Appointment Cancellations Are Frustrating!

We know that many clinic owners struggle with appointment cancellations and it’s so frustrating because of the negative impact it has for your team, your clients and your business.

Imagine if you could prevent appointment cancellations from happening!

You’d be a very happy clinic owner.

The reality is that appointment cancellations are going to happen.

However, you can put systems in place to prevent and minimise the volume and impact they have.

You need to do your best to control factors that contribute to a cancellation before it actually happens…

As a result of helping thousands of practitioners reduce the rate of appointment cancellations through our Business Academy systems, you can trust that by implementing these steps you can too.

After reading this article you will know why cancelations happen and most importantly, what you need to do so that you can minimise their impact on your clinic.

Here’s what you’ll read about in this article...

  1. How do you define Appointment Cancellations?
  2. What is the impact of Appointment Cancellations?
  3. Why do Clients Cancel Appointments?
  4. Set the Cancellation Rules, or Client’s will set them for you!
  5. What You Need to Systemise To Reduce Cancellations
  6. Small Actions You Can Take to Reduce Appointment Cancellations


How Do You Define Appointment Cancellations?

When a client cancels, there are two outcomes that are likely to occur:

1 of 2  – Canceled and did not Reschedule

  • This is a true  cancel because there is no future booking for that client in the diary

2 of 2 – Canceled and Rescheduled

  • In this case the client cancels with enough (>48hr) notice to fill the vacant appointment time and is rescheduled to another time or they ‘skip’ that session because they already have another appointment booked in the coming weeks.


What Is The Impact Of Appointment Cancellations?

If you’re like most clinic owners then you’re often trying to get through to your team about how costly cancellations and missed appointments are.

You might find it useful to discuss the impact they have so that you and the team are more proactive or better equipped to deal with it when it happens.

Cancellations and missed appointments affect all areas of your clinic, check it out…

Impact on Clients

  • Loss of momentum in their journey towards their ideal health outcome

Impact on Admin

  • Pressure to fill the gap in the diary and follow up the client to reschedule in a timely manner to keep their health goals on track

Impact on Practitioners

  • Unable to adjust management plan for better outcomes in quicker time frame because you haven’t seen the client

Impact on Business

  • Holes in the diary that could have been offered to new or existing clients to suit a more convenient time for them, thus Lost income for the time slot.


Why Do Clients Cancel Their Appointments?

We’re all human and sometimes we make errors in judgement, communication or both…

Either that’s on the client’s end, or

You and your team can improve.

If you know why cancellations happen then you have an opportunity to systemise the parts that are letting you down and keep you books full.

Here are the most common reasons for cancelled or missed appointments:

  1. The Client didn’t know they had an appointment booked

    1. The time and date were not recorded or clearly communicated to the client so it didn’t even register on their calendar/schedule
  2. The Client forgot about the appointment that was booked

    1. The client was distracted by other events in their life and it skipped their mind
  3. The Client had a genuine need to cancel

    1. Your Client may have been faced with an emergency situation that required them to prioritise over the appointment.
  4. The Client didn’t know why they were meant to come for the appointment

    1. Your client didn’t understand or realise the value in coming in for that appointment
  5. The Client didn’t realise the value in giving you notice about cancelling

    1. Your client didn’t feel that you cared enough about whether they attended or not and so they did not show care in letting you know – Perceived Indifference

Set The Cancellation Rules, or Client’s Will Set Them For You!

You must respect your time, expertise and service standards.

Don’t let your clients dictate your service standards by cancelling their care and leaving a empty space in your diary.

My mentor Ted once said, “If they’re going to play in our sandpit, we’ll set the rules”.

It’s about setting and clearly communicating the expectations a client could have of us and that we would have of them, when they become a ‘member’ of your clinic.

The reality is that you and the client want the best outcomes for their health.

Maintaining their appointment schedule and care plan recommendation is vital for that outcome to be achieved.

Missed and appointment cancellations diminish your ability to create those outcomes for your clients.

So, stand by your standards!

Set the rules and follow through on what you say you’re going to.

Here are some of the expectations client’s can have when attending your clinic.

These are the areas to systemise so that you reduce appointment cancellations.

What You Need To Systemise To Reduce Cancellations

If you don’t get these right, then you increase your risk of clients cancelling.

You must have systems in place at each touch point:

1 of 9 – New Patient Agreement

This include the ‘paperwork’ that a client must read and complete prior to their appointment.

You have an opportunity to outline the courtesy standards that you expect if a client is knowingly unable to attend their scheduled appointment.

You can get your client to agree to the standards and any fees or implications if they don’t live up to those standards.

It’s ideal if you can get your client to fill in those forms prior to their first appointment.

2 of 9 – Welcome Communications

You have a great opportunity to start your client’s induction into the clinic before they arrive for their appointment.

Sending a welcome video, email, phone call or letter give you an opportunity to pre-empt client questions, complete some ‘paper work’ and formalities, welcome your client and reinforce their decision of choosing you.

You can outline the expectations a client could have of you and that you have of them during your time together.

Setting expectations clarifies the road ahead so that you can focus more on the important aspects of the client’s experience.

3 of 9 – Appointment Reminders

Life can be busy…

It can be easy to get distracted by all things we’ve got to do.

Reminding your clients of their upcoming appointment is a great way to ensure they make it in!

Send SMA, email, phone call, push notifications.

If you can use an automated system like Cliniq Apps, then you will minimise the load on your admin.

4 of 9 – Client Induction

When a new client comes for their initial appointment they can feel anxious.

A new environment can make clients feel overwhelmed because of the uncertainty.

To minimise the uncertainty you can induct or orientate your new client to the clinic.

Allow your admin to invest 45-60 second face to face with your new client to outline what the client can expect from you/the clinic and then what you can expect of them eg attend your appointments!

Set the rules, or the clients will set them for you!

5 of 9- Client Management / Treatment Plan

Clients need certainty over their health care plan moving forward.

A management plan confirms that they are in the right place and it gives them something to commit to.

In order for client’s to commit and understand the value in coming to each session you need to outline from the start what appointments/services will be required.

If they are committed from the start, then you’ll have less trouble with appointment cancellations.

Client’s don’t care about your cancellation policy, they care about achieving their outcome.

Client’s don't care about your cancellation policy, they care about achieving their outcome. Click To Tweet

Here is a message and script we use verbally and written when delivering the management plan.

Optimising Your Outcome (for clients)
In order to create a momentum of healing and progress, it is optimal for us to follow
our ideal progress plan. If you need to change an appointment, please allow us 24
hours notice so that we can arrange to care for another client during that time. It will
also allow you to avoid the fee for missed or late notice changes to your

6 of 9 – Rebooking Procedure

Your intention is to book all sessions/services you’ve advised in advance.

This is the commitment to the management plan.

A quality handover of the client between the practitioner and the admin is crucial.

The plan needs to be clearly communicated to the admin.

Your admin then need to clearly reinforce the plan to the client, so that everyone is on the same page.

7 of 9 – Late Notice Phone Script

If it gets to an appointment cancellation stage, you need to employ this script.

“Are you sure you can’t make it in today, I really want to help you avoid the late notice fee”

Robert Amato

This script is magical because often the “bark is bigger than the bite”. Meaning, we rarely have to enforce the late notice fee because we’re able to reschedule the appointment.

Most clients will find a way to make it in for their session.

8 of 9 – Automated Recalls

Your admin team are already going a million miles an hour so automation is a life saver for them.

Employing a technology like Cliniq Apps allows you to automate client follow up.

You can tailor your follow up based on client behaviour, so that when there are appointment cancellations you can immediately follow up to reschedule.

This prompt action allows you to minimise the impact that a cancellation can have for your clients health and your clinics progress.

9 of 9 – Admin Follow Up

If your automation procedures don’t generate a quick response from appointment cancellations, then the personal touch of a phone call can be your safety net.

It may seem like a run around for admin, however, we know that perceived indifference is one of the main reason people don’t return.

They feel like it doesn’t matter if they return or not… we know that’s not true, but it’s real for clients.

A personal call to follow up and rebook is a nice gesture and shows how much you care.

Small Actions You Can Take to Reduce Appointment Cancellations

If you’re still having trouble with appointment cancellations, there could be small things to pay attention to.

We’ve noticed some ‘bad’ habits of health professionals that can ‘allow’ cancellations to happen.

These include when;

  1. Practitioners or admin say “if you don’t need it, we’ll cancel it…”
  2. Poor handover of client to admin at the front desk after their appointment
  3. If you allow clients to cancel online, make them have to call a person!


Conclusion: Systems Can Prevent or Reduce Appointment Cancellations

Appointment cancellations are the silent killer of your clinic.

Cancellations impact client health progress, team member productivity and clinic income.

You need to do everything you can to prevent cancellations from happening.

If they do happen, you need to respond quickly.

Reducing Appointment Cancellations are really encapsulated by implementing good systems and clearly communicating with clients at every interaction you have with them.

Cancellations are a reflection of how well respected and connected you are with you client.

You can avoid turbulence in your appointment books by minimising cancellations.

You can improve client outcomes by minimising cancellations and rescheduling appointments.

It’s all well and good to get new clients, but if your current clients are cancelling and walking away, you’re missing a big opportunity.

If you want to Transform Your Client’s Experience, download your free copy of our 29 Point Checklist.

Until Next Time
Live with Passion and Serve with Care

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