Veterinary clinics often double as dental offices, surgical centers, and ERs from time to time. Scheduling vet appointments effectively is crucial to a smooth and successful day at the practice.
What are the benefits of scheduling vet appointments?
The majority of appointments scheduled are wellness visits and surgical procedures. Having a full schedule is the best way to ensure profitability and maximize productivity of staff. Scheduling pet owner’s veterinary appointments ensures that the clinic operates effectively and can anticipate what’s walking through the front doors, for the most part. It allows veterinarians and practice owners to predict the amount of staff, inventory, and supplies needed for a given day or week. By being prepared and properly staffed, the clinic maintains a strong foundation to handle and treat any sick or emergency cases that come in seeking immediate care.
How can you schedule a pet owner’s appointment effectively?
These 12 tips to improve appointment-setting skills will help you cut through the clinic chaos and make your vet’s schedule work for you.
- Be consistent when scheduling appointments. Everyone on the team should be using the same guidelines when scheduling an appointment. If you create a template for the standard length of time needed for various cases, treatments, or appointments, it’s easier for staff and clients alike to know how much time to block off for a vet appointment. Wellness, sick visits, and technician appointments should all vary in the duration. Each clinic will be different, so it’s important to track metrics regarding how quickly various cases are handled.
- Ask questions. What appears to be a standard wellness visit can often turn into something more. Asking, “Are there any concerns with Jax at home?” can prompt the owner to mention information that could change the way the vet appointment is scheduled. This also better prepares the doctor and staff for that appointment as they aren’t blindsided by this information in the exam room. When unexpected things arise at the time of the visit, the vet or tech can easily get behind schedule, impacting the remaining clients on the schedule and when staff get to go home for the evening.
- Look for hidden pets. When scheduling, check the client’s file to see if there are any other pets in the household that need to be seen. It is easy for felines and older pets to go unseen because it can be harder to coral them at home and transport them to the practice. It’s just as important for these pets to be treated as well, so if they haven’t had a vet appointment in years and are overdue for services, try to get them in as well.
- Educate your clients. On occasion, clients will call to ask whether they should come in for a particular scenario that their pet is experiencing. A visit can be costly and they want to know that they are justified in making the trek to the office and spending the money for a visit. Be honest and clear about why you recommend the pet get seen for the specific condition or symptoms. Inform them of the possible concerns of letting the problem go untreated and linger. This will turn the phone call from should they come in, to when can they come in.
- Is it urgent or do the clients perceive it to be? A wellness appointment usually does not need a same-day appointment. Often a client may perceive an urgency that isn’t there. By fielding which appointments can wait until the next day and triaging those clients, the clinic is better able to allocate resources and save same-day slots for more urgent and emergency appointments.
- Schedule appointments with yes in mind. When scheduling a client’s vet appointment, it can be difficult to accommodate the needs of every client; however, it’s best to always try to find a way to say yes. If their preferred vet is not available, it might be best to have them see a different doctor for that visit. Or, if it’s something more serious, maybe you have to admit the patient and keep them there all day to fit them into the schedule. These adjustments allow the veterinarian to examine the patient in-between other appointments without the client having to sit around all day and forego their other obligations.
- Use an online tool to enable clients to book a vet appointment online. Making a phone call can be difficult for clients, even if their phone is perpetually at their side. Some clients are in meetings all day, or work evening shifts and are unable to call during your practice hours. If you offer them different ways to reach your office without having to pick up the phone, they will be happier and appreciate the convenience. Scheduling vet appointments online is a quick, cost effective, and convenient process for staff and pet owners alike. Consider using an online booking solution to provide clients the flexibility to schedule their vet appointment online at their own convenience.
- Leverage your veterinary technicians. The responsibility of scheduling vet appointments falls on everyone’s shoulders, not just those of the front desk. Have the doctor and technician team up to forward book patients before leaving the exam room. Say, “I look forward to seeing you and Fluffy in a year for her annual exam; Stacey can set you up with that appointment as you check out.” Hearing from the doctor that the pet should be scheduled for his/her next appointment adds a level of importance to scheduling that next vet visit.
- Schedule every patient, every time. Each patient should have a future appointment booked before leaving the office. If the technician is unable to schedule in the room, they can pass along the doctor’s message to the customer service representative at check out. The front desk then should do everything they can to forward book that client.
- Schedule appointments before clients check out. Clients may be less likely to schedule a follow-up appointment after paying for their bill. Once they have paid, they view the visit as completed and are ready to leave. Make sure paying the invoice is the final step in the process.
- Offer two yes options. When offering to schedule, present the client with two ‘yes’ options. Instead of saying, “Would you like to schedule that?” which gives them a ‘yes or no’ option, say, “Would you prefer morning or afternoon?” This keeps the scheduling conversation open with both options resulting in a yes.
- It is easier to reschedule than schedule. Many of us don’t know what we are doing in a year but that doesn’t stop us from committing to scheduling a dentist appointment six months away. Take the responsibility of scheduling the client for future vet appointments. Let them know that you will send an appointment reminder with plenty of advance notice and when the time comes, it is easy to reschedule if needed. By enabling clients to book their vet appointments online also gives them that added flexibility of rescheduling it online as well.
These are some general tips that can be tweaked for each practice, but they should at least start a conversation if that hasn’t already been done. Take these tips to your staff and discuss them as a team to see where your clinic can improve. If you found these tips helpful, check out Next In Line’s offerings to see how we can assist your clinic by enabling real-time online booking for vet appointments, as well as text and email client communication tools.
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