Getting customers to make and keep appointments is vital to any business that operates on an appointment basis. Broken appointments lead to downtime and decreased productivity. So what do you do to help your customers keep their appointments?
You send them reminders.
You remind them several times, and often through several different methods (email, text or phone call) that they have an upcoming appointment. All of this effort is worth it when you have a day that runs smoothly with no broken appointments.
Unfortunately, this is often the exception rather than the rule. For example, if you look at all of the dental practices that are set up on Weave’s analytics platform, the average cancellation percentage is 15%. For most of these dental practices, this means at least one canceled appointment per day.
Best Practices for Setting Up Your Reminder System
So now that we have talked about the issue, let’s jump into some strategy on how to make it less of an issue.
Personalize Your Reminder Messages
Your customers love you. Or, at least that is the goal. When you send your customers a message, they have a sense of obligation to respond to someone who they have a personal connection to. Many business owners don’t take advantage of this personal connection in their reminder messages.
Most reminder and confirmation systems are less effective than they could be, simply due to the constraints of the system itself. Many systems have certain constraints for how the customer is required to respond. This is the fastest way to lose the personal touch in your message.
If you send out a reminder message that says, “Hi James, this is a reminder that you have an appointment on March 20th at 2:00 PM with Mountain View Medical Center. Respond “C” to confirm”, this is a dead giveaway that your message does not actually have a person on the other end sending out the message.
Instead, a reminder text that says, “Hi James, this is Julie from Mountain View Medical Center. We have an appointment scheduled for you on March 20th at 2:00 PM. Does that still work for you?” communicates that a person, rather than a machine is on the other end of the text message.
This allows your business to take advantage of the relationships that you have built with your customers.
So why aren’t all systems set up like this?
Simply put, most systems are not robust enough to handle the different responses that a message like this will generate. This is one of the advantages of Weave’s reminder system. Weave’s system has built-in smart texting features so that it will recognize any affirmative response to the personalized message, and confirm that appointment.
Personalized reminders will get better response rates from your customers which will lead to fewer broken or missed appointments.
Time Your Messages Appropriately
The goal of your reminder messages is to get as many people to confirm and keep their appointments as you can. It goes without saying that your success will increase if you send your messages out at a time that people will actually see them.
If you want to figure out the best time to send out your text reminders, you need to get into the minds of your customers. When are they commuting? When are they busy with family activities? When are they working? When are they accustomed to answering messages?
There is not one right time to send out your reminder messages. The variables mentioned above will help you strategically put together a time to send out your messages. It may help to measure and adjust your strategy to optimize your response rate.
Optimize Reminder Frequency
Reminder frequency has less to do with the actual time of day that you are sending out messages, and more to do with how many messages you are sending out, and when those go out.
The goal here is to be effective, but not overwhelm your customers. A good rule of thumb to go by here is to choose a time frame makes it so the client can still remember their appointment when the time comes, but that also leaves you enough time to fill the appointment if the client needs to reschedule.
Start sending reminders a few days in advance and then send additional reminders if the client is still unconfirmed.
Avoid Words That Make The Appointment Seem Wishy-Washy
If you want people to keep their appointment, you need to communicate that you expect them to show up.
Some wording that businesses often use that indicate that an appointment is not set in stone looks like this:
“This is a reminder about your appointment”
If someone needs to be reminded about something, the assumption is that they forgot, or that you expected them to forget. This leaves an easy out for a client because all they have to do is say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I forgot.”
While these messages are reminders, we don’t want to communicate that we expected clients to forget their appointments.
“This message is to confirm your appointment”
If something is not confirmed, it is not solid. On the receiving end of this message, a customer feels much less guilt for breaking an unconfirmed appointment than one that the business is looking forward to or planning on.
Putting it All Together
So now you have a bunch of tips to optimize the results of your appointment reminders. Let’s put those all together in a usable fashion.
If I were a medical practice, and I wanted to optimize the results of my reminder system, I would send out a personalized message around three days in advance of the patient’s appointment. This message would probably go out around 9 AM when people are often checking their email and messages.
The message would look something like this, “Hi Mary, this is Dan from Optimal Family Medical. We are looking forward to your appointment on March 9th at 2:00 PM. Does that still work for you?
Thankfully, a system like Weave can be set up to implement this type of messaging for your business.