The “No Show” Epidemic

In December 2020, Futuredontics conducted a national survey to assess how no-shows and last-minute cancellations were impacting practices in dentistry. Here’s some of what they found:

  • 88% of practices have at least one no-show every day and 57% experience at least four to ten no-shows every week.
  • 60% said Mondays were the worst days, with Fridays coming in second.
  • Most got zero notice from patients missing an appointment with only 13% giving more than 24 hours’ notice.
  • The majority of practices used a combination of automated reminders and manual phone calls to remind patients of their appointments.
  • Most practices responded to broken appointments by contacting patients on a short call list or moving up appointments scheduled for later in the day. A shocking 13% intentionally double-booked appointments to mitigate the problem.
  • The survey also found that practices who averaged ten or more no-shows per week were losing up to $200,000 per year.

But by far, the most shocking finding for me was that 35% of practices ranked new patient appointments as most likely to no-show with hygiene appointments running at a very close second. What?!?

If you are experiencing a high no-show rate on new patient or hygiene appointments, with a few exceptions… this is not a funky patient problem… this is a value proposition problem and maybe more accurately, a training problem.

It makes absolutely no sense to me that companies spend so much money and time to attract new patients and then leave the initial sales call to chance. There is this pervasive sentiment that if we are simply friendly and nice and answer patient questions, they will schedule—which could not be further from the reality. Of course, all of these things are important but not hard for most professionals to accomplish. What is more challenging is to become skilled at controlling the call, unmistakably communicating that the practice and the patient’s appointment is a perfect fit for exactly what the patient was looking for and needing. Sounds simple, but after listening to and evaluating thousands of mystery shopper calls over the years… it’s rare.

Why is that?  Especially when training is typically simple and quick to provide and ongoing monitoring and support easy to obtain and… only costs a fraction of what the practice is losing with every missed appointment. I believe it is because most owners and managers either feel this is already trained upon onboarding a new administrator and/or they aren’t tracking the sales conversion data and responding honestly and appropriately to support their administrative team growth.

The good news: this is simple to fix.  First, understand and embrace that this is no different than any other service-based business. This is a sales conversation that requires training and ongoing support. Second, find training for your team that is convenient to obtain and focused on using frameworks, not scripts (which they will likely never use unless they think someone is listening).  Also, make sure the training offers specific help for challenging patient questions about pricing, insurance, and financing. And lastly, make sure that the training is positive, supportive, and delivered in such a way that people feel encouraged and inspired to do and be more for the practice, their patients, and their own professional careers.

If you are experiencing low conversion rates or high no-show rates in your practice, stop the bleeding and reach out for coaching. Your team and your patients will thank you, and your practice will thrive.

“How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.”

~ Tiffani Bova

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