One of the most popular questions I hear from dental practice owners is how do I reduce the number of no-shows for my free dental implant consultations. They may well already have strategies in place to reduce their last minute cancellations and no shows for existing patients but acknowledge it’s a different proposition for when the patient has never previously visited their practice. Here’s how I typically answer this question based on my experience working with dentists offering implants.
Generating qualified dental implant enquiries day in and day out means I’m continuously exposed to what works and what doesn’t. No-shows are a problem in the dental industry, there’s no getting away from this fact. In my experience, the frustration is understandable and widespread. Fortunately, there are many ways to stack the odds in your favour, so as you experience minimal no-shows. Unquestionably you can definitely create a cost effective solution to this problem that works for both you and the patient. Furthermore, a solution that complements your existing dental practice operations.
Working through these recommendations will lead to more patients scheduling an appointment with you and as a result turn up for their free consultation more times than they would have otherwise.
Why No-Shows Happen And 15 Ways How To Stop Them
Common reasons for no-shows include forgetfulness and miscommunication. Some happen due to a schedule conflict and other times it may be down to life getting in the way, like a broken car, illness or an issue at work.
It’s a fact, some no-shows are inevitable. Therefore you can’t completely eliminate patient no-shows. With that said let’s discuss what tactics you can use to decrease the number of people that have been motivated to fill in a detailed online application and then decide not to show up for other reasons.
Below I have outlined 15 ways to reduce your first appointment no-shows. Every practice should select some or all of these strategies to reduce the number of no-shows.
It’s frustrating to pay for a qualified dental implant lead, only to not have them show up for their booked consultation. They filled in the full application explained their dental problems, confirmed they wouldn’t waste the dentist’s time, booked an appointment and then didn’t show up. They sound positive on the phone but ultimately they ended up wasting your valuable time. This sucks! It’s time to make some changes.
I recommend implementing the following strategies to reduce no-shows :
1. Email Patients With Transport Details In Written And Video Formats
Always follow up the call you make to schedule the first appointment with an email explaining their transport options e.g train, tube, taxi, car and bus. Give them a detailed explanation, using email and direct mail, on how to visit your practice using various modes of transport. This is key to overcoming the common objection of not knowing exactly where you are and as a consequence deciding the travel is more hassle than it’s worth.
It’s strongly recommended you create a series of videos describing the journey to your practice from the nearest train station, bus stop and car park. If your practice is particularly difficult to find these should be created as soon as possible. Furthermore, these videos should be posted on your social media channels such Youtube, Facebook and Instagram as part of your social and content marketing strategy.
Your new patient needs to feel like they can easily find you. To facilitate this it’s your job to over deliver on giving them resources that allow them to plan their journey effortlessly. Seize this opportunity to build trust and strengthen the relationship by being extremely helpful. As part of these videos you have the opportunity to display your relaxed waiting room with a welcome message from the implant dentist.
Often at the last moment, a prospect will blame public transportation for not showing up. It’s a popular excuse, but one you can address before it’s made.
Finally, equip them with your phone number so as it’s easy to ring you in case they get lost or want to let you know they are running late.
2. Build A Rapport And Engage With Your Patients From The Start
Engage with your prospects from the very start. The moment they complete their application for a free dental implant consultation it’s your job to build rapport. You can start to establish a relationship by embedding a thank you video on the page they are redirected to when they submit their application.
My dental clients record incoming calls to track the lead source, but also to review whether their front desk staff are establishing rapport with new patients. Often the best way to make a strong connection is by asking the patient to elaborate on the problems they have listed in their written application and respond in caring and personal manner.
Excellent patient engagement is just as important as the actual care.
3. Spot Trends And Reasons Your Patients Aren’t Showing Up
Are you analysing patient visit data? It’s crucial you spot trends and the reasons why patients aren’t showing up for their free consultations. I advise my dental clients to track the reasons prospective patients don’t turn up for their appointments over a 3 – 6 month period. In short, be relentless in your questioning in order to define the trends.
If the patient has a legitimate reason for missing the appointment be understanding and do your best to determine what can be learnt from the experience.
Call or email immediately in order to maintain communication and reschedule their appointment, particularly if they have been pre qualified as a good future patient.
4. Schedule An Appointment At The Most Convenient Time For Your Patient
The online dental implant application asks what days and times are convenient for the dental practice to call them. Thus firstly stick to these times and respect their wishes in making your initial call back to them. Secondly, book the appointment around times that are convenient for them rather than offering your next appointment slot. If inwardly they aren’t happy with the time you set, they will simply not show up.
5. Reduce The Amount Of Time Between When You Book An Appointment And The Time It Happens
Having too much time between the date the appointment is made and the actual appointment is a common reason for no-shows. The longer the wait the more time a patient has to decide they don’t need to see an implant dentist. More time will lead to more unanswered objections.
6. Build Trust By Overcoming Objections In Video Format
Patients are more likely turn up if they feel like they trust you. To achieve this you must first overcome all of their objections. Offering an information pack with email follow up answering popular questions is an effective way to reduce the number of objections.
This strategy can be significantly boosted by publishing video versions of your dental implant questions and answers.
7. Ensure The Patient knows How Long The Consultation Will Last
Your patient has booked a free consultation, but do they actually know how long the appointment will last. If they do, they can plan accordingly and build it into their day with confidence. Without this information, your patient is prone to guessing and not prioritising the consultation.
An informed patient with a clear explanation of what’s going to happen is a winning formula for reducing no-shows.
8. Remove All Price Objections Before The Free Consultation
If the dental implant consultation application form says they are interested in payment plans it’s important to educate the patient on this as soon as possible. Quite simply they are more likely to turn up if payment isn’t an issue. Cost shouldn’t be the elephant in the room. They need to know exactly how they will pay for their implants and confident they can make the payments. You can achieve this by sending the patient a video about your payment plans before the free consultation and following up to see whether they have any questions.
9. Understand How The Law of Reciprocity Makes Someone Return A Favour
You have the opportunity to influence a patient using the law of reciprocity. This law states if you give someone something they will feel obliged to return the favour. Therefore I advise you to establish the fact you are credible and honest with your patient by offering a free consultation with no obligation on their part, except that if they promise to show up they actually will.
They make this promise by confirming it on the application form and confirming verbally during the appointment scheduling call and 24-hour reminder call. You stress this is free, demonstrate you truly care about their problems, send them resources and in return they feel obliged to show up for their appointment.
You are rewarding the behaviour you would like to receive yourself. In doing so setting the right foundations for a strong patient relationship.
I recommend Robert Cialdini’s book called Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion, specifically the chapter titled Reciprocation. Understanding reciprocity, being sincere and not exploiting the situation in a creepy manner can make a huge positive difference in your business.
10. Send A Reminder 24 Hours Before The Appointment Asking For Confirmation
Reminder notifications are crucial to the success of your dental practice. It’s recommended you send a reminder 24 hours before the time of the appointment rather than 48 hours. Patients are less likely to forget with a 24-hour reminder. Ideally, you should make a live call rather than a customised one.
Remember it represents another opportunity to show you care. During the call emphasis the importance of the appointment, you care about their dental problems and stress the reasons why they are coming in for the appointment. Get them to verbally confirm they can make the appointment tomorrow.
This 24-hour reminder can be an automated call or a text if you are unable to make a live call. Using texts you can ask the patient to reply with YES to confirm. No response informs staff to contact the patient directly for confirmation. It maybe the case they have to reschedule.
Text messages almost always get read and for most, it’s the preferred method but it’s good to ask first.
11. Create A Remarkable Experience, One That Truly Makes A Difference
Can you be remarkable from the very start of the patient relationship? Does your new patient immediately notice how different they are treated compared to other businesses? In short are you rapidly shifting their mind-shift to the point they unequivocally want to engage and trust you?
Are you a keen follower of outstanding customer service case studies? I highly recommend you deconstruct your initial consultation processes and determine how you can make them better? Business has changed significantly over the last 15, 10, 5 years. Now is the time to offer world class communication and set yourself apart from the competition. My recommendation is to become a student of content marketing and in particular Marcus Sheridan.
12. Make Live Call Appointment Reminders For Maximum Impact
In sending reminders you have the choice of live calls, automated calls, direct texts, automated texts, and direct mail.
The most effective reminders are live ones. Put yourself in your patient’s shoes. You are more likely to show up for an appointment if your dentist has called you the day before. Equally a friendly personal email or text works better than an automated call.
During this call you can ask if they need help with transport, whether the time still works for them, has anything changed. If it has their free consultation can quickly be rescheduled.
It can be time-consuming making live reminder calls. The disadvantage is it’s a manual process. Ultimately you may, unfortunately, have to leave a voice message if the call isn’t answered. This is because they don’t recognise your number or they are unavailable to take the call.
Making a verbal confirmation on a live call increases the chances of them showing up.
13. Set Up Automated Call Appointment Reminders
Making live calls should always be a priority but in reality, this can’t always be the case. They can easily get forgotten on a busy day. Even if staff have to work on other tasks you can be confident the reminder calls were made with the use of automated customised calls.
You can use call software to deliver professionally personalised messages in a natural voice. These calls include the patient’s name and appointment details. You can also implement software to make calls after hours and at weekends.
They have the advantage of reducing staff overhead. On the downside, they can come across as impersonal and people hang up on them.
14. Use Direct Mail To Educate Your Patient Before Their Consultation
Are you using direct mail to educate your patient before they arrive for their dental implant consultation? Whilst a patient’s inbox may be full, direct mail will get you noticed. It’s standard practice to send appointment cards but I recommend sending out a description of what to expect during their free consultation. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to send a sheet documenting a full set of transport instructions.
15. Notify New Patients Of Your Missed Appointment Charges
Do you agree with the following statement: It’s only right that you are compensated for a no show? My belief is if you have set time aside for a free consultation it’s is reasonable to do this.
Charging a fee for not showing up to an appointment is an effective preventive strategy as long as they have agreed to it in advance. Make it clear during the initial call they have to pay a small flat fee if they cancel too late, whether you decide this is twenty-four or forty-eight hours. It’s crucial they know the consequences of missing their appointment.
The reality is last minute cancellations and no-shows do cost you time and money. They have a negative impact on profitability.
Undoubtedly reducing them is key to growing your business as they directly impact your bottom line. It’s a constant challenge and requires proactive action.
Working through these 15 recommendations you can convert more dental implant consultation applications into actual appointments.