text messaging appointment reminders

Text Messaging: Appointment Reminders the Easy Way

Appointment reminders can be simple and highly effective:

“This is a reminder of your appointment with <staff member> is on <day/date> at <time>. Please reply "Confirm" or "Cancel", or call <phone number> with questions or to reschedule.”

In this blog post, we’ll look at why automated appointment reminder text messages are the single best way for healthcare providers—and all types of appointment-based businesses—to reduce their no-show rates and start increasing revenue today.

Missed appointments may be costing you more than you think

No-shows cost the medical industry approximately $150 billion a year. And that’s just healthcare. If we add in wellness practices, salons, restaurants, household services, and all the other large and small businesses that rely on appointments, the number is staggering.

I find it hard to wrap my head around a figure as large as $150 billion, so let’s boil it down to a single example. Lauren is a physical therapist who has a private practice. Over the years, she’s brought on two other PTs and an office manager. Each of the three PTs sees an average of 40 people a week, so 120 for the office in total. Their average appointment cost is $150, and the office has a no-show rate of 15%. (For additional examples and calculations take a look at this post.) Here are some calculations to reach the total revenue lost over the course of a 50-week year:

120 sessions per week minus 15% no-shows = 102 sessions per week

Those 18 missed appointments cost:

18 x $150 = $2700/week

$2700/week x 50 weeks = $135,000

And that $135k figure is actually still too low. Missed appointments are a known cause of patient attrition, which means some of those no-shows will be lost to Lauren’s practice for good. That figure also doesn’t account for the time her office manager spends calling no-show clients instead of working on more productive tasks. In the end, you get a picture of Lauren and her office manager spending much of their time on follow-up with no-shows and trying to drum up new patients to replace lost ones—an exhausting cycle.

If we run the math on a daily basis—$135,000 / 250 work days—we see that Lauren’s practice is losing $540 a day. Since Reminderly’s service starts as low as $99 a month, the cost/benefit analysis is a no-brainer.

By sending automated messages to solicit confirmations and cancellations in advance, Lauren could streamline workflow for herself, her staff, and her office manager and start increasing her revenue in a matter of weeks. Now let’s take a look at why text messages are often a particularly effective mode to communicate with your clientele.

Three reasons why sms text messages are the perfect appointment confirmation solution

Reminderly offers customizable options to use sms messages, email reminders, and phone calls with your clients. In some cases—like if your patient base leans to the elderly side—it might make sense to rely more heavily on phone calls. But for many businesses, text messages are an ideal way to automate client notifications about upcoming appointments. Let’s look at three reasons why.

  • High open rates and clickthrough rates. Most people screen their phones calls, and email open rates are notoriously low. But since it only takes a moment to glance at a text message, people generally read close to 100% of their texts. Not surprisingly then, sms open rates and response rates are much higher than for email. For this reason, simple sms appointment reminders are very effective. And, since text message clickthrough rates are also higher than email rates, text messages are a great way to get your patients or clients to engage with necessary paperwork prior to their appointment.
  • Two-way communication. Surveys show that people like to be able to text back the businesses that text them, and they become frustrated when they can’t. With Reminderly’s two-way functionality, when your clients receive their friendly reminder from you, they can respond immediately—whether that’s with a simple confirmation or cancellation, or to ask a question. With sufficient time, you’ll be able to fill cancellations with peopl from your waitlist. Reminderly even offers a waitlist manager so you can text all of your clients on the waitlist at the same time. We confirm the appointment for the first person who responds, and we politly let the later responders know it’s been filled.
  • Integrates with appointment scheduling software. Reminderly’s text reminder service offers both fully automated and semi-automated data integrations with major calendar providers including Google calendar, Office 365, Outlook, Calendly, Zapier, and Excel spreadsheets. If you’re unsure how this integration would work for your business, you can read more about it on this post. Feel free to contact us anytime, and we’ll be happy to talk through the specifics of your situation.

Your clientele wants appointment confirmation text messages

If you remain hesitant about incorporating sms reminders into your practice management strategy, know this: business texting is on the rise. Especially for people under age fifty—90% of whom text regularly—it’s now common to receive text messages from businesses regarding appointment reminders, customer support, payment reminders, important details of a transaction, and so forth. Surveys have found that 85% of people say they like to receive appointment reminders.

Key components of an automated text template

Let’s revisit the sms template from the start of this blog post and break out its key components.

“This is a reminder of your appointment with <staff member> is on <day/date> at <time>. Please reply "Confirm" or "Cancel", or call <phone number> with questions or to reschedule.”

With Reminderly, you can customize your templates to suit not only your business as a whole but also segmented lists of your clientele. Let’s look at some of the options you may want to use.

Customer’s name. Though business texting is an important opportunity, unfortunately spam texts are also on the rise. Using their name is a great way to immediately let the recipient know that this is a personalized message for them. This encourages conversational customer engagement—a big plus for your business.

Business name and/or staff member name. You’ll want to include one or both of these, for easy identification when your patient or customer receives the text message.

Appointment date and time. You can go with something more succinct, like “Your appointment is on 8/15 at 2pm.” Or, if you prefer, you can take up a bit more space to spell things out: “Your appointment is on Monday, August 15th at 2:00pm.” Either way, these key details absolutely need to be in the appointment reminder.

Prompt to confirm. A confirmation text (or confirmation email) needs to have a super easy way for your patient or client to confirm—that’s the point! Something like “Please reply Confirm" or "Cancel” is incredibly easy to understand and act on. That said, this option—like all aspects of Reminderly’s service—is customizable. If, for instance, you only want to give your patients the option to confirm, and ask them to call to cancel, that’s totally doable.

Other text template components to consider

Here’s a slightly more complex version of the template we’ve been looking at:

“This is <staff member> from <business name>. I’m so glad you decided to book your <appointment type> with us! Your appointment is on <day/date> at <time>. Reply C to Confirm or X to Cancel. If you need to reschedule, please reply X to this text message and then follow this <link> to pick a time that works for you. Call <phone number> with any questions.”

Friendly personalization. In addition to the customer’s name and the business name, this template includes the name of the staff member sending the text message. It also includes a friendly/enthusiastic note (“I’m so glad you decided to book with us!”) These additions encourage your client to feel a sense of personal connectedness to your business—something that can be especially helpful if they’re feeling anxious about their upcoming appointment (one of the top reasons why patients miss healthcare visits).

Web links. In this template, the link connects to your business’s online scheduling platform so that your client can reschedule if they need to. This takes most of the work off you or your staff in the appointment booking process. But any type of link can be included—to a video chat link, to necessary paperwork, to a page on your website, to a survey, etc.

Additional benefits of business texting

This blog post has focused on automated sms appointment reminders, but an automated text service like Reminderly offers benefits beyond appointment confirmations.

Payment requests. You can run your entire payments system off sms payment requests (including links to Venmo, Paypal, or whatever service you use), or you can use these as a backup for clients whose invoices are overdue.

Solicit feedback. Reminderly offers a service whereby, after each appointment, we send a short survey to measure satisfaction. This is an easy way to collect useful information from your clientele to help you optimize your business over time. We can also send your most satisfied customers a link to your social media to leave a review—a no-stress way to accumulate positive reviews on your socials and/or website.

Send important updates. You can send your whole list, or pertinent segments of it, updates about your business such as sales or special opportunities, staff changes, pricing changes, and so on. If you’re running a class or small group, for instance, you can send that list regular informational or motivational updates.

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