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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thinking Appointments Are Optional

One of the things that annoys veterinarians the most is when people seem to think that their appointment times are optional.  Virtually every day we have people come in for their appointment early, late, or not at all.  When I'm talking about early/late, I'm not talking a few minutes.  I'm talking about an hour or more!  It gets really bad when you have an appointment show up an hour late, one show up an hour early, and the appointments scheduled for that time are also there.  Yes, this happens!

It's not like we don't try on our end.  We have set appointment times that allow us to space things out, allowing us to have time to do each appointment, drop-off patients, surgeries, and the walk-ins that inevitably show up.  Our receptionists are trained to work the schedule for the client's benefit, but also for ours.  We give them a reminder card if they make the appointment in-person, and then the day before the appointment we call to confirm the appointment time and if they are actually coming in.  Even with all of this we have clients that seem to come in or not come in at their leisure.  What is really bad is the occasional client who then complains because we don't get to them right away even though it's not technically their appointment time.

One of our clinic policies is that we will get just about anyone in the same day they call, though they may have to drop their pet off and allow us to work it in between other appointments.  But these are last-minute calls usually for sick pets that we don't want waiting.  I'm okay with these appointments and am glad to offer them.  That's different than the routine cases that I'm talking about.

No, we don't charge people for these missed appointments, though I have colleagues who do.  I don't think that the precedent is there and the economy is tough enough on vets.  But I've been tempted, as a missed appointment has taken that slot away from someone who might have actually shown up on time.  We DO charge for missed surgeries because those appointments are more limited each day.  And we'll sometimes force a client to reschedule if they come in late and we're busy with other procedures or patients.  But regardless of whether or not there is a charge, I think it often comes down to a lack of courtesy on the part of the client.  Yes, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances or the client legitimately forgets.  But most don't fall into this category.

Let me make a plea to all pet owners on behalf of all veterinarians.  Please be there on time for your appointments.  If you're going to be more than a few minutes late or have decided to not come in, please call and let us know that.  We don't mind you being early, but try not to be too early, and have patience if we make you wait until your scheduled time.  Things are much smoother for everyone involved if appointments are kept.  We schedule them for a reason.