How to Determine the Best Time of Day to Send Reminder Texts
Texting has come a long way since Neil Papworth sent the first text message from a personal computer in 1992. By the mid to late 1990s, more Americans had adopted texting as a method of communication, but it was still a slow, clunky, and expensive endeavor.
With the advent of smartphones and a current mobile phone ownership rate exceeding 95%, almost everyone is texting. On average, people send and receive 94 messages daily and check their phone 150 times per day. And with text message open rates just shy of 100%, the chance that your message will be seen shortly after sending it is high.
Not only that, but texting for business is still a relatively new outreach method. Unlike email, which often goes to spam or gets ignored; or phone calls, which are usually perceived as an interruption, texting is a non-intrusive and instant way to get your message across to your audience.
By sending a text to your patients and clients, you increase your chances of your message being seen. If you want to remind clients to make it to their appointments, there’s never been a more effective and convenient way to reach them and guarantee that they’re aware of their commitment with your office.
So, when should you send reminder texts to get the best results? We’ll answer that question and give you some tips on how to adjust the strategy to fit the needs of your office.
The Importance of Reminder Messages for Appointments
If you haven’t already implemented a system to send reminder texts, it could be costing you. Appointment no-show rates can range from 5 to 30 percent, and the average missed appointment costs a business around $200. These dollar amounts add up, and an office could be losing up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually if these time slots don’t get filled.
To boost show-up rates and get a handle on cancellations, reminder and confirmation messages can help decrease no-show rates dramatically. Not only does having your appointments show up grow your bottom line, but it also provides patients with better outcomes, and it enhances the relationship with your clients. After all, they can’t get any of the benefits you provide if they don’t show up for their appointments!
The Best Time of Day to Send Reminder Texts
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could say, “The best time to send reminder texts is Tuesday at 10:45 a.m.?” But the truth is that every business and each person is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. This especially true for the case of appointment reminder texts, where the ideal time will vary based on the date and time of the appointment.
There are some general practices that will enhance your success while also providing a positive experience for your clients.
Consider Your Goals
Think about the goal of the texts that you are sending. Do you want your clients to take action? Then, the best time for this to happen is often between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. However, this guideline depends on your clients and patients, as well as their personal habits. Your clients might not be action takers in the morning, and they may do the bulk of their activity at night.
While some people tend to be more active in the morning, others use the downtime in the evening to catch up on correspondence. If your clients fit within this category, then consider messaging them between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
For appointment reminders, one of the best things you can do is send a reminder text exactly 24 hours in advance. So, if the client’s appointment is at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, you would schedule the reminder to be delivered via text at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning. This timeframe works well for two reasons:
- If a client has to cancel, it gives you almost a full 24 hours to fill that time slot.
- Because your client has an appointment at that time of day, it’s generally safe to assume that they are awake and active.
In addition to sending a reminder text 24 hours in advance, some people also benefit from an additional message on the day of the appointment. For some, this means getting a text in the morning for an afternoon appointment. For others, receiving a reminder an hour before is helpful, especially if they tend to be forgetful.
Depending on the client and how far in advance their appointment was scheduled, you may need to send more than one reminder message. To determine the ideal schedule for multiple appointment reminders, check out our post on Finding the Best Cadence for Reminder Messages.
Times to Avoid for Safety
Just because your clients have their phones with them most of the day doesn’t necessarily mean it’s okay to reach out to them at all hours. Some timeframes to avoid include rush hour and peak commuting times when your clients and patients are likely to be on the road. The last thing you want to do is distract a driver with a reminder text.
Make It Convenient for Your Staff
If you’re sending reminder texts that have a call to action associated with them, then it’s best to ensure those get sent when your staff is available to respond.
For example, if you send your reminder texts at 7:00 p.m. and ask clients to confirm or reschedule appointments, then you should have staff available to make rescheduling arrangements if necessary. However, if your team has left for the day, then none of the follow-ups can be done until the next day.
Stay Within the Parameters of Politeness
It goes without saying that the middle of the night is not an appropriate time to send a reminder text, but there’s also a gray area of what’s acceptable and what could be considered rude. When is too early and what is too late? Is 7:00 a.m. too early? Is 9:00 p.m. too late?
To err on the side of safety, you might want to limit your texting activity between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., but you can also ask your clients to specify when they would prefer to receive messages and what time of day is off-limits.
If you do ask for this information, make sure it’s documented in your customer relationship management system and that you adhere to it. There’s nothing worse than telling a business not to contact you before 8:00 a.m. and then receiving a message from them at 7:30 a.m.
Listen to Client Preferences
We recommend asking your clients and patients to share their contact preferences so that you can ensure your messages are seen as helpful, not a nuisance. On intake forms or during an appointment, you can gather data such as:
- Do they prefer to receive messages first thing in the morning or do they want a reminder one hour before their scheduled appointment?
- Would they rather be contacted via text, phone call, email, or direct mail?
- Are there days and times that they don’t want to receive any messages? Weekends, evenings, and early mornings should be on the list as well as an option for your client to specify a custom time.
Look at the Data
If you’ve been in business for a while and you’ve been tracking show-up rates, then you can analyze how often a patient or client makes it to their appointment based on different contact intervals.
For example, your data may indicate that 3 hours before an appointment is the best time to send a reminder text.
If you don’t have a data analyst or a statistical software program, you can still do this analysis by hand. The process would involve the following:
- Look at each client record.
- Make a note of which appointments were completed and missed.
- When the client made it to their appointment, check to see when a message was sent, paying close attention to the time of day, the amount of time between the text and the appointment, and the frequency of the messages.
- Repeat the above step for missed appointments.
- Record this information and then move on to the next client record.
After looking at a client’s file and correspondence, you should have a general idea of what works for that patient and be able to determine a custom schedule that suits their needs best. Once you’ve had a chance to examine several records, you may notice a pattern such as lunch hour reminder messages tend to inspire the highest show-up rates or that messages sent at the end of the day result in more cancellations than reminders sent in the morning.
Again, every situation will be different, so we suggest looking at your office’s data to discover any patterns or trends.
It can take some time and in-depth analysis to find the best time of day for reminder texts that suits your office environment and client base. But, if you follow our guidelines and always keep the client experience in mind, you should find success with your text reminder strategy.