How a Simple SMS Change Can Reduce Late Cancellations

One of the perennial challenges of dental practices is managing patient late cancellations. Last-minute cancellations can disrupt the schedules, reduce efficiency and impact the practice’s production. However, by leveraging psychological principles such as Robert Cialdini’s principle of consistency, dental practices can encourage greater patient commitment and reduce late cancellations.

Understanding the Principle of Consistency

Robert Cialdini, a renowned psychologist, introduced the principle of consistency in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” This principle suggests that individuals have a strong desire to be consistent with their commitments and actions. Once someone makes a commitment, they are more likely to follow through to maintain a self-image of reliability and integrity.

In the context of dental practices, this principle can be particularly useful. When patients verbally or textually commit to something, they are more likely to adhere to it. This commitment can be harnessed to improve adherence to appointment schedules and cancellation policies.

Traditional Cancellation Policy Messaging

Many dental practices use a standard message to inform patients about their cancellation policies. A typical message might read:

“Please note 24 hours notice is required for cancellations, or charges may apply.”

While this message conveys the necessary information, it does not leverage the power of the consistency principle. Patients are informed of the policy, but they do not make any active commitment to it.

Revised Messaging to Tap into Consistency

By tweaking this message to require an active commitment from the patient, practices can significantly enhance adherence to the policy. Consider the following revised message:

“Please reply ‘Yes’ to confirm your appointment and understand that you will provide us with 24 hours’ notice should you need to cancel.”

This revised message does two things:

  1. Active Commitment: By asking patients to reply ‘Yes,’ it requires them to make an active commitment to the appointment and the cancellation policy.
  2. Clarification of Responsibility: It clearly states the expectation (24 hours’ notice for cancellation), which the patient acknowledges by their affirmative reply.

When patients reply ‘Yes’ to confirm their appointment, they are making a small but significant commitment. According to Cialdini’s principle of consistency, this small commitment increases the likelihood that they will follow through with their promise. The act of replying ‘Yes’ aligns with their self-image of being responsible and reliable, making them more inclined to adhere to the policy they have acknowledged.

By harnessing the power of Cialdini’s principle of consistency, dental practices can improve patient commitment to appointments and reduce the frequency of late cancellations. Implement this strategy in your dental practice today and observe the positive impact on your scheduling efficiency and patient relationships.