Let’s talk (again) about forward booking. Getting staff onboard with this concept is essential but energizing the team to promote it as a vital component of the practice’s preventive pet healthcare strategy can be challenging.
Forward booking simply means scheduling a patient’s next appointment while the pet owner and pet are finishing up their current visit. It is a concept that may work better in theory because clients---armed with endless reasons for why they cannot possibly schedule in advance--push back. To successfully convince clients of the merits of forward booking, it helps if staff is thick skinned and willing to persevere in promoting it despite a client’s obstinance and objections.
A number of practices have creatively introduced forward booking, trained the team to respond to naysayers, and improved client compliance. They deserve an award! Actually, they were awarded. The following summaries of forward booking strategies represent the First, Second, and Honorable Mention candidates who submitted testimonials to the Veterinary Medical Association Executives’ (VMAE) Forward Booking WORKS! Testimonial contest.
Animal Healthcare Clinic of Southlake, TX, produced a humorous video starring the “ghost of Christmas forward booking.” As a staff training tool, the video offers effective responses to common push back.
Fayetteville Animal Clinic, TN, suggests that forward booking is an easier sell to clients whose pets are receiving booster shots, as well as to patients with chronic conditions. Starting with these clients and emphasizing the role forward booking can play in maintaining continuity and a healthy equilibrium in the pet’s life can help clients to feel more confident and comfortable advancing forward booking.
City Cat Doctor, Chicago, IL, recommends portraying future booking as a service to clients and the pets they love. A flexible, causal approach can underscore a clinic’s concern for the pet and willingness to work with the client. Offering small exam discount for pre-booking, with no-hassle rescheduling can help increase client compliance.
SouthCare Animal Medical Center, Spokane, WA, has increased compliance with forward booking by raising the issue with clients prior to the beginning of the patient’s exam and allowing them to fill out information while the exam is taking place.
Animal Family Veterinary Care Center, Davenport, IA, reports that when the practice first started implementing forward booking protocols, the goal was for staff to communicate with clients in a “non-apologetic way.” One component of staff education involved asking team members to role play conversations with clients. Team members whose approaches were noteworthy shared their techniques with the team.
Cleveland Road Animal Hospital, Wooster, OH, before adopting forward booking, took time to identify its benefits. The practice concluded that would allow doctors to effectively monitor the health of the patient. The clinic uses travel sheets, on which the doctor indicates when the pet should next be seen. Technicians now use these sheets to point out to the client on the way to the payment window that the doctor has already identified a date for the pet’s next visit. This approach employs a ‘white coat mentality’ to reinforce the doctor’s suggestion---if the doctor says so, I should follow his advice. At payment, client care coordinators repeat the doctor’s recommendation and once again mentions forward booking.
Alpine Animal Hospital, Carbondale, CO, believes that If you support what you are doing (forward booking), it is unnecessary to be apologetic or ask for permission when scheduling future care. Staff is trained to be firm and confident---in what they say and how they present themselves when saying it. They are direct with clients about scheduling the next appointment. Clients appreciate the efficiency and assistance.
Devonshire Veterinary Clinic, Anderson, IN, says practices should not allow concerns about clients not responding favorably to forward booking to stand in the way of instituting forward booking in the practices---just do it! When the clinic did just that, it found that clients readily embraced the practice!
Cardiac Care for Pets, Leesburg, VA, reports that standardizing appointment times throughout locations, including the preferred doctor in the notes, and implementing a routine of checking all prebooked appointments when the doctors’ schedules come out, has been helpful. Team members did not ask if the client wanted to book their recheck, they simply asked what time of day and what day of the week the client preferred to book the next visit.
Animal Hospital of Mebane, Mebane, NC, is committed to letting clients know they care, and staff communicates one-on-one with clients. Staff stresses improved health of the pet and possible financial benefits of being able to schedule in advance.
Ark Valley Animal Hospital, La Junta, CO, believes education is key and recommends educating the practice, staff, and clients! Ignore apprehensions or concerns about how clients will respond and forge ahead.
All Creatures Veterinary Clinic, Omaha, NE, makes the appointment while the client is checking out and hands the client an appointment card with the day and time of the next appointment. Verbal reinforcement is helpful too. While escorting the client to the front desk area, the veterinarian lets the client know that the pet needs to be seen again and will specifically identifies when the pet should be seen again.
Visit https://vmae.org/forward-booking-contest-winners/ for more details from the winners.
Partners for Healthy Pets also offers detailed information and tools for implementing forward booking, visit the website.