potential consequences for client loyalty. Alternatively, focusing on proactive measures like personalized reminders and streamlined scheduling processes may address the root causes of missed appointments without the need for punitive measures.

How do you handle clients who repeatedly miss appointments?

Consistently missed appointments pose challenges for veterinary practices, impacting scheduling and revenue. Implementing a structured approach is crucial. Start by having a conversation with the client to understand their reasons for missing appointments. Provide gentle reminders about the importance of keeping scheduled visits and discuss the impact of their absences. Consider implementing a no-show policy, clearly outlining consequences for repeated missed appointments. Offer alternative scheduling options or reminder methods to accommodate their needs. Ultimately, maintaining open communication and finding mutually beneficial solutions can help address this recurring issue while preserving the client-practice relationship.

Are there certain types of appointments that are more prone to no-shows?

Yes, certain types of appointments are more prone to no-shows, such as routine check-ups or non-emergency procedures. Clients may perceive these appointments as less urgent, leading to a higher likelihood of forgetting or rescheduling. Emergencies or procedures requiring pre-authorization are typically less prone to no-shows due to their immediate nature and the client's heightened sense of urgency. Understanding these patterns allows veterinary practices to tailor their appointment reminder strategies and policies to minimize no-show rates for different appointment types, ultimately optimizing scheduling efficiency and revenue.

For more practice management tips, tricks, and expert advice, bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh content.

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