I was checking my mailbox the other day and found a reminder postcard. The postcard wasn’t for my veterinarian; instead it was a reminder postcard for my dental appointment which had been scheduled for six weeks out. Guess what I did? I went and looked at my calendar and added it on there - no questions asked.
If you’re guessing where this is headed, you’re absolutely right. Why aren’t we forward booking appointments for our patients? Sure, it may sound crazy to book an appointment a year in advance because no one knows what they’re doing a year out (and if they are, that’s pretty impressive), but think of how impactful this would be on your compliance and for pet health. Your compliance would improve significantly because you already have appointments on the books, it’s just a matter of confirming them, and pets are staying healthier because they’re being seen on a more regular basis and within a timely manner.
So what’s stopping veterinarians from forward booking?
1. Behavioral changes require everyone to be “all in”. Maybe you’ve thought about forward booking, but the functionality of rolling it out has seemed too burdensome. That could very well be the case. Your entire team would need to be involved in making sure this behavioral change is successful. That means everyone needs to be trained. No one should be walking out the door without a future appointment on the books.
2. Fear of client reactions. Truth is, client reactions may not be what you expect. Your clients are not used to forward booking at the vet but the majority of them will be completely okay with scheduling an appointment a year out. After all, they already do this at the dentist. You can expect to have a few clients who refuse to schedule an appointment, and that’s completely okay. But most clients will be on board and may even prefer it because it’s less thinking and worrying they’ll have to do in the long-run.
3. Your front desk staff is already busy. Let’s be honest, the front desk team at your practice versus the dental office are probably paid a little less and they have more responsibilities. It’s hard to expect the same performance so we can’t compare apples to apples. In order to see results with forward booking, the only way you’d be able to do it is with in-room scheduling. This means before a client walks out of the patient room, they should have another appointment on the books.
Now here’s the real kicker. What if I told you that there was an easier way to implement forward booking? Check-out is already difficult with pets and in-room scheduling is a huge bahavioral change to your staff, so what if you had a technology partner help execute forward booking? Then your staff wouldn’t have to do anything while the client is visiting and their primarily focus will still be on client experience. Would you be open to forward booking? After all, you wouldn’t have to do anything but sit back and watch the appointments roll in.
At the end of the day, forward booking solves the trouble of having to get your client back in the door. It shouldn’t be something of the future, because dentists have been doing it for years. It’s about time to take a step forwards, lessen the stress of compliance and get something on the books immediately.