13 Steps to Kill Your Cancellations

Improve your life and your schedule with this fantastic FREE WEBINAR on how to kill your cancellations. Share this with your team!

Watch It Now!

Episode #508: Say This, Not That for Scheduling, with Ariel Juday, Adriana Booth, & Andy Konkle

the best practices show podcast Dec 07, 2022

Patients should fit into your schedule — not the other way around. For that to happen, you need to guide them with your language. And to teach you the words to say and avoid, Kirk Behrendt brings back his amazing ACT team for their insight into scheduling success. Master what to say for late, no-show, or canceling patients! To learn the secrets to protect your schedule, listen to Episode 508 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

ACT Dental’s Say This, Not That document: https://form.jotform.com/221665137804153

Main Takeaways:

Don't ask patients when they want to schedule.

Know which questions to never ask your patients.

Eliminate words like “cancel” from your vocabulary. 

Tell patients what you can do, not what you can't do.

Learn how to tell patients no without saying the word no.

Take time to practice and audit yourself after each interaction.


“[Scheduling] is extremely important. It helps us to manage our time and have predictability.”  (2:44—2:50) -Adriana

“No one wants a root canal, a crown, a filling. There are only a select few of us that choose to schedule to go to the dentist. So, my first thought [to asking, ‘When do you want to schedule?’] is no. Second thought is, ‘Okay. Well, if I have to come in, I'm going to pick a specific hour. And most likely, they're not open. So, now, they're going to have to tell me no.’ So, that's why you don't want to ask.” (4:16—4:39) -Ariel

“[By asking patients when they want to schedule,] you're setting yourself up for having a bad experience for that patient. Or you're having to get into a conversation, and we’ve created a barrier — an unintentional barrier, but we’ve created a barrier for that patient.” (4:48—5:02) -Ariel

“You should never try to fit into anyone’s schedule. They should try to fit into yours.” (5:12—5:17) -Kirk

“You have a schedule to protect. And your ability to guide patients into the right spot is critical, not only to the overall flow of the day, but there are procedures you should be doing certain times of the day. So, I think the first part is, let's think better about our schedule. Now, we can support it with verbal skills.” (5:28—5:46) -Kirk

“If the doctor does that procedure in the morning and in the afternoon and I have both of those options, then I would [ask, ‘Do you like mornings or afternoons?’] because now I'm guiding them and letting them feel in control. But if the doctor only does that procedure in the mornings, then I'd say, ‘Would you prefer Tuesday at 8:00 a.m., or Thursday at 8:00 a.m.?’ So, to me, it depends if the doctor has that availability or the office has that availability.” (5:59—6:25) -Ariel

“It depends on the practice. I have some practices that may have wide-open schedules. And say we do give the option of morning or afternoon to an office that is super limited in time. If I say afternoon and the doctor does do the procedure in the afternoon, but now we’re four weeks out for an afternoon, that's going to give a bad impression to the patient also. Like, ‘Wow, they're so busy they can't see me for four weeks. Wow. Is this the right place for me?’” (6:36—7:03) -Adriana

“When it comes to Say This, Not That, you don't always have to know exactly what to say. You've got to have an idea of what to say. And one of the things that we teach that's been taught forever is, don't tell people what you can't do. Always be focused on what you can do.” (7:33—7:48) -Kirk

“I'm looking back on some of my best experiences as a patient. And when I needed a procedure done, they would guide me. Like, technically, I would come in at 3:30. But luckily, my practice was open until 5:00. So, they're like, ‘Are afternoons still the best for you?’ ‘Yes, they are.’ ‘Okay, great. Next Tuesday at 3:30. That's the next opening. Can you make it?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘If not, it’s going to be this much longer out.’ So, guiding that patient to the best possible way that still fits in the open schedule, I think, is the best way to go.” (7:58—8:36) -Andy

“No one likes to hear the word no. But we all know when we’re being told no without actually being told no. So, they say, ‘Oh, I can only make it here at 4:00.’ ‘Oh. Well, doctor actually does these procedures in the morning for the best results.’ Well, why would I want to come in at 4:00 if I'm going to get bad results? So, I’ve told them no, they can't come in at 4:00, without saying, ‘Nope. Too bad.’ I said, ‘Well, actually, doctor can see you on Tuesday at 8:30.’ And the same thing is, ‘Are you open on Saturdays?’ ‘We’re open Monday through Friday. We do have early morning appointments available, and right around lunch time, if that works for you.’ You can guide them to, ‘What works for your schedule?’ in there as well.” (9:08—9:58) -Ariel

“I'm thinking back to some of the other times guiding to needing procedures. The hygienist would ask me if my job was still the same and what schedule I work. So, they had an idea of what worked for me and could look at what was open as it was going on, knowing that afternoons worked best for me and that I was busy in the morning. So, getting that information from your patient is a good idea as well.” (10:12—10:41) -Andy

“As a hygienist, I would always preschedule my patients as they were leaving. I didn't ask them what time they preferred. I didn't ask them what day. I went from where we were, right now, and moved six months and a week out. And I would say, ‘Your appointment card is in your bag. When we get closer, you'll get reminders. And we can adjust, if necessary,’ and left it at that.” (10:48—11:12) Adriana

“The bib is the seatbelt. You don't get out of the car until you take your seatbelt off. So, when you have that bib on, it is holding you down. It’s holding you back. I'm not quite finished. I'll take your bib off once you're finished here in our appointment. So, it’s a signal to the patient that they are still in treatment.” (11:36—11:55) -Adriana

“The biggest gift you can give your admin team is setting the expectation for what they are coming back for and how much time they are going to be in the office. That way, on that walk from your operatory to the front area, they can think, ‘Oh, wait. I have to be here two hours, and then I come back two weeks later for an hour. Okay. Let me start managing, in my brain, my time, my schedule.’ And I can have already told them the next visit we have available is going to be next Wednesday at 9:00. Ariel will help you with that on your way out.’ That way, we've already set that in their brain, and they can start rolling it around. Because some people aren't processors. They can't make appointments on the fly. So, we want to respect that. But I also, when I get up there to Ariel, I don't want Ariel to look at the patient and think, ‘What do you need scheduled for?’ And then, the patient says, ‘What? Two hours? She just said I had a crown. Two hours? That's crazy!’ So, we really want to give that gift of this beautiful handoff.” (13:34—14:39) -Adriana

“I love the handoff. Because not only, one, it helps you make sure that I'm scheduling correctly for your clinical schedule, but it also — that walk of amnesia. I don't know why it’s real, but it’s real. So, the patient needs to hear it again so that when the patient goes to tell me, ‘Oh, no. I don't need to come in in two weeks,’ ‘Well, actually, they just told us together. So, we’ll see you at that 7:00 a.m. time.’ It helps and makes sure, and they all know that, ‘Oh, they're on the same page.’ I can't play mom versus dad, or aunt versus uncle. Can't play good cop, bad cop because they know we’re in communication. We’re on the same page as a team.” (14:41—15:23) -Ariel

“You have to say something eight times for someone to hear it one time.” (15:57—16:00) -Ariel

“Naturally, we don't process things or hear things until we’ve heard it over and over and over. We need to hear it seven times. So, on that eighth time that you've said something, now it sinks in, ‘Oh, okay. I got it. I know this now.’” (16:06—16:23) -Ariel

“‘I know I have an appointment at noon. It’s 9:00, and I'm going to have to cancel.’ ‘You know what? Let me get your provider. I'm going to let you go ahead and talk to her. I'm going to place you on a brief hold.’ I'm going to give them a little bit of time to think about, can they really not make that appointment, or could they squeeze it in today.” (18:38—19:00) -Adriana

“It’s okay to say, ‘Augh, this was a really long appointment scheduled in doctor’s time. We scheduled it specifically for you. Is there any way that you can make it?’ It’s okay to make sure that they understand that they're really putting you at a disadvantage by doing this. Or even telling them that this is such last-minute, there's no way that you can get another patient in that appointment slot. So, now, they're like, ‘Oh, okay. Not only am I hurting the doctor, but now another patient that could've been in.’” (20:01—20:37) -Ariel

“The worst thing you could say when it comes to Say This, Not That is, ‘That's okay.’” (21:04—21:07) -Kirk

“I can tell you from my evil hygienist days, ‘Oh, 20 minutes [late]. Oh, goodness. Well, I had you for 45. You've missed half of your appointment.’ And then, they're staring at me. I'm like, ‘Ugh, I mean, we can see what we can do. But you're going to have to come back. Now, we’re going to have to have two visits to make up for one. Let me see if that's okay with the doctor.’” (21:28—21:53) -Adriana

“You tell them, ‘Well, we had you scheduled. I don't know if we’re even going to be able to do everything today. Unfortunately, I'll have to go check with your provider and see if they're okay with the amount of time we have left.’ And as an administrative team member, I always left it up to the provider because they're the ones that know, can they get it done, can they not get it done. Or sometimes, they would say, ‘Yup. Well, we can do diagnostics and the exam today, and then they can come back.’ So, I would tell them, and then the patient would get upset. And, ‘I'm sorry, but we had you scheduled at 4:00, and it’s now 4:20. So, next time, we’ll need you to show up at 4:00.’” (22:00—22:41) -Ariel

“The important thing is, number one, letting them know this is not okay. Don't say, ‘No problem.’ Because when you say, ‘No problem,’ and they're 10 minutes late, what do you think is going to happen next time? They're going to be 15 minutes late.” (22:43—22:53) -Kirk

“If it’s their first time, I always say, ‘Try to see them.’ Of course, I'm coming from the administrative side of it too. But try to see them because they did make an effort. They did show up. And do I really want to schedule them out for the chance of them being late again if I can go ahead and get it done today, while still telling them that they're late, ‘It’s not okay. We’re going to do what we can. Next time, I really need you to show up on time,’ but then, they're at least appreciative of it as well?” (23:14—23:42) -Ariel

“Now, if it’s the second, third, fourth time [they're late], well, I don't know why they're in your schedule. But if they are showing up, that's when I would say, ‘You know, we talked about this, Mrs. Smith. We really cannot keep doing this. We’re going to have to reschedule, and we’re going to need you to show up on time for that appointment.’” (23:44—24:02) -Ariel

“It reminds me a little bit of my parents — a little bit of tough love. They want the best for you, just like your provider does. But some of it is teaching them tough love and a lesson. They have to understand. They might learn your value. You're more than happy to provide the service, but you guys have to learn that our time matters too. And if you're coming to see us, you need to respect that and do everything you can to be on time.” (24:15—24:40) -Andy

“We’re teaching people how to treat us. In a business, you teach people how to behave. You teach them how to treat you. If they constantly are late and constantly don't show, basically . . . we’ve let this happen over time.” (25:01—25:23) -Kirk

“I've always been the one to call and say, ‘We had you scheduled at 3:00. I hope there's no emergency keeping you from us. Please give us a call back.’ That way, they know that we care, and the only reason that they didn't show up for their appointment that's okay, in my mind, was an emergency. And then, if they do call, and hopefully they do, that's when I would bring it back to, ‘Oh, was there an emergency? Is everyone okay?’ Making sure that, one, they are okay because they no-showed. But if they have to make up an excuse, it goes back to making them sweat a little bit of, ‘Oh, no.’ Well, now, I also know I'm not going to give you those prime-time slots if you admitted to no-showing for a nonemergency.” (25:40—26:25) -Ariel

“The no-shows are tough. I had this discussion with a team, ‘What do you do about a new patient that no-shows?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, you're asking the wrong person because I'd say they do not get another try.’ It’s really challenging. For someone that you know that has never no-showed before, you give them some grace. Something could've slipped. But for someone who you scheduled, you had extended time for, they were confirmed, and then they blew you off — you don't know them, so you don't have a relationship. That's a tough one.” (26:31—27:09) -Adriana

“There are things we can do to improve the relationship before we see [patients]. And so, one of the steps that we crossed over is calling patients in advance before their appointments. I'm a big fan . . . If you're a restorative doc and you only have 1,200 patients active in your practice and you get 20 new patients, it’s worth your time to do a small pre-phone call and say, ‘Hey, Adriana. This is doctor so-and-so. I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. I wanted to reach out and say hi.’” (27:29—28:00) -Kirk

“I have several office managers that [call patients in advance]. And they will, ‘I'm the office manager here. I want to make sure you have a great experience. I will be your contact. Once you come into the office, you will meet the rest of our team. They're amazing.’ And then, it goes from there. But they know they have a point person, and that's helpful.” (28:17—28:37)

“The [confirmation] call, in general, if you can get the doctor to do it, that's the best. And then, secondary, definitely a team member, especially as the world is moving to online scheduling, because online appointments have literally no connection. They haven’t even spoken to any team member to make this appointment, so it’s very easy to cancel because they have no commitment. They have not talked to anyone. So, especially with online appointments, I would say make the phone call to reach out to them and welcome them. Even if they’ve already filled out all their forms, they’ve already got all the information, it’s still nice to welcome them and say, ‘We’re looking forward to seeing you,’ making sure they know where to park, whatever it may be.” (29:02—29:44) -Ariel

“There are ways to be nice without saying some of the key trigger words. Don't say, ‘If you need to cancel.’ Well, I wasn't even thinking of cancelling. And now, you put that word out in the universe and in their mind. Or, ‘If you need to reschedule, please give us a call.’ In our minds, as administrative team members, we want to know ahead of time. We want to avoid the no-show. But now, we've put it out there. Where if I never tell you, ‘It’s okay to cancel,’ or I never even say the word cancel, it’s not in your mind. You're not thinking, ‘Oh, yeah. She told me to call her if I needed to cancel.’ So, keep those words out of your vocabulary when you're scheduling, when you're making phone calls, if you're confirming. Don't give them the option.” (29:51—30:39) -Ariel

“I would say get rid of the word “cancel” completely. Nobody ever cancels on you. The new phrase is, ‘There's a change in schedule.’ Because if you're ever calling a patient going, ‘We had a cancellation today,’ you could probably trade that out for “violated”. ‘Hey. We had a patient violate us today and totally blew us off. You want to come in?’ No. In a great business, in a great dental practice, they don't have cancellations. They might have a change in schedule, which is a nicer way to say it.” (30:42—31:08) -Kirk

“Remember, at the end of the day, this is always about trust and relationships, always. So, you've got to make sure that your practice screams that.” (31:37—31:44) -Kirk

“Figure out what your pain points are in your own practice and come up with some things that are comfortable and natural for you to say in your own way. You don't want to sound like a script, but we can always be here to help too, to give you pointers and tips.” (33:23—33:39) -Adriana

“Outside of roleplaying, because no one likes roleplaying, when you hang up the phone or when a patient leaves, take 30 seconds and audit yourself and say, ‘Augh, dang it! I said cancellation. Ugh. Next time, I won't.’ And that makes you aware of what you're saying. And soon, you will see it gets less, and less, and less. And then, eventually, it'll become pretty much extinct. And sometimes, you'll catch yourself. But then, it'll be like a trigger in your mind of, ‘Oh, I said that,’ and you won't say it again. Keep auditing yourself.” (33:47—34:18) -Ariel


0:00 Introduction.

2:32 The importance of scheduling and why it’s a problem.

2:53 Questions to never ask your patients.

7:30 Tell people what you can do, not what you can't.

11:20 Why the bib is important when prescheduling patients.

12:33 Tips for preconditioning your patients at the chair.

15:37 Be okay with repeating yourself.

17:19 Guide patients as a team.

18:03 What to say for cancellations.

21:14 What to say to late patients.

22:53 Should you reschedule late patients?

24:03 Give patients some tough love.

25:25 What to say for no-shows.

27:09 Confirming patients with verbal skills.

28:49 Other trigger words to eliminate.

31:52 Last thoughts on Say This, Not That for scheduling.

Ariel Juday Bio:

Ariel has a master’s in healthcare administration and several years of dental experience in all aspects of the administrative roles within the dental office. Her passion is to work with dental teams to empower team members to realize their full potential in order to better serve patients, improve office systems to ensure a well-functioning team/office, and to help everyone have fun in the process!

Outside of work, she can be found by the beach or the pool reading a good book, enjoying sporting events with her husband, Alex, or exploring the outdoors with her Bluetick Coonhound, Maddux.

Adriana Booth, BS, RDH Bio: 

Adriana Booth is a Lead Practice Coach who partners with dentists and their teams to cultivate leadership skills, build practice growth, and streamline business practices. After spending nearly two decades in the dental industry working with top-notch dental teams, Adriana came to ACT to share her passion for professional growth, high-level training, and systems creation with our clients.

As a dental hygienist with a love for continuing education and personal growth, helping a practice become successful is at the heart of her passion for dentistry.

Adriana has a B.S. in Dental Hygiene from West Liberty University/O’Hehir University. By being involved in several Columbus, Ohio, study clubs, Adriana maintains strong relationships within her local dental community. She enjoys a variety of fitness activities, family time, good books, and at the top of her list, her fur babies.

Andy Konkle Bio:

Andy joined ACT Dental in February 2022 as a Video Producer. A lifelong resident of Wisconsin, he has made a tour around the state calling Milwaukee home for the past two decades. He brings over 25 years of storytelling, video producing, and social media experience. Past assignments have included a little of everything. Covering Super Bowl XLV, spending a night on an aircraft carrier, and the Tick Races are a few of his most memorable stories.

When Andy sets the camera down, you can find him and his wife, Lisa, taking full advantage of nice weather, especially when there's an outdoor festival involved. Experiencing different locations and cultures while finding craft breweries and attending sporting events with family and friends are some of his favorite pastimes. 


Get The Best Practices Magazine FREE!

YES, it is now in print!  See the Best Practices from the very Best Practices in Dentistry, so that you and your team can create a Better Practice and a Better Life!

Send Me the Magazine!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

You will be notified when new blogs are posted when new podcasts are broadcasted, and a variety of other industry resources.

Contact Us
ACT Dental
220 E. Buffalo Street Suite #320
Milwaukee, WI 53202
[email protected]