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Episode : #686: Implementing and Executing a Good Cancellation Policy

Podcast Description

Episode 686: Implementing and Executing a Good Cancellation Policy

Britt and Tiff take over the podcast to talk about cancellation policies and the most important questions to ask yourself about coming up with yours:

  1. How much time do you need for notice?

  2. What happens if a patient doesn’t follow the policy?

They also touch on other do’s and don’ts to consider, including what to use instead of the word ‘cancellation’, and when you should give your patients grace.

Episode resources:

Reach out to Tiff and Britt: [email protected] 

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0:00:05.8 Kiera Dent: Hey everyone, welcome to the Dental A Team Podcast. I’m your host, Kiera Dent. And I had this crazy idea that maybe I could combine a doctor and a team member’s perspective, because let’s face it, dentistry can be a challenging profession with those two perspectives. I’ve been a dental assistant, treatment coordinator, scheduler, filler, office manager, regional manager, practice owner, and I have a team of traveling consultants, where we have traveled over 165 different offices coaching teams. Yep, we don’t just understand you, we are you. Our mission is to positively impact the world of dental, and I believe that this podcast is the greatest way I can help elevate teams, grow VIP experiences, reduce stress, and create A teams. Welcome to the Dental A Team Podcast.


0:00:51.7 KD: Hello, Dental A Team listers, this is Kiera. And you guys, I’m so excited for Consultant Takeover. Guys, that was me attempting to sing into this microphone for you, and I hope you loved it. Today, Consultant Takeover, grab your pens, grab your notebooks. Bringing in the heat today. And as always, thanks for listening. And I’ll catch you next time on The Dental A Team Podcast.

0:01:10.6 Tiff: Back at it again with my Brit. I love podcasting with you. You make my life easy, I tell you that, in so many ways, in so many facets. Since the day you walked onto our team. You have literally gone above and beyond to figure out how you could make life easier for everyone, which is incredibly impressive to me, just as a human being but also, Brit, because you’re so detail-oriented. So, thank you [chuckle] for being here. You pick up the pieces and see the details and those small little things that I miss. And truly, truly, truly, you make life easy. So, thank you for podcasting with me today. How are you?

0:01:47.9 Brit: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me. Thanks for all those nice words. And I’m like, “Tiff is the true definition of ease and all things efficient,” which I love, which is why we’re a good mix with each other. And the true road warrior, if there’s a road warrior out there that’s better traveling more, I don’t think there is. So, Tiff is the true warrior of the team, so.

0:02:11.2 Tiff: Thank you. I appreciate that. I appreciate that. I think we’re coming off of a pretty long month. So, March is always my heavy month. March, April, June, August, I have a heavy month. So, I appreciate that. Thank you. [chuckle] Feels good to be acknowledged.

0:02:28.5 Brit: I love it. I love to see, “Where is Tiff?” We’re both on the road… We’ve both been on the road this week. So, I feel it for you when it’s like, “Where is she? Is she anywhere near me? Do I maybe get a happen chance, get to see her at some point?” But at least I get to see you today.

0:02:45.2 Tiff: I think one of my favourite things about us that we’ve experienced in our tenure of knowing each other is the fact that we tried really, really hard and almost made it work to meet in Georgia because we were both there for offices and we had maybe 30 minutes we were gonna be passing by. We tried really hard to make that work. But you guys, she lives 20 minutes from me. [laughter] But when we were on… We’re like, “Well, we’re both gonna be in Georgia. We should try to make that work.” [laughter] It just makes me laugh so hard, and it makes me so happy because… I don’t know why, [laughter] but that was the spot where we were like, “This is gonna happen. We’re gonna see each other.” So, whatever. It’s fine. I love it.

0:03:25.4 Brit: It’s fun. That’s the beauty of Tiff. Tiff and I will jump on an idea that it’s like, “Yeah, let’s go. Let’s do it.” [laughter]

0:03:31.3 Tiff: Like, “Let’s drive home from Denver, because it’s raining, and I don’t think the flight’s gonna work.” [laughter] We didn’t have to do that, but we were prepped.

0:03:37.1 Brit: No, but it’s totally fine.

0:03:38.8 Tiff: We were ready to do it. [laughter] I don’t have a lot of people in my life that are willing to jump on my bandwagons like that, so thank you for being here. [laughter] I appreciate you.

0:03:47.5 Brit: Anytime. Anytime. [laughter]

0:03:50.1 Tiff: Oh, I love it. So, one thing that I’ve preached my entire consulting career is cancellation policies, and really just how to utilise them for your best benefit. I think cancellation policies are really difficult for doctors to implement, and I think that it’s really hard for team members to execute, and I think we make them difficult. [chuckle] I think we make them hard. I think that we make them feel like they’re mean. Or we’re being rude to the patient, or we’ve got the opposite and right. I had a billing rep, I love her to death, she’s one of my best friends to this freaking day, very black and white, and she’s like, “Well, yeah, it’s $50. You’re not coming.” And I’m like, “Maddie.” Like…

0:04:35.9 Brit: “There’s something wrong.” [laughter]

0:04:37.1 Tiff: Yes, but no. [chuckle] Like, “Maddie, let’s… Come here, come here.” And I still love her. I still love her. She’s that way in life. So, I think of her a lot because we have both spectrums. We have the like too nice and feels bad implementing it, we have the harsh black and white that’s like, “I don’t understand why you’re confused,” and then we’ve got the times where it’s like, “I don’t know if I should be holding them accountable to this or not.” So, I think a clear cancellation policy is huge. And Brit, what are your favourite pieces to make sure our part of a cancellation policy?

0:05:11.5 Brit: Yeah, and I’ll say I see offices struggle a lot with cancellations or people falling off the schedule and team members not being able to confidently speak to patients when we have nothing to find, that it’s like, “Well, you’re just gonna let it happen. There’s not really any sort of standard when it comes to canceling, rescheduling, or making any appointment changes.” So, some of my favourite pieces are to make sure that we are being fair and also we’re setting the office up for success. So, number one is giving ourselves enough time in our requirements for them to let us know if there are gonna be any appointment changes so we can actually do something about it. And in my opinion, 24 hours is just not quite enough time for me to get that schedule filled sometimes, or at least be able to confidently be able to get that schedule filled if something changes. So, I’m a big fan of a 48-hour notice to make any appointment changes. And I think in this day and age, that’s pretty darn common across the board. So, that’s my number one piece, is 48 hours notice, so that we have enough time to get someone in there who wants that appointment. We just need to, one, give ourselves enough time to call; and number two, give those patients we call enough time to where they can actually make it in for the appointment that we’re offering them.

0:06:32.4 Brit: And number two is, I like to have some sort of consequence, if you want to call it that, for not following those guidelines. So, it can be a fee. Guess what, I’m not making money off of these fees. I just need something that’s a deterrent so that there is some sort of backbone to our policy that we have in place. So, those are my two big pieces, is how much time do you need notice, and what’s our consequence if someone doesn’t give us the notice that we require?

0:07:04.6 Tiff: Yeah, for sure. I love that. I love that. So, I think the cancellations come up and we get defensive. Immediately, our defenses go up, and so we’re like, “What do you mean? What do you mean?” And now I’m thinking, “Gosh, I have work to do because you’re canceling on my schedule.” And then we also take it personally. It’s like, “They’re canceling on me.” I’m like, “Oh, they’re not canceling on me. It’s fine.” So, cancellation policies, I think those are great dos. Make sure you have like a 48-hour notice. I do prefer 48 hours over 24 hours for sake of the team, because 24 hours could be 3:00 PM today, they tell me they’re not coming in at their 10:00 AM appointment tomorrow, and there’s no way I’m able to fill that in that amount of time, typically. And then a consequence. So, I think dos, do tell your patients about your cancellation policy, okay? Do tell them that you ask for… “I do request at least 48 hours notice for any emergent situations where you’re not gonna be able to make that appointment. It allows us time to fluctuate our schedule, find something that works for you and just allows us to make sure that our patients are well-cared for.” Okay, so do make sure your patients know about your cancellation policy, that you’re making them aware, and do hold to it.

0:08:25.7 Tiff: One of the biggest mistakes that I see is that patients are told this and then they call and it doesn’t make any difference because we’re like, “Oh yeah, no problem. We’ll get you moved.” So, this is one of those pieces we talked about in a different podcast where we were talking about training our patients. We’re training each other all the time. And if you’re training your patients that it’s okay to cancel on you, they’re gonna cancel on you. And if you train your patients that you can’t trust your word, if I say, “I’m gonna hold you to this standard,” but I don’t, that’s a problem too. So, I think those are some pretty big dos. I think don’ts. Here’s a big one for you guys, and this is gonna, hopefully, make you laugh. It makes me giggle, because the whole podcast right now is called cancellation policy, and we’re saying, “Cancel, cancel, cancel.” I hate the word cancel and cancellation. So, if you call it something different, an appointment change policy, if you say if you need to adjust your appointment, cancel means my appointment’s gone, okay. And I’m not gonna put it into your mind that you can cancel. So, the word cancel or cancellation just doesn’t come into my world. And I implore on you guys not to use it. So if you need to adjust your appointment at all, please just give us at least 48 hours notice so that we can accommodate the schedule to fit your needs and to fit ours.

0:09:42.5 Tiff: Don’t blanket-statement across the board. If someone calls in and they’re like, “Hey, I’ve got strep throat.” Do you want strep throat in your office? Probably not. And do we know if they really have it? Absolutely not. But I’m not gonna ask for a doctor’s note either. I am going to make notes in my chart, in your chart, and I’m gonna put it on your ledger so that I know, “Hey, you get strep throat probably once a quarter. Are you okay? Have you had that checked out?” I’m gonna ask you about that if you continue to call sick. But don’t be so black and white that it’s like, “Okay, it’s $50 no matter what.” You’ve gotta use your judgment and your best skills in a lot of those spaces. So, do have an appointment change policy, do stick to it, and do notify your patients that it’s coming down the pipeline. Don’t be so harsh that you don’t know where the grey is, don’t use the word cancellation, and don’t stray from your policy when you need it. And always, I think, health-related or not moving the appointment canceling, always just make sure you’re talking about it. Totally understand, just remember, we do have this policy in place that we request, so you’re constantly reminding people of it.

0:11:02.3 Brit: And a couple of tips for implementation right in for team members, tips on being able to make sure it’s successful. I’m big on, like you said, Tiff, setting the expectation. So, I’ll tell you, as a hygienist, every single appointment that I schedule and it’s one of those things that just becomes so automatic in your mind that I say it without even thinking about it is, “Great. I’ve got you all set up for your next appointment on July 5th at such and such time. Just your friendly reminder, we do require 48 hours notice to make any appointment changes, so make sure that you keep an eye out and give us a call if you need to make any changes.” Something like that to where it’s automatic, the team’s doing it. If someone calls and tells me they did not know about it, like, “Come on. [chuckle] We say it every single time we schedule your appointment. You’re gonna know about it.”

0:11:54.0 Brit: So I think that’s number one tip, is just making sure that we’re telling patients about it. I’m with you on like the black and white. I’d say with team members, use your judgment. If someone calls me, they’ve been in a car accident, they just found out they lost a family member, like they’re legitimate things that are emergencies that I wanna make sure as a human being in the world I’m empathetic for and absolutely noting it down. I hope you guys took note that Tiff is gonna post it in the ledger. I even keep track of like… Usually if they re-schedule without proper notice, so rescheduled without 48 hours notice is usually a code, and then if they full-blown just canceled, that’s another one I’m gonna do without 48 hours notice. ‘Cause then there’s another layer to our policy when we’ve got our chronic people, that if it’s like, Hey, if they’ve done it more than twice to us, then they become a patient to where they’re not able to pre-book appointments. They can call me same day at that point, but they can’t pre-book an appointment due to past history, and that’s just a conversation we prep them for and have with them.

0:13:00.2 Tiff: Totally.

0:13:00.5 Brit: And if they were a true chronic person, we may not be the best fit for them at some point in time. [chuckle]

0:13:05.9 Tiff: Yeah, totally. Totally. I love that. So, I think actual items that I picked up, even just from you recapping and adding to all of that, I think one piece we didn’t really talk about that you just hit on is make sure your team knows what the policy is and that everybody can speak about it, because everyone should be making appointment. So, make the team aware of what the policy is and how to talk about it. What else? I wrote ’em all down. Tell patients about it, so make sure you’re telling your patients about it. Know your grey is what I’m gonna call it, so know what your parameters are, and have, I think in doctors and still in your team, the enough autonomy to be able to make those decisions.

0:13:43.9 Tiff: If you feel like, Okay, they’re just letting everyone go, fine, let’s have a conversation about that. But if you try to put too many parameters on it, it makes it confusing and it makes it uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do. Whereas if you give them the autonomy to make that decision themselves, you’re gonna get a better result. So make sure the team knows what the policy is, make sure the team’s talking about it, make sure they know what the grey is and that they have some autonomy in that, and then make sure that you’re holding to it and that you’re tracking it. So, always track them, always have those conversations, and remember, delete the words cancel, cancellation. It’s an adjustment to the appointment, and it’s an appointment change policy. So, Brit, anything else? Any last minute nuggets you wanna throw out there? I think that was pretty solid.

0:14:28.7 Brit: No, I think those are the big ones. But I’m with you on autonomy for the team, like use your best judgment. If all else fails, it’s maybe like a $50, $100, something that we wrote off one time and we can address it after the fact, not a big deal. Retrain that team member. But I’d rather have them confident to move forward than being so worried about making a single mistake.

0:14:49.1 Tiff: I totally agree. I love that. Good wrap-up. That was perfect and done. Awesome. Well, you guys, go create a system. If you need a policy, if you need a recap on this, listen to it a few times. If you need more, reach out to us. We are freaking here for you guys all the time. All we do is help practices. We love, love, love to help you guys. So, if you need the help with it, if you need help diving into it, if you need help figuring out why these cancellations are happening, reach out to us. We’re here for you, [email protected].


0:15:18.9 KD: And that wraps it up for another episode of The Dental A Team Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. And we’ll talk to you next time.

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