The 24/48-hour cancellation policy for private dental appointments has about as much relevance to the modern world as does taking our shoes off at airport security (as mentioned by Seth Godin in a recent blog post).
Security theatre is a rule requiring you to take off your shoes when you get to the airport. It doesn’t actually catch anyone, it simply makes people feel more secure, and it allows those in charge to feel like they’re doing something. Mostly, it’s a demonstration of power and authority, not a practical measure.
I’m often asked to consider an update that fits the circumstances of the connected world.
Demonstrations of power and authority from the front desk team can often be misinterpreted as poor customer service.
It seems to me that the best solution is to allow your patients and your team to use their discretion.
I’m proposing that you inform patients that all lost appointments will be charged at a nominal hourly rate – and that message is written, loud and clear, across your digital channels and print media.
Equally, I propose that, as we live in an uncertain world, you are flexible enough to accommodate those patients who have suffered a genuine emergency and cannot attend on time, or at all.
Traffic jams, late trains, kids who are ill, office meetings that run over time – the opportunity for disruption is high.
Clearly, there would have to be a “three strikes and out” rule – if a patient keeps on claiming “genuine emergency”, you can suggest that their level of accidental disruption cannot be tolerated.
What attracts me, however, is placing the responsibility for making decisions in the hands of the patient.
It is the opposite of “computer says no” and avoids the type of misunderstanding that can lead (nowadays) to a 1-star review.
In essence, it’s a verbal honesty box.
The Discretionary Cancellation Policy
“Normally we reserve the right to charge for time lost but we appreciate that we live in an uncertain world and use our discretion in waving the fee for genuine emergencies – would you like me to waive the fee for you?”