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Forward Booking at your veterinary practice? Seriously..why wouldn't you?

Posted in Operations @ Sep 26th 2019 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
Forward Booking At Your Veterinary Practice Seriously Why Wouldnt You

Do you always re-schedule the client's next visit before they leave your veterinary practice?

I originally wrote this blog post back in 2015 and it came to mind again when I went to the dentist this week. This time Practice Manager Belinda, made my next appointment BEFORE I'd even paid. And again, I didn't think twice, in fact I had my phone out and was swiping through to the correct month before she'd even mentioned the next appointment.

How good's that? I've been trained by my dentist's Practice Manager to almost make my own next booking BEFORE I even pay my account - brilliant!

So if you're still not forward booking.... what's your excuse?

Now back to the original (& now updated) blog post....

The dvm360 blog post ‘VHMA Files: Forward thinking (How to use forward booking for your practice) discussesd the results of a survey on ‘forward booking’ – or scheduling the client’s next visit before they leave the practice.

We’re not talking about follow up or progress exams here, as of course you’re going to forward book them. We’re talking about rescheduling a pet’s next wellness or preventative exam and according to the survey, 40% of respondents don’t do it!

So my question is… “Why the heck not?”

The dvm360 post reported that 31% of practice who don't forward book “..were sceptical about their clients going along with the practice of advance booking.”

 Ahhh so it’s my fault then ….no wait…..what??

You do realise that forward booking is actually a service to me (the client) don't you?

By helping me to make my next appointment you've taken away one more thing that I have to remember to do.  

And even more importantly, you do know that I'm already quite well trained in the concept of forward booking?

As already mentioned, I don’t leave the dentist without making a forward booking – ever. And it’s not me requesting it. I know Belinda wouldn’t let me out the door without another appointment being made. Of course I could question whether it’s really necessary for me to bring my children to the dentist every 6 months considering neither of them have any fillings or have needed any treatment other than a clean – but I don’t because it’s been ingrained in me that we need to visit the dentist every 6 months.

It's been ingrained in me to make regular appointments for myself and my children to visit the dentist even though we have absolutely NO issues with our teeth. We know, and willingly accept, that we visit the dentist every 6 months to keep our teeth clean and to stop small problems becoming big problems. And who has ingrained this habit into us? My dentist of course – the person I trust about all information toothy.

So if you honestly believe that the best care for my pet involves 6 monthly wellness/preventative check-ups then educate me by firmly offering a forward booking before I leave your practice. 

I say ‘firmly’ because you tentatively suggesting “Maybe you might like to book another check-up in 6 months?” isn’t going to cut it.  Belinda never ‘suggests’ that I forward book my next dentist appointment. After we’ve sorted out the payment (and sometimes before!) her next sentence is “So for your next appointment – does a Tuesday afternoon still suit you best?”

I know we're all busy and who knows what we’ll be doing in 6 months time? But that never deters Belinda. We make an appointment both knowing that she'll call me to confirm one to two days ahead of the appointment and if it needs to be changed (which, let’s face it, is often the case with busy family commitments) it’s never a hassle. I never feel like I’m putting her out by having to change the date or time and she always finds me another appointment to suit within a week or so.

So whatever your reasons for not forward booking, don’t blame me (the client). 

If you're not forward booking all the time, then now might be the time to sit down with your team and have an honest discussion about why it doesn’t happen in your veterinary practice.  First up though, completely take off the table the excuse “Our clients wouldn’t like it.”

Then be honest:

Do you believe it’s necessary?

Do you believe it’s value for money?

Do you believe you’re the expert when it comes to all information to do with pets?

Do you believe your practice isn’t organised enough to be able to make appointments 6 months in advance?

Once you've decided that forward booking should become an essential component to the service you offer your clients, you'll need to introduce some procedures to make sure it happens. If this is all new to your practice then it's likely that you'll experience some resistance so it's important that you have your procedure well set out and ensure that everyone follows it - NO exceptions (Boss are you listening?  I'm talking to YOU!)

Some other tips to help you introduce the habit of forward booking into your practice:

1. Write some scripts to follow, including responses to any resistance to the idea and role play them together (I know you'll feel a bit silly at first but trust me - it really works)

2. Set up a system so every day one person is responsible for ringing clients to confirm the appointments for the following day

3. Put a big sign on the computer or whatever else you need to remind you – once payment has been received…make a forward booking

4. Start a competition – reward the team for increases in the number of forward bookings achieved each week

It won't take long for your clients to be educated on the idea of making a forward booking and will have their phone out ready to add in the appointment to their calendar (that’s what I do at the dentist anyway – see how well Belinda's trained me?)

One last thing – don’t dismiss the practice of forward booking by thinking you don’t need it because you send out reminder cards/emails/text messages.

Because they often don’t work.

Whenever I receive a reminder card, I put it on the fridge & forget about it. If I receive an email, it gets lost amongst all the other emails I receive and a text? Yep that's great, until I've read it and then forget about it too.

So if you're already forward booking

That's awesome and any tips you can offer would be great. Just add them in the Comments section below.

Still not convinced about Forward Booking?

That's ok - just tell us why not or ask any questions you may have about overcoming obstacles in the Comments section below.


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