Why veterinary appointment confirmation calls don’t work

by By Brad Jonesberg

8 min read

My client service reps hated me.

OK, I’m exaggerating a little. But when my former veterinary practice started seeing a dramatic uptick in no-call/no-show appointments, our only recourse was to call every single scheduled client to remind them of their upcoming appointments. Adding a mind-numbing, 1–2-hour daily task to our CSR’s admittedly strained workload went over as smoothly as a pug nail trim.

But that was back in 2020—a solid four lifetimes ago, #amirite? Not only do we need to shift our strategies based on veterinary client behavior, we also have a myriad of new technologies to help us bridge this communication divide.

Why veterinary appointment confirmation calls don’t work

This anecdote is not an exaggeration: A client (whom I was particularly friendly with) came in to pick up her puppy after a spay and asked a whole bunch of questions. I had heard her surgeon convey the information that would have answered these questions through a voicemail earlier, so I asked her why she didn’t pick up her phone or listen to her message. As dog as my witness, she tilted her head back and lifted her nose before replying, “I’m a millennial. I don’t answer my phone.”

Full disclosure: I, too, am a (older) millennial and I was left gobsmacked. But as incredulous as I found this reply, I think it pretty succinctly speaks to a greater shift in client behavior over the last few years: People no longer like to use their phones for phone calls.

More often than not, a phone call generated by your practice leads to a lengthy voicemail (which may or may not be listened to) from a staff member, followed by a return call from that phone-averse client, so you can reiterate the information already outlined in the voicemail. That one task ties up your phone lines two times.

And this is the best-case scenario! Even more exasperating to my constantly-on-the-phone CSRs (and, not to mention, me and my owner), was to spend an hour or two on a task and still see no-call/no-shows at the end of every day.

This manual process became even more painful on days we were short-staffed. Cramming a couple of hour’s worth of redundant calls into an already chaotic day made for a long shift.

Why your veterinary practice should use digital reminders

The lone caveat to my “every appointment gets a call!” rule was if the client confirmed their appointment through our veterinary hospital app. My team, having used the Vet2Pet platform for a few years by this point, quickly saw the value of digital confirmations. Every confirmation that came in through the app was one less call they had to make.

Automated, digital reminders (like push notifications to app users, emails, and SMS texts) is the answer—both to decreasing your receptionist’s workload and to actually reaching your clients, who are already oversaturated with car warranty spam calls. Digital reminders give everyone options.

Think of the many different directions your brain is pulled in over just a few moments: A vet tech may run up to you asking where some extra sharps containers might be, while you draft an email to a client after a CSR relays a client complaint about an earlier appointment, when you receive a reminder from your dentist for your cleaning tomorrow. I know you don’t have time to confirm that appointment right on the spot, but if you’re like me, you’ll go back to that reminder during your quiet phone-scrolling time.

Digital reminders allow clients to confirm appointments when and where it’s convenient for them, and that means you’ll be more likely to receive a response. These message types stay top-of-mind for clients—they’re harder to forget than yet-another-voicemail dropping into the ever-expanding void of new messages.

Quite frankly, the saved hour or two of daily confirmation calls would be reason enough for my former team to celebrate, but further advances in technology make it even better. Veterinary teams can attach authorization forms to specific appointment types or automatically write-back client responses into the PIMS from these automated, digital reminders.

Now, the arguably ineffective chore of veterinary appointment confirmation calls can be replaced with more effective automated, digital reminders, saving your veterinary team hours of redundancy and stress.

So, I implore you: Feel the love from your front-end staff again, and offer your clients a better, smarter way to confirm their appointments with your hospital: through digital reminders.

Brad Jonesberg

Brad Jonesberg

Brad Jonesberg spent nearly 5 years as a client relations manager for a small animal veterinary practice in Philadelphia, where he focused on creating an excellent and complete client experience. During his time in practice, Brad managed the CSR team and all client-facing communications, including the practice’s website and social media. He currently serves as a success coach for Vet2Pet.

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