If you’re an office manager or scheduler for an appointment-based business, you face the problem of no-shows. Some patients or clients will inevitably forget the correct date or appointment time, decide not to come due to financial or work concerns, or be unable to come for other reasons.
Studies have shown that automated appointment reminders are an incredibly effective way to reduce missed appointments, eliminating up to 90 percent of no-shows. A customizable reminder system sends your patients or clients friendly reminders of their upcoming appointments, prompting them to either confirm or cancel in advance. This saves your business time and money, and it leads to happier customers.
But if your practice or office hasn’t implemented such reminders yet, you may be uncertain where to start. After all, there are so many ways people communicate with each other these days: email, social media, phone calls, and more.
Reminderly’s appointment reminder service works easily across phone, email, and sms, but in this blog post, I will highlight the one technology you need today and will need even more over time: appointment reminder text messages.
As smart phones have exploded in popularity, so has text messaging. Some 90 percent of American adults own a cell phone, and the vast majority of them are texting on a daily basis. For instance, well over 90 percent of adults age 18 to 49 text, and that number is at two-thirds and rising for those in the 50 to 64 age group. The only demographic where texting falls below 50 percent is those 65+.
These numbers suggest that, while it’s important to have phone notifications and email reminders for your older clientele, text message reminders are an indispensable part of any automated reminder system.
Consumer surveys bear out the need for sms communication for businesses. One study found that sixty-seven percent of people would prefer to text with a business than talk to them over the phone. And that statistic highlights something really important: customers want two-way communication with businesses, not a one-way stream of texts that they can’t tell is from a person or a bot. Seventy-five percent of people report frustration when they can’t text a business back.
Text messaging with businesses is not only popular already but also certain to increase over time as younger demographics—those most likely to be comfortable with texting already—become a larger share of the adult population. For this reason, using text messages for appointment confirmations, follow-ups, rescheduling, and more is a tool your business needs today.
As noted above, email reminders are an important part of any appointment scheduling and reminder system. Especially for healthcare practices whose patients skew to the 65+ demographic, effective use of email and voicemail is incredibly important.
With that caveat in mind, it’s important to note that, on the whole, email has several weaknesses as compared to text messaging.
The first one is open rates. A 2022 survey from Mailchimp noted that medical, dental, and healthcare emails have an open rate of only 21.72 percent. By contrast, sms open rates are in the high nineties, and the large majority of messages are read within 15 minutes of being received.
Click-through rates for text messages are also much higher, on average, than for emails. This can be important for businesses that need to collect personal information or waivers from patients or clients prior to their appointments.
It doesn’t have to be either-or. With Reminderly, you can customize a plan to send your patients or clients texts, emails, and also to include phone calls if that’s effective. But the data are clear that customers are already interested in sms communication and will only become more so over time.
In most cases, an appointment reminder text message is just that: a text message your patient or customer receives on their cell phone with a brief reminder of their upcoming scheduled appointment. The reason this simple technology works so well is that it eliminates a huge cause of no-shows: nearly all of the ones that would have occurred due to someone simply forgetting their appointment or having the wrong date or time in mind.
Forgetting isn’t the only reason people miss appointments, but it’s probably the largest single reason. Appointment reminder text messages are very effective at eliminating it. And since a large majority of patients indicate that they like such reminder texts, it’s a win-win.
If you’d like to see your no-show rate drop dramatically this month, contact Reminderly so we can work together to create a customized solution for your healthcare practice or other type of business.
Appointment reminder text messages are more than one-way reminders. With two-way communication such as that offered by Reminderly, your customers are instantly empowered to let you know what’s happening on their end. A simple template like this prompts them to confirm, so you know the timeslot will be filled:
This is Beth, the manager at Acme Chiropractic. Please confirm your appointment at 3:00pm on Wednesday, September 14th by replying “Yes” to this text message or “No” if you need to reschedule.]]
Let’s say you get a “No” from John. A good reminder system will let you immediately respond to John, for example:
[[Thanks for letting us know that you need to cancel your 3:00pm appointment on Wednesday, September 14th—it is now cancelled. Please respond with a date and time that would work for you to reschedule.]]
Perhaps John sends a date and time that works for you. If so, you’ve just saved your practice both time and money. The important thing is that your appointment reminder text messages not only prevented what could easily have been a no-show or a last-minute cancellation but also got the ball rolling on rescheduling his next appointment.
1. Keep them short: 160 characters or less.
2. Put your business name or the name of your medical practice early in the text to help the reader see that this isn’t spam.
3. Optimize your templates over time by seeing what works and aiming for succinctness, accessibility, and decreasing no-show rates.
Effective use of text messaging to handle appointment reminders will eliminate the majority of your no-shows. That said, there will always be a small fraction of no-show appointments. Here is another area where you can automate your business text messaging so as to remind your patients or clients of your no-show policy. Here, for instance, is a text template for that:
This is Beth, manager at Acme Chiropractic. Per our cancellation policy, we are charging a 50% rate for the appointment that was missed today. Please reply to this text or call 123-456-7891 with questions or to reschedule.]]
If your business runs partly or fully through online appointments, you can customize templates that not only remind people of the upcoming appointment but also provide them with the needed phone number or video conferencing link at a convenient time. Here is what a two-text sequence might look like in that case:
This is Beth, manager at Acme Accounting. You are booked for an online tax consultation with accountant Peter Jones on Wednesday, September 14th at 3:00pm. Please reply “Yes” to this text message or “No” if you need to reschedule.]]
This is Beth, manager at Acme Accounting. We look forward to seeing you at your online tax consultation with accountant Peter Jones today at 3:00pm. Please use this link to join your video call.]]
What if it’s hard to find your office? What if you have medical intake paperwork that takes time to fill out? Issues like these can interfere with workflows, which is harmful whether you’re a solo practitioner running a small business or an office manager overseeing a large volume of patients. Text templates like these automate sending and receiving important information so as to prevent interruptions and save you and your staff time:
We look forward to seeing you for your dental appointment with Acme Dental on Wednesday, September 14th at 3:00pm. Please note that parking for our office is available on the south side of our building, and our entrance is on the west side.]]
We look forward to seeing you for your physical therapy appointment on Wednesday, September 14th at 3:00pm. Please fill out these intake forms [linked] prior to your appointment, and your physical therapist will review them before seeing you.]]
The text message templates offered above address a few of the main problems businesses face, but with Reminderly’s custom support, your business can get creative in solving problems and generating new business.
Automated text messaging can be used, for instance, to:
Generate new referrals
Send special promotions or pricing offers
Share information about changes in business locations and staffing