It’s 10:04, and her appointment was supposed to start almost 20 minutes ago.
You were hoping she was just running late, but when your counselor tried to give her a call…. Straight to voicemail.
This doesn’t make sense. Her notes say, “Patient sounds pretty excited.” Not sure exactly what that means, but it definitely sounds positive.
On top of that, one of your schedulers called yesterday to confirm. Plus, she has the auto-text confirmation that goes out from your reminder software.
Even with all that effort….
The money spent to generate the lead… The time spent to confirm the appointment…. It happened.
You were NO-SHOWED.
Gosh, I hate no-shows. And I know I’m not alone.
You work so hard to generate leads and get potential patients interested in your services. Many of the folks who call or send in their info actually WILL book an appointment or free consultation.
But then it comes to getting these same folks to show up to their appointments, and there’s always drop-off.
Even if you have a great follow-up plan, even if you speak directly to the person the day before her consult, you still end up with costly no-shows.
We pretend that people forget their appointments.
But how is that possible?
You call patients before their appointments. You send emails.
You even have software for the sole purpose of sending reminder messages.
My point is this: people don’t forget their appointments. So what happens?
Jane Doe skips her appointment because it’s not a priority. Simple as that.
“Something else came up…”
“I was running behind and couldn’t make it…”
“Must have slipped my mind…”
Whatever the excuse, the REAL reason… is lack of priority.
So how can you solve it?
Get ’Em Excited!
We prioritize things we’re excited about:
My son’s first soccer game.
A big client meeting.
Date night Friday with my wife.
I’m excited about these events. Inherently, that makes them priorities.
Excitement grows as Jane nears her appointment with you, but another “energy” is working against you:
It’s the contrasting force of uncertainty.
She’s excited after scheduling, but immediately regret starts to set in. This is a kind of ‘buyer’s remorse’ that’s rooted in ambiguity and uncertainty.
“I don’t know what to expect…”
“What if it’s more expensive than I think it is?”
“Can I trust these people?”
Thoughts and feelings and emotions come pouring in and creating resistance.
Hence the reason we encourage you to get new leads to come in as soon as possible, same day even. Otherwise they’ll talk themselves right out of the consultation.
And that’s what you see happen with no-shows.
You spend all this time making sure they “remember” when that’s not even the problem.
In fact, too many reminders without adding value may actually create more no-shows than it prevents.
“Stop bugging me, I know I have an appointment.”
The trick is to build positive anticipation so people get as excited about their appointments as they are about an upcoming vacation.
Here are 4 strategies for doing exactly that, centered around a concept I call “Lead Incubation.”
Lead Incubation — Priming the Pump for Kept Appointments
Merriam-Webster defines the term “incubation” as “to keep (something) in the proper conditions for development.”
I’ve dubbed this concept “lead incubation” since that’s exactly what you must do with people who schedule appointments with you.
You will end up delivering so much value and creating such excitement and momentum that it will compel your lead to keep the appointment she set in the first place.
Here we go.
Jane Doe visits your site, clicks around, and fills out your contact form to schedule an appointment.
Now: how do you make sure she shows up?
1. Reinforce the Decision to Schedule as Fast as Possible
I mean literally, within SECONDS.
Jane just clicked the “send” button on your contact form. She felt that little burst of dopamine we all get right after an action toward a purchase (test driving a car, looking at new houses, etc). You know the feeling.
But it’s a fleeting feeling of positivity. She quickly starts second-guessing, hoping she made the right decision.
Jane has just taken a huge step into the unknown by scheduling the appointment.
Yes, that probably sounds ridiculous to you because you do these consults every day. But to new patients, it can be a scary deal.
Jane needs someone to say, “Yes, yes! You made a great choice!”
How might you do this?
Thank her — with a video — on the thank-you page of your website.
The thank-you page of your website is where Jane (and anyone else) is sent on your website after she completes your web form. It typically says something generic and weak, “Thanks for your submission. We’ll contact you soon to confirm!”
BORING. And a total waste of valuable page.
Here’s the thing — your thank-you page is one of the most under-utilized pages on your website. It’s treated as a throw-away page, when it can actually be put to good use. So let’s do that.
Take this perfect opportunity to deliver an “attaboy” in an engaging, personalized way — through video.
I’m talking about a video of you, speaking into the camera, covering these bullets:
- Gratefulness — Thank you for choosing us.
- Excitement — We’re happy to meet you, and we’re excited to help you enjoy your life without the hassles of glasses and contacts / enjoy life with a better smile / whatever the benefit is that you are selling.
- Next Steps — One of my team members will reach out to you to confirm your appointment time and answer any preliminary questions you may have.
- Patient Advocate — You have your own patient advocate who will be available to you should you need anything!
- Thanks again — Thanks again for choosing , and we’ll see you soon!
There’s no ‘right way’ to do a thank-you video, as long as you’re hitting these points. The goal is to make it genuine, to make a personal connection with the lead.
Here’s an example I made for you. I shot it on my iPhone6+, which is great for shooting in HD and perfect for this.
I’m no pro on camera. So if you’re concerned about how slick and professional you’ll look, get that worry out of your head.
The goal here is to come across and genuine and sincere above anything else.
- Can’t do a video? Write your “thank you” message in text and add an image of your signature to it, almost like an opening letter.
- If you can combine the thank-you page message with an automated email that Jane receives, that increases the power of this messaging.
- Add more context to help the lead understand exactly what to expect: You can mention on the thank-you page letter to “Check your email now, because we just sent over the forms for your consultation. Don’t worry, it’s only 2 forms that take less than 10 minutes to fill out, AND you can do it all online for your convenience. Be sure to check your spam filter for the email, and please add us to your ‘safe senders’ list so we don’t end up in that pesky spam filter ever again!”
2. Make a Human Connection as Quickly as Possible
Yes, you have reminder software. Yes, you have automated emails. You probably even have a way to text Jane from your system.
But none of that takes the place of an authentic, voice-to-voice human connection.
The reason you see more no-shows than you did 10 years ago is due in part to the rise in leads coming from the web vs. inbound phone calls.
While convenient, the web is impersonal and lacks the level of commitment that you get with in-person or even phone interactions.
How do you overcome that?
Call Jane as quickly as you can. I mean within minutes.
Don’t get her? Leave a message and try again this afternoon and again tomorrow.
Once you connect with Jane on the phone, build rapport, and get her excited, you reduce the risk of no-show.
If you are skipping this step — if you are only emailing your web leads and never calling them — you are flushing money down the toilet. PICK UP THE PHONE AND USE IT.
3. Be as ‘Everywhere’ as Possible
Think about a time you were shopping for a new car.
Ever get your sights set on a certain model car, and then it seems like you start to see that particular model all over the road?
And you could swear this particular car used to be a rare sighting to you, but you now see them everywhere you go.
This is due to a couple of psychological processes: selective attention and cognitive bias.
(I’m not traversing the “psychology of selling” rabbit holes in this article — we’ll save those for another essay, or perhaps a book).
Long story short — the major car manufacturers aren’t waging a conspiracy against you. There’s not actually a campaign to showcase new 6-Series BMWs all around you on your daily commute. It just feels that way.
But what if we were able to create the type of perception around Jane’s decision to book an appointment with you?
It may sound wild, but follow me on this.
Let’s say Jane books her consultation, and all of a sudden, she starts to see more articles and stories about LASIK that make her feel good about her decision.
How great would that be? It would be awesome, if only it was possible.
With retargeting, it can be done.
(Don’t know what retargeting is? Here’s a quick definition on wikipedia.)
HOW can you do this?
It starts by adding a retargeting pixel to your thank-you page.
That way, anyone who gets there will start to see the retargeting ads in their Facebook feeds and on banner ads around the internet.
You may be wondering, “What type of messaging should I use on my retargeting banners?”
Well, we don’t need a sales message since Jane already committed to come in. But how about some great patient testimonials talking about their amazing experiences with you?
Sprinkle in some “Why LASIK is so popular” and “LASIK is the best investment of my life” articles and VOILA! You’re leveraging Facebook and the entire internet to positively reinforce Jane’s choice.
This is ninja-level marketing.
4. Play Your Trump Card if at All Possible (hint: YOU)
I almost didn’t include this because most people won’t do it, even though it would work insanely well. But my hope is you’re one of the few exceptions who will give it a try.
The Trump card I’m talking about is you — YOU, Doc — calling Jane yourself the day before her consultation.
Now, maybe you already call patients the evening following their procedures to make sure they are doing well.
This is excellent because it feels special, and it’s delightful and surprising to the patient. If you already do this, I don’t have to tell you — patients love it.
So how impactful might it be to call/text new patients the day prior to their consultations?
It could make a real difference in your no-shows.
Is it more work for you? Meh, about 2 minutes per patient. 120 seconds stands between you and a potential $X,000 procedure.
And let’s be honest — most people screen their calls anyway, so you’ll leave more voicemails than anything else.
Not sure what to say? Here you go: “John, this is Dr. X. I see you’re coming in tomorrow for a consultation with us. Really looking forward to seeing you. on my team should have sent directions to our office, give her a call if you have any questions. See you tomorrow!”
I talked about the importance of a personal connection in point #2. But a personal connection with you — the esteemed expert — that’s next-level impact.
Try it with your scheduled consults for a week and see what happens. I bet you see a drop in no-shows that makes the few minutes a day you spend making these calls well worth it.
Time to get started
Those are the 4 steps of lead incubation to reduce your no-shows.
Nothing here is particularly complicated. But if you need help setting up your thank-you page or the retargeting, give me a shout.
Use these strategies to create excitement around the new patients coming into your practice, and cut down your no-shows as a result.
Don’t wait — get started this week!