You won’t believe what I was reading on an online dental chat forum the other day.
I read about a dental practice that had decided to “draft and adopt” itself a CANCELLATION POLICY.
This long and wordy document that the office had drafted was crafted with the skills of Wordsworth.
It was beautiful.
It was precise.
It was logical.
It made absolute sense.
The consultant loved it….
But it was pointless.
The letter explained that cancellations cost the business money.
The letter explained WHY the cancellations were costing the dental business money, and the impact that these cancellations were having on the employees of the business.
The letter explained how the dental business, being a small business, was not in the same league as big businesses, and was not able to absorb or deflect the expense of downtime.
It was a heartfelt letter.
But it was pointless.
Here’s my take on this:
The practice has identified the problem, but the practice has not identified the cause of the problem.
It’s like watching a family trying to mop up a flooded living room, without identifying that a tap upstairs in the bathtub needs to be turned off.
Because that’s where the water is coming from.
I replied to the thread:
“In my practice we never used a cancellation policy. We never had one. We never charged for a missed appointment even if the patient wanted to pay us.”
“Businesses should never put in writing things that need to be said face-to-face. Signs, letters and policies are simply crutches.”
“Every cancellation happens for a reason. What the dental practice needs to do is to help the patient get through those things causing them to cancel their appointments.”
“In so doing, the practice needs to be their friend, and needs to not be a policeman.”
“If the patient cannot improve their behaviour then we need to gift the patient to another practice. But only after trying our best to help them.”
“If you have a great practice then patients will beat a path to your door.”
“If you have patients cancelling, you have a system problem.
You have not created enough urgency and concern for that patient to want to attend.”
You have not presented the outcome of delaying treatment to the patient for that patient to want their problem rectified as soon as possible.
You have failed to communicate this urgency in the dental treatment room, and your team have failed to continue that theme of urgency in the handovers of the patient to the front office employees and the scheduling coordinator.
And when new patients are cancelling before they ever even come to your office, well that’s because whoever took their call failed to create value and urgency with respect while making the appointment for that caller.
In this practice mentioned above, the problem is not a cancellation problem. This dental office has a communication problem.
If this dental practice worked on its communication skills and mastered its handovers, then things would be dramatically different there.
The really sad thing in this practice, is thinking about all the time wasted in crafting their beautiful CANCELLATION POLICY.
It’s really only useful as a fire starter.
I’ve always been a very strong believer in the fact that no matter how badly the economy is going, nobody out there really cares if a dentist is doing it tough or has been hard done by.
So don’t waste your time bleeding how tough things are and how much your actions of compensation are justified.
And nobody will care.
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