Your plans for the day suddenly go out the window because of an unexpected event. Sound familiar?
It’s no fun when this happens in your personal life. Still, it’s probably a typical occurrence at work – all it takes is an emergency, an operation taking longer than expected, or a consultation that requires further explanation or treatment.
So how do you plan for the unknown without relinquishing control?
If your practice were a hall full of dominoes, you mustn’t allow a single point of failure, and you should apply the same logic to your practice. Your diary is your lifeline and the backbone of your practice – it must be flexible enough to run in and out of time but allow for unexpected events (and moments of rest and respite). Let’s look at ways to achieve this.
1. Use an online booking tool
Increasing control of your diary by introducing an online booking tool may sound contradictory, but that’s precisely what it can offer. Such tools allow pet owners to book appointments directly in your diary, giving you complete control of consultation availability. Do you want to provide vaccinations only on Thursday afternoons and consultations only on Wednesday mornings? No problem. You can decide per day and per hour (or even per quarter-hour) what kind of appointments are available for online booking. Not to mention that the system is available 24/7 and doesn’t tie up reception time to book, amend and rebook appointments.
But what about emergencies? A good online booking tool can recognise specific keywords and symptoms entered during the booking process and recommend the owner to contact the practice by telephone immediately.
2. Just say “No”
It may not seem like a great tip to offer when you’re trying to help as many pet owners as possible, but it is one of the most important things you can do when making appointments. Saying “no” once in a while is not a bad thing and can often be to the advantage of the pet owner.
In your practice, certain types of appointments are best at a specific time, so when an owner contacts you for an appointment at a particular time and date, take some time before giving a “yes”. By asking questions and getting to the bottom of their reason for calling, you can schedule accordingly. For example, you don’t want to make an appointment for just a vaccination if you know they also have questions about a lump they have noticed, upcoming holiday plans and behavioural issues of the pet.
Of course, you probably shouldn’t say “no” outright, but remember that a well-reasoned “no” is usually better than a rushed “yes”, which might give the pet owner what they want, but potentially at the sacrifice of customer experience and the start of a scheduling nightmare.
3. Devise a diary strategy
After all, a strategy for the practice diary is usually overlooked; “we’ve always done it this way”. So it may be time to take a critical look at the structure of your diary in Animana.
Does each consultation room and operating room have its own appointment column, with additional columns for practice tasks or notes, or perhaps each veterinarian has their own column? Every practice is different, and we can’t easily offer a perfect diary strategy, but we advise you to discuss it at a team meeting. Why? Simply because the consulting rooms and the rest of the practice are often two different worlds – by brainstorming together about what does and does not work, and when each other’s ideas, needs and visions are shared, you arrive at a system that works well for everyone.
Quick tips to gain more control of your diary:
- Look into whether online booking might help your practice gain control of your diary.
- When owners ring to book, offer them no more than two or three time and date options. This is often sufficient to make a choice that works for you as well.
- Ensure you know why an appointment is made and whether there are any other concerns to address.
- Follow up appointment bookings with confirmations – for example, send an email with the time, date, location, and description.
- Anticipate and identify possible factors that can delay the consultation.
- Allow some extra time for consultation with colleagues and administration.
- Discuss your diary with your team.
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