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

Posted in Operations @ Feb 12th 2015 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
Forward Booking Is Tueday Still Good For You

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

I just read the blog post ‘VHMA Files: Forward thinking (How to use forward booking for your practice) from dvm360 which discussed the results of a survey about ‘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 40% of respondents don’t do it!

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

According to the survey reported in the Post, 31% of practices that 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 you do know that I'm already quite well trained in the concept of forward booking?

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.  I could even 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.  By whom?  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 that “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 for my next dentist appointment.  After we’ve sorted out the payment her next sentence is “So for your next appointment – does a Tuesday afternoon still suit you best?”

Now 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 will 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 it 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). 

It might be a good exercise 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 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:

  • 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)
  • Set up a system so every day one person is responsible for ringing clients to confirm the appointments for the following day
  • Put a big sign on the computer or whatever else you need to remind you – once payment has been received…make a forward booking
  • Start a competition – reward the team for increases in the number of forward bookings achieved each week

I guarantee by the end of 12 months your clients will be completely 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. Because they don’t work.  Whenever I receive one I look at it (maybe) and then I put it on the fridge....and usually forget about it for a few months.  At $0.70 for each reminder letter you send in Australia there’s a decent cost saving by just forward booking my appointment after each visit.

Ok so let me have it – tell me in the comments section below what you think.  Why don’t you forward book in your practice?  Or what have you already introduced to help the process work?

Survey now CLOSED!

Before you go I'd like to see how many practices in our Community forward book so I've set up a two question online survey.  Click here and tell me whether you forward book or not & if you want to, tell me why not?

The results are in!  Click here to read more



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