6 tips to reduce appointment cancellations
Last minute appointment cancellations and a client’s failure to show up can wreak havoc on your schedule. While some of these things are beyond your (and your client’s) control, there are a few ways in which you can minimize the frequency of appointment cancellations. Here are 6 ways to reduce cancellations.
Time is money, and it can be frustrating when a carefully coordinated schedule is disrupted by a cancellation or missed appointment.
As a nutrition professional, you aim to provide the best service possible, and sudden changes in your schedule can lead to an unexpected shift in your priorities.
And while some of these changes are beyond your control, it can be challenging to juggle your schedule to accommodate clients who frequently miss appointments.
So, what can you do to reduce appointment cancellations and have your clients show up more? Here are 6 ways to minimize the frequency of canceled appointments.
#1: Assess the needs of each client
Appointment times and availability also play a big role in appointment cancellations and no-shows. With many dietitians offering virtual services, it is likely that you may be working with someone in a different time zone, so be upfront about your working hours and general location to help avoid misunderstandings about schedules and appointment times.
It’s also important to understand your client’s willingness to commit to counseling. When a client is apprehensive to start work with a dietitian, they are less likely to commit to an appointment time.
To help alleviate this pain point, work with each client to determine the root of the issue, and help them feel more comfortable at each appointment.
TIP: Here are some of the best ways to keep your clients motivated for their nutrition resolutions.
#2: Reduce appointment cancellations with friendly reminders
Appointment reminders are a simple and effective way to reduce cancellations. While most people will prefer a text or email reminder, it is important to ask for each client’s preference, as some clients may not use text or email, and would benefit from a phone reminder instead.
If you have a policy of charging for appointments canceled less than 24 hours prior to the scheduled time, be sure to send the reminder 2-3 days before their appointment.
This gives your client time to contact you if this time won’t work for them, and you may be able to schedule another client in that spot.
TIP: You can use the Nutrium app to manage appointments and send reminders automatically. Learn more about how this works here.
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#3: Have a written policy
During the first appointment, review your cancellation and missed appointment guidelines. It is up to you to decide what is considered a last-minute cancellation (typically 24-48 hours prior), and how much you will charge for this inconvenience (which is usually a set fee or a percent of the appointment cost).
If charging for a last-minute cancellation doesn’t feel right for you, consider including a provision for “no charge" if the appointment is rescheduled within a certain period of time.
You can also offer to put the cancellation fee toward your client’s next appointment. This allows you to follow through with your policies, but also offers some flexibility.
Whatever you choose to do, your intake paperwork should include these policies. Require that the client signs a copy for your records, and give them a copy to reference in the future.
#4: Reach out after appointment cancellations
If your client misses an appointment, take the initiative to reach out via phone or email to make sure everything is OK.
Some people may feel embarrassed after missing an appointment, but when you initiate the contact, it shows that you care and can make the conversation less awkward.
TIP: Discover how to follow up with your clients through the Nutrium mobile app.
#5: Set boundaries
Decide in advance how lenient you want to be. Life happens, and appointments are sometimes forgotten, which is why some practitioners choose to give clients one free pass, further review their policy, and then charge for any subsequent missed or late canceled appointments.
However, this may not work for you, so ultimately the best solution is one that feels good to you and allows you to stick to it.
However, do not hesitate to stand your ground. You are a business, and having unplanned gaps in your schedule can hurt your bottom line. When you set professional boundaries that serve and protect your practice, your clients should be able to respect those.
TIP: Learn more about how to create boundaries with your clients in this article.
#6: Plan ahead
At some point everyone will encounter a client who frequently cancels or misses appointments.
If you choose to continue working with them despite this habit, have a back up plan (like an admin task scheduled) so it won’t feel like you have wasted your time if they reschedule at the last minute.
Last minute appointment cancellations are inevitable, but by utilizing scheduling managers, setting boundaries, and having clear expectations for your clients, you can reduce the frequency of cancellations, improve your schedule, and gain the trust and respect of your clients.
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