When running a private practice there are countless business processes that you can measure, tweak and manage in order to improve your productivity and bottom line. But when putting our business hat on to focus on performance and efficiency, it can often make us forget about an important aspect of private practice that could make or break your client service quality: the reception.

As part of the client journey, reception and intake is the first main point of contact your clients make with you, and therefore your best opportunity to make a great first impression.

How you deal with your incoming enquiries can leave a lasting impression on your clients, affecting how they view and interact with your practice in the future. It can also collect valuable data for your practice, measuring different ways your clients approach you.

Whether you’re using a virtual reception service or have an in-house reception team, read below the 6 common reception mistakes that can hurt your bottom line. Simple tweaks to correct these mistakes can make a significant difference to your client retention, attendance and therefore revenue.


Common Private Practice Reception Mistakes

1. Not asking how they heard about you

After spending all the money, time and energy on your marketing activities, you deserve to know which activities are working and which aren’t!

Making a habit of asking the simple question, “How did you hear about us?”, at the end of the call is a great way to ensure you’re collecting useful data about your marketing return on investment.


2. Not asking the reason for not booking

Not everyone who calls your practice will make an appointment, and it’s important to know why. Knowing the reasons that some don’t book helps you to assess whether there are any gaps in your practice that need to be filled or addressed.

For example, if you have a lot of enquiries for child counselling and you don’t have any child psychologists, it can prompt you to start recruiting. Or if a recurring reason is a lack of availability, then you may need to reconsider the hours you offer. If people are often undecided or need more time to think, you can provide more information about your services or offer to follow up in the future.

Ensure that the reason for not booking is captured (if appropriate) in order to gain valuable insight into what people are looking for.


3. Not asking the reason for cancelling or rescheduling

In a perfect world, your clients would never cancel their appointments. But in this imperfect world, things happen and from time to time your clients can’t make their appointment. While not ideal, cancellations and reschedules can be a source of insight about your practice, depending on how you deal with it.

I’ve heard countless times reception teams simply accepting the cancellation with no further questions: “Sure, no problem. I’ll cancel it for you.” But if the outcome is that the client will cancel anyway, then by simply asking why, you can at least gain some information.

Cancellation reasons can be useful for dealing with each individual client (e.g. Is the client a chronic canceller?) or finding out about the gaps in your practice (e.g. Are people cancelling because you’re not open after hours and they can’t take time off work during the day?).


4. Not re-booking or forward-booking

Another mistake that private practice reception teams often make is not re-booking when cancelling an appointment. Instead of simply cancelling the appointment and sending the client on their way, help them commit to another time instead.

Some clients need a little more encouragement to make their next appointment, so leaving them to call back can mean they may never come back.

Where suitable, give the client the opportunity to reschedule instead of cancelling their appointment altogether.

Similarly, encouraging clients to book one or multiple sessions in advance is another simple way to improve client retention. Just simply mention and give the client the option: “Sarah is usually booked out in advance. Would you like me to book another session for you in a fortnight, same time?”


5. Not keeping a comprehensive intake report

When following the suggestions listed above, you’ll start to get quite a lot of information about your incoming enquiries. So, what do you do with all of it and how do you sort through them?

Instead of dealing with this information one enquiry at a time, collect it in a comprehensive intake report that meets your needs. Make sure to collect the marketing source, referral type, cancellation or not booking reason, as well as other information specific to your practice’s circumstances.

Set a time to regularly review and analyse the report in order to recognise important patterns!


6. Not training your reception team

In any business, regular training is key to maintaining good routines and improving areas that are lacking. To ensure that your practice’s reception team is consistently improving and building good habits, provide ongoing training.

Build a culture where your team feels comfortable to give you feedback about what’s working and what’s not, as well as what they’re struggling with. It is also a great idea to set a monthly structured team meeting where you can share feedback with each other. With their feedback and your own report of their performance, you can build a formal or casual training agenda.

Some of the suggestions made in this post can feel awkward or unnatural for your team to start doing. For example, perhaps they feel uncomfortable asking why a client is cancelling their appointment. Train them in these areas to help them approach these questions with ease.


These common private practice reception mistakes are simple to correct. It only takes a little bit of tweaking to the script and a little out of your time to manage. While easy enough to implement, these changes can make a significant positive impact on your client attendance, retention and bottom line.

Which of these mistakes are you making and do you have other reception tips and tricks for private practice businesses? Share them below!