Top 3 Things You Need To Know About Booking and Cancelling Appointments

woman speaking on the phone

This past December, while visiting family in California, I received an email from CBC’s The Current. Associate producer Danielle Carr was interested in interviewing me. While the segment was about phone scammers and how they are changing our relationship with our phones, she wanted to add my perspective on what is lost when we stop using our phones to talk to each other.

Of course, I said “yes” and as Danielle and I worked together, she requested we include a role play. Now, I do a lot of role-playing in my work, not only in my one-on-one coaching but also in workshops and webinars, so I agreed very quickly, even though the thought of doing this on national radio was a bit intimidating.

It didn’t occur to me that the chosen role play would completely surprise me and that a listener would reach out with valuable data and advice.

What surprised me about the role play? And what advice did a listener provide?

Danielle was nervous about calling a veterinarian. She had booked an appointment earlier, and the vet had made some special arrangements to accommodate her and … she missed the appointment. She was so anxious about making this call, she had even considered contacting a new veterinarian. All of this caught me off guard … while we were taping the segment. Yikes!

In the end, with an edit, it turned out I provided good advice but it could have been better. I was grateful to hear from a listener, Lorri, who has been working in health care as an office manager for 30 years. She and I had a great conversation this past week and the result is this list below.

Things to consider when booking and cancelling appointments:

  1. While many providers allow clients to both book and cancel appointments online, privacy issues do impact the procedures some practitioners put in place. For example, let’s say my physician is working with me on a diagnosis that is inconclusive (I am totally making this up). We schedule a series of tests and appointments to confirm. I choose not to inform my family until I know the facts. Now, if communication about these appointments, etc., are sent to me by text or email, someone in my family might read them by picking up my phone or through a shared email address. For physicians, psychiatrists and other professionals, communicating in person on the phone is a valid and important choice.
  2. When phone anxiety takes over and you do a no-show instead of calling to cancel, there are numerous repercussions. Lorri cited that an average cancellation rate for an office is about 10% and over a 30-year career, this can easily represent a loss of $1 million (yes, $1 million!). In addition, Lorri shared that as soon as she receives a call about a cancellation, she can reach out to other patients who may be on a waitlist. (With our continually burdened health care system, this is becoming more and more important for all of us.) No-shows are also responsible for many overbooking policies. If you’ve ever been waiting a long time in a room full of coughing, sneezing, feverish people – blame it on the no-shows.
  3. The actual conversation involved in booking or cancelling an appointment can take less than 60 seconds. These offices are so busy, they do not have time to chat with you or ask you unnecessary questions. They want you to be precise and they will be efficient. Here are some examples:
  • Hi, this is Mary Jane Copps calling. I have an appointment with you tomorrow at 10 am but I am unable to make it. (You can include a reason here if you wish, but it isn’t necessary.) Is it possible to reschedule for next week?
  • Hi, this is Mary Jane Copps calling to book an appointment for my annual physical. What do you have available next week?
  • Hi, this is Mary Jane Copps calling to apologize for missing my appointment last week. What do I need to do to reschedule?

On occasion, usually when you are a new patient, you may be asked for a health card number, the name of your pet or some other bit of information. While I do understand that phone anxiety is real, and can be paralyzing, know that the actual conversation will be less than 2 minutes. (I can’t give an estimate of how long you may be on hold; you can always answer email while you’re waiting.) Efficiency is essential in these offices and you will be treated with respect.

Please share this post with those who struggle to make these important calls and also with anyone who can offer more advice. 

Also … if you want to listen to the CBC interview, you can find it here:


10 thoughts on “Top 3 Things You Need To Know About Booking and Cancelling Appointments”

  1. I almost went looking for a new dentist once because I was embarrassed about missing an appointment. Then I realized that, as a business owner, I wouldn’t want a client to go somewhere else due to embarrassment. Duh!

    • Thank you so much for sharing this, Linda. We lose sight of the fact that anxiety around phone calls and making mistakes has always existed, that it impacts individuals of every age and background.

  2. Hi Mary Jane,

    I heard this on The Current and I’m glad I continued to listen. I was not really impressed with the interviewer. It shocks me how some people are so cavalier about appointments and how people will go out of their way to avoid a phone call.

    Two weeks ago I had an appointment with RBC. I knew 24 hours in advance that I couldn’t make the in-person meeting. I tried to let them know (at my local branch). I invested more than an hour trying to find a # (the original appt was made through the RBC call center). I couldn’t. So, I was a no-show (God, my late Dad would roll over in his grave!). When I went into the bank a few days later to rebook and explain, the counter clerk smiled and shrugged her shoulders. When I finally got into to speak with my contact (a very nice young man), he said “we don’t really have any control over that, etc.”. There’s more to the story (it’s a bit convoluted), but it is so perplexing how companies don’t or won’t communicate with their customers.

    • Thanks, Maureen, for sharing this story. There are two sides to these communication issues and your story illustrates the other side very clearly. If businesses don’t communicate clearly with us, or make it easy to reach them, we, as clients and customers, disconnect. It actually encourages us to stop calling them and having good conversations. So glad you took the time to comment.

  3. Thanks, this is good knowledge. I personally feel paralyzed often when having to call on the phone. It takes me a lot to pick the phone up. I always enjoy your posts.

    • Thanks so much, Robin. You are certainly not alone in the anxiety you feel when you need to use the telephone. And yet … real-time conversations are so wonderful! Keep practicing.


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