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No Shows No More – How to Prevent No-Show Appointments

Updated: 4 hours ago

It’s one of the most frustrating aspects of running your veterinary practice: a client schedules an appointment, then doesn’t show up at the pre-arranged time.

This is more than a waste of your and your staff’s time. It means that you’re losing revenue! That same time slot could have been used to book another appointment, ultimately getting other pets the care they desperately need and resulting in a financial gain for your practice.

So, what can you do to prevent no-shows?

Did you know that the average rate of no-shows across all practices is around 9%? That’s TOO high! Ideally, you’ll want to aim for a baseline no-show percentage of 5%, if not lower.

The question is…

What strategies can you implement today to stop no-show appointments from occurring? How do you make a client realize that your staff and veterinarians’ time is valuable and can’t be wasted?

DVMelite took on this problem in a recent Breakthrough Ideas Call, and we offer several strategies to keep your clients coming in and keep your revenue flowing.

Relationship Building is KEY!

Your front desk is the first line of defense against no-show appointments. So much rides on that first call with a client and the RELATIONSHIP built from there.

Go beyond simple niceties — your front desk staff must make an emotional connection to the caller. This way, your customer feels like much more than a number or appointment slot.

Instead of…

“We’ll see you at 11:00 on Thursday.”


“Dr. Jones and the team will be waiting to see you and Fluffy on Thursday at 11:00. We can’t wait to meet you!”

This puts an emphasis on the doctor and staff’s valuable time, while also putting a name and face to the front-desk staff. Your customer will feel that they don’t want to let the practice down, and they’re much more likely to keep that appointment!

Here’s another idea:

One thing that no one likes — especially your clients — is paperwork. While setting up an appointment over the phone, try:

“Puppies can be excited for their first exam… let’s get your paperwork done

ahead of time!”

This allows you to get your client’s email address and send the initial paperwork before their appointment even begins. Put the pet’s name in the subject line to help secure the emotional connection that’s so important.

BONUS TIP: now that you have your customer’s email address, you can add them to your mailing list!

The Scarcity Effect

Make your product MORE EXCLUSIVE. Don’t give the impression that you have a wide-open calendar for appointments… it doesn’t make your staff’s time seem valuable.

Your front-desk staff can say something like…

“We have a few slots available on [this day] and [this day], do either of those work for you?”

If the customer can only make it in on a certain day or time, try…

“Let me see if we have anything available that day.”

By making your client feel LUCKY that they got an appointment while still working with them to schedule a time that works for everyone, you’re creating the effect of scarcity. It’s all about the value of your time!

Try reminding customers about any special promotions you may be running, especially when it comes to limited-time offers. This helps reinforce the message of scarcity even more!

The Value of Technology

One of the best ways to prevent no-shows and reduce your missed-appointment rate is with electronic reminders. Text-message reminders can reduce no-shows by more than 30%! Reminder calls and emails before appointments are also great ideas.

Remember this rule: the more contact, the BETTER!

Clients who receive a text reminder are THREE TIMES more likely to cancel in an appropriate amount of time, rather than skip their appointment without notice. This is a benefit to your practice — when you know a client isn’t coming, you can prepare accordingly and prevent loss of revenue!

Should I Charge for No-Shows?

As a general rule, it’s not recommended that you charge a client when they don’t show up for an appointment. The risk here is that the client can quickly go online and trash-talk you and your practice!

It’s not worth the potential for negative reviews — unless you’re a very busy practice that isn’t worried about losing clientele, only consider charging for no-shows and holding credit cards as a last resort.

One thing you can try is adding a line item at the bottom of your paperwork about charging for no-show appointments. You don’t have to actually enforce the rule… the fact that it’s there in the fine print shows the client that your time is valuable!

Here’s one exception: if you have a particular problem with clients not showing for elective surgeries like spays and neuters, you might consider asking for a small deposit ahead of that appointment. It’s a huge revenue and time-waster to have doctors and staff scrub in for surgery, get rooms prepared, clean and sterilize equipment… all to have the client skip their appointment!

The Power of LANGUAGE

Sometimes, clients show up for the initial appointment, but skip the follow-up exam. One way of preventing this is with the power of your front-desk language.

Instead of…

“Let’s schedule Fluffy’s re-check exam.”


“Let’s get Fluffy’s progress exam scheduled.”

Phrases like “re-check” and “follow-up” give a sense that the appointment is optional. Eliminate this feeling by saying “progress exam.” Re-check sounds redundant and not entirely necessary… progress sounds essential.

Let’s review…

Here are six quick takeaways to help you make no-shows a thing of the past:

  1. Aim for a baseline no-show rate of 5% – any higher and you’re losing too much revenue…

  2. Build relationships with your clients – when the emotional connection is there, your client won’t want to let the practice down. Emphasize the doctor’s name during calls and reminders to highlight value

  3. Create scarcity. When your service seems more exclusive, clients aren’t likely to skip appointments…

  4. The more contact, the BETTER! Use text reminders, phone calls, email, etc. to remind your client of their appointment…

  5. Don’t risk charging for no-shows – be proactive in preventing the problem…

  6. Use the right language while scheduling appointments – don’t let your client think the appointment is optional!

Why waste any more of your staff’s precious time? STOP losing revenue because of no-show appointments TODAY. Implement these proactive strategies, and you’re not just saving money — you’re fostering a culture of growth and success!

It All Starts with Your Dream Team

Do you need some help creating an all-star team? Sign up for the Dream Team Builder now so your practice can reap the benefits of:

  1. A great team culture;

  2. An on-call HR counselor;

  3. A hiring pool of only A-players.

Finally, you’ll be able to:

  1. Enjoy coming to work with a staff who’s happy to be there;

  2. Let an HR expert handle staffing issues so you don’t get mired in them;

  3. Hire only top-notch candidates – without sifting through stacks of resumes.

Ready to get started? Contact our Dream Team Builders now at 800-469-1871. We’re here to help you succeed!

Our Advice on How to Prevent No-Show Appointments in 2024

What is the impact of no-show appointments on the overall stress levels and morale of veterinary staff?

No-show appointments significantly impact the stress levels and morale of veterinary staff. These absences disrupt the daily workflow, leading to unutilized time and lost revenue, which can demoralize the team. Continually adapting to such unpredictability strains staff, as it complicates scheduling and resource allocation, ultimately increasing workplace stress. Over time, this can erode the sense of reliability and predictability that staff depend on for a stable work environment, thus affecting their overall job satisfaction and commitment to the practice.

What role can online booking systems play in reducing no-shows?

Online booking systems are instrumental in reducing no-shows in veterinary practices by enhancing appointment management and client communication. These systems facilitate convenient, 24/7 booking, which increases client engagement and commitment. Automated reminders via text or email, integral to these platforms, significantly reduce forgetfulness, a primary cause of no-shows. By allowing clients to easily reschedule or cancel, these systems help manage and fill vacant slots more efficiently, thereby maintaining a smoother operational flow and minimizing lost revenue due to unattended appointments.

How far in advance should practices send out appointment reminders for maximum effectiveness?

For maximum effectiveness, veterinary practices should send out appointment reminders at two specific intervals: a week before the appointment and then a day prior. The initial reminder a week ahead allows clients enough time to adjust their schedules or cancel if necessary, facilitating better slot re-allocation by the practice. The subsequent reminder a day before serves as a final prompt, reinforcing the appointment's importance and reducing the likelihood of no-shows. This dual-reminder strategy has proven effective in maintaining client commitment and optimizing the practice's schedule management.

Should practices have a written policy on handling no-shows that is shared with all clients?

Yes, practices should have a written policy on handling no-shows that is clearly communicated to all clients. This policy sets expectations upfront, enhancing accountability among clients while providing a framework for the practice to manage absences consistently. By articulating consequences such as potential fees or the requirement for deposits on specific services, clients are more likely to prioritize attendance or notify the practice in advance of cancellations. Sharing this policy during initial visits or through practice literature ensures clients are informed, reducing misunderstandings and fostering a respectful and professional relationship.

What impact does offering prepayment or package deals have on no-show rates for elective procedures?

Offering prepayment or package deals significantly reduces no-show rates for elective procedures in veterinary practices. These financial commitments act as a tangible incentive for clients to attend scheduled appointments, as they have already invested in the service. Furthermore, package deals encourage clients to perceive a higher value and commitment to a series of treatments, enhancing adherence to treatment plans. This strategy not only secures revenue upfront but also improves scheduling efficiency and resource allocation, leading to a more stable and predictable practice operation.

Want more practice management tips and tricks? Bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh, relevant content.

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