Managing a healthcare practice, a wellness business, or any type of busy office can be overwhelming. There are the ongoing managerial and administrative demands, and then there are the surprises: the heat goes out and suddenly you’re buying space heaters and calling HVAC outfits; the business owner or CEO announces a big new initiative and wants it started immediately; a staff member gets sick or quits unexpectedly. With all of that on your plate, the one thing you don’t need is the drip-drip of client no-shows sapping your time and energy.
In this blog post, we’ll look at how automated appointment reminders can save office managers and other staff hours each week. But before we delve into the details, let’s look at why no-shows are so costly and time-consuming in the first place.
The financial cost of no-shows is steep—what should have been a full-paying patient or customer has become a blank spot in your revenue stream. Even if you apply a fee based on your cancellation policy, the result is not the same. The fees might be less than 100%, and you won’t be able to collect them from everyone. What’s more, data reveals that no-shows are less likely to continue with your practice in the future, meaning that even a client who pays a 100% no-show fee might also be a client you’ve just lost.
So, no-shows are expensive—estimated to cost the healthcare industry alone some $150 billion per year. But what about the issue of lost time and inefficient use of time? Let’s take an example to help break it down...
Dorothy is the office manager and HR person for a dental practice. The office has five dentists and ten dental hygienists, along with Dorothy and two part-time front-desk workers. Dorothy experiences no-shows as a hassle, but she’s used to it: out of the dozens of appointments every day, about 10% of them will miss without having given advance notice. Dorothy sees that 10% no-show rate as just part of the cost of doing business, not that different from credit card fees or paying the cleaning company.
As she observes what’s happening over time though, Dorothy starts to notice more costs related to the no-shows. First of all, there’s the confusion around determining whether someone is truly a no-show or is just running late. The office policy is to call the patient once they’re 10 minutes late, but when people don’t pick up the phone—as they often don’t—the staff still has no idea what’s going on. The patient could be about to walk in the door or stuck in traffic on their way. Or they might have forgotten the appointment entirely due to a work or family issue, or simply because people forget things all the time. (There are many reasons why patients don’t show up.)
The no-shows lead to a sense of uncertainty and listlessness around the office. In that ambiguous no-show interlude, hygienists are left in a state of limbo that wastes their time. Another time-related cost is that of the front desk staff spending a large amount of its time on the phone notifying no-shows that they missed their appointment and trying to get them to reschedule. Between tracking down the phone numbers, leaving messages, and the repeat follow ups often required to reach someone, this task adds up to significant time each day.
Lastly, it occurs to Dorothy how much of her own time she spends on this issue. She often has to step in to ensure continuity in the rescheduling process and talking to unhappy patients who were charged late fees. She can’t help but wonder: would a lower no-show rate lead to a more streamlined workflow, happier staff members, and lower turnover?
Unlike so many of the problems that office managers like Dorothy face, there is a simple, low-cost, and remarkably effective solution to the issue of no-shows. With Reminderly, your office can start sending effective automated reminder messages right away. By alerting patients or customers to their upcoming appointments in this way and prompting them for simple confirmations, your office can do away with a majority of no-shows. Over 90% of those who confirm will not turn into no-shows or need to reschedule, and for those who do need to cancel, you have enough time to fill their slot with someone else.
Reminderly offers a range of fully automated and semi-automated integrations with your appointment calendar, whether you operate via Excel spreadsheets, Google calendar, Outlook 365, Calendly, or any other major appointment scheduling software or scheduling app. We also offer a waitlist manager—automatically notifying your full waitlist when an opening comes up, booking the first to respond, and letting subsequent responders know the slot was filled. Talk about easy appointment scheduling!
Reminderly’s clients typically see a no-show rate reduction of 90% or more within a matter of weeks. Talk about results! Let’s take a look at just why appointment reminder messages are this effective.
Here are the three most basic things you should be looking for in a good automated reminder system:
Reliability. The whole point of a reminder app is to make your office’s workflow more reliable. So, any reminder service you use needs to be reliable above all. At Reminderly, we regularly have new clients come to us because their former service had performance gaps. We constantly strive to make sure 100% of your reminders go through on the right channel (sms, email, or call), at the right time, to the right recipient. And our customer service is always available to answer questions or to help customize a solution that best fits your office. Speaking of which...
Customization. Your clientele appointment reminders need to be customizable to your customers’ preferences for notifications—whether as sms text reminders, email reminders, automated reminder calls, or a combination thereof. You also need to be able to customize your templates (see below for some examples) and tweak them when necessary—for instance, if you develop a new segment within your overall customer base (say, clients under age 50 who prefer text messaging only). A customized set of reminder templates will take most of the work off your plate right away, and it will only improve over time as you tweak them for effectiveness.
Two-way communication. Most of your clients will respond to their reminder with a simple confirmation—which means you’ve just helped a lot of them remember an appointment that they wanted to come to. But some will need to cancel and reschedule, and others will have questions. For these folks, it’s critical that your reminder app include real-time two-way communication. That way, your patient or client can respond to you while it’s fresh in their mind, and you can offer them great customer service. With Reminderly, your clientele can respond to your reminder messages and their responses will be sent to you via email. Rather than losing customers because they feel aggrieved about their missed appointments and no-show fees, you can increase their engagement and satisfaction.
Your upcoming appointment with <provider name> is on <day of week, date> at <time>. Reply 1 to confirm or 2 to cancel. Call 123-123-1234 with any questions. Thank you!
Subject line: Confirm your upcoming appointment at <business name>
Thank you for booking with us! Your upcoming appointment with <provider name> is on <day of week, date> at <time>. Please reply to this email or call 123-123-1234 if you need to reschedule, and we’ll find a time that works for you.
We look forward to seeing you soon,
<business or staff member name>
<business address, other contact info, social media links, cancellation policy etc.>
“Hello, this is <business name>, calling to remind you of your upcoming appointment on <day of week, date> at <time>. Please press 1 to confirm or 2 to reschedule, or press 0 if you’d like to be connected to a receptionist at our office now. Thank you, and have a great day!"