The COVID-19 pandemic may have kicked off in the United States more than three years ago, but office managers are still feeling its effects.
Appointments have always been tricky for certain clients to remember, but now, they’re re-starting old habits that perhaps were put on the backburner for a while. Maybe they stopped scheduling regular check-ups with their dentist. Maybe they’ve let other healthcare concerns lapse. Now that things are back in business, it’s time for office managers and other administrators to reconsider how they’ll be able to get their business back up and humming, like it was in pre-pandemic times.
One great way to do this is through appointment reminders, which can drastically reduce the number of missed appointments and keep clients coming back regularly. Read on to learn about the problem of post-COVID no-shows, and how a solid appointment reminder system may be all your business needs to bounce back.
We all remember that time in early 2020, when information about the new virus was still murky and many of us were too scared to go anywhere. In March of that year, a lot of clients cancelled upcoming appointments with little thought as to how to reschedule; some people rescheduled for times not long later, assuming the pandemic and related lockdowns were going to a short-term thing. Others did not have to cancel or reschedule their upcoming appointments – businesses and medical offices simply shut down, making a visit impossible.
There were a few businesses that were able to transition seamlessly to telemeeting, or online appointments. But for the most part – especially in the case of small businesses – it took a while to figure out how to proceed safely with appointments in the pandemic era.
Even now, as most businesses are back to regular functioning, this hectic time has created a scheduling backlog that has been time-consuming for office managers to sort through. Even since 2021, nearly half of all medical offices have reported that their no-show rate has increased, according to the Medical Group Management Association. Interestingly, this is after no-show rates had been decreasing before the pandemic, meaning the pandemic reversed what had been a positive trend. MGMA’s poll found that, in 2022, patients were still worried about coming in due to the pandemic, and their appointments were taking longer due to having put off important care earlier in the pandemic.
But this backlog is also affecting all sorts of clients, not just those of doctor’s offices. Deferred appointments have also affected other industries that rely on scheduling to keep track of their many clients or customers, such as beauty salons, wellness centers and car dealerships and repair shops.
Patient no-shows cost the healthcare industry approximately $150 billion per year, some reports have shown. But the negative impact of missed appointments goes beyond healthcare – and beyond revenue.
Of course, a missed appointment can mean missed sales or service fees. But in the case of healthcare, it can also be detrimental to a patient’s health. Missed dental appointments or doctor appointments can mean that a patient isn’t screened for any number of diseases or conditions. It can also mean it’s harder or more complicated for certain crucial medications to be refilled.
Even missing non-healthcare appointments can impact a client’s well-being. People make appointments for personal training at the gym, for check-ups on their vehicle, and other services that improve their quality of life. Missing out on these can make a client feel less together, or less fulfilled.
No matter the industry, keeping the customer communications strong is crucial to ensuring clients or patients come back regularly. This is especially crucial now, after the pandemic caused many people to lose the habit of regularly scheduling future appointments. Keeping your business name on a client’s calendar means that you’re still present in their life, which will only increase client retention later on. Fortunately, implementing a strong appointment reminder system can repair the damage the pandemic has done to businesses struggling with client relationships.
Ultimately, when it comes to businesses struggling with their appointment scheduling backlog, the pandemic caused one thing: a rupture in the lines of communication. Fortunately, there are simple ways to repair this disruption in customer communications and get regular communication with clients back up and running.
Appointment reminders are a proven way to increase client engagement and decrease that pesky no-show rate. A study conducted by medical practitioners in the United Kingdom found reminders to be “effective” in combatting missed appointments, as well as “a relatively inexpensive way to increase health care efficiency, effectiveness, and quality.” Missed appointments in the medical field, after all, can cause worsening of health conditions or patient well-being, so the study aimed to address this crucial issue.
Many businesses already use appointment reminders, but they have yet to transition to an appointment reminder software that integrates technology for a seamless, automated reminder system.
Some offices, for example, still rely on administrative assistants to place phone calls to clients about their upcoming appointments. This is an effective way to remind clients of appointments they may otherwise forget, but it also is time-consuming, and can take a busy employee away from other tasks that may be just as urgent.
Appointment reminder software make the whole process easy to set up and forget about. A beauty parlor, for instant, can set up automated salon appointment reminders that go out to clients automatically based on the software’s integration into the shop’s calendar or scheduling app. Simply schedule a future appointment, and the reminder software will automatically schedule quick reminders to go along with it, using the client’s phone number or other contact details. The reminder will also automatically include the most important details, like the appointment time and date, as well as any instructions the shop may wish to include. And the reminder templates can use the client's name to make the reminder come across as personal as possible, thus strengthening the business-to-client relationship.
Another great thing about appointment reminder software is that it does not have to be tied to any one form of reminder. While phone calls were traditionally the way doctor’s offices might call patients to remind them about their upcoming appointments, appointment reminder software can automate sms reminders, email reminders, voicemails and more.
The diversity of reminder formats is especially effective, given different clients prefer different modes of communication. Some may still prefer the trusty phone call. But others, particularly younger clients, will prefer a text message. And, in the wake of the pandemic, more clients are spending more time online than ever before, which means they may appreciate email reminders – or some combination of emails and text. It’s up to an individual business to decide how to proceed. Reminder software also features a variety of integrations, meaning it can integrate seamlessly into a practice or office’s existing software, such as Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook and more.
When it comes to the reminders themselves, businesses can utilize templates to make them suited their own needs. They can also send out more than simply appointment reminders. For example, some businesses like to send out follow-ups after an appointment has ended.
Another great use for an appointment reminder software is the option to send an appointment confirmation text. An appointment confirmation text will ask a client to confirm that they’re still available for their upcoming appointment, and remind them of the appointment date. These texts can be extremely helpful, as it allows a client to reschedule a poorly timed upcoming appointment in advance, allowing the business to place someone else in their place and avoid having missed revenue due to the no-show.
Often, a friendly reminder is all it takes to ensure a client shows up.
Getting started creating and automating your own appointment reminders is remarkably easy.
Reminderly’s 14-day trial is available for anyone to get started and get reminding clients immediately. The software features a wide variety of integrations as well as suggested templates for effective friendly reminders. It can also create appointment reminders across a wide variety of formats, including sms reminders, email reminders and phone calls.
It couldn’t be easier to set up and launch. But if you have any questions, or are still unsure whether the software is right for your business, we’re always here to chat. You can reach out to us via this contact form, and we’ll get back to you shortly. Or, if you’re ready to dive in, go ahead and give it a shot – our 14-day trial can be accessed here.
We’re looking forward to assisting you on your appointment reminder journey, and getting your client engagement back up to pre-pandemic levels. With the right communications software in place, no one needs to miss their scheduled appointment.