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17 December 2018

6 best practice tips for SMS appointment reminders

SMS appointment reminders are a highly effective method to improve appointment attendance and cut no-show rates, both of which increase revenue and productivity in the many industries that depend on appointments.

Customers who fail to arrive for an appointment lose money for your business. Further loss occurs when staff waste valuable time chasing no-show customers to reschedule appointments.

How to maximise your SMS appointment reminders

Here are six tips to maximise the effect of your SMS appointment reminders:

1. Get the timing right

One of the many benefits of SMS is its ability to cut through a busy person’s day and demand their immediate attention. An SMS is usually opened within seconds of receipt and acted upon faster than emails or other forms of communication.

As a rule, 24 hours before the appointment is the best time to remind customers. This is close enough to the appointment to prevent customers from forgetting, yet gives you time to fill the appointment slot if they cancel.

You might also want to send an additional reminder a few days before as well, but experimenting with different time frames will reveal what works best for your customers and your business.

2. Write clear, brief messages

Your message must be clear and concise, without the distraction of unnecessary information.

Essential information includes:

  • Date of the appointment
  • Time of the appointment
  • Location
  • A contact number

Any additional information should be kept to a minimum and appear after the important details. For example, you might want to remind customers of a cancellation fee but keep it short (and friendly!)

3. Determine the right tone

Choose the right tone for your message. You want to sound professional but approachable. Make sure that the customer feels comfortable enough to cancel if they can’t make their appointment. After all, a cancellation in advance is much better than a no-show.

Personalising the message always creates a good impression and a friendly tone. Open with the customer’s name can be implemented easily, and even bulk SMS messages can address each customer by name using mail merge facilities.

4. Use a call-to-action

Make sure you ask your customer to respond. Even if the customer just responds by texting ‘Y’ for ‘yes’, this firms up the appointment in their mind and they are more likely to attend.

Provide an avenue for the customer to change the appointment. Don’t let the opportunity escape by simply asking the customer to text ‘N’ for ‘no’. Include a contact number or alternative means of rescheduling their appointment.

Two-way messaging makes it easy for customers to confirm, reschedule, or cancel their appointments.

5. Use a dedicated number or alpha tag

If you use appointment reminders frequently, a dedicated number is a great way to link your business with the one trusted number your customer learns to recognize.

Without a dedicated number your alternative is a shared number. Multiple businesses have access to shared numbers and they are allocated at random and change with every send.

Using a shared number from the available pool of numbers is cheaper, but it also runs the risk that your customer receives your reminders from a different number each time – and from multiple businesses! As you can see from this real-life example below, this is potentially confusing and risks the customer missing the appointment.

An alpha tag is another way for your customer to easily identify your business, thereby avoiding confusion and building brand awareness. Using alpha tags allows you to display an 11-character name – such as Dentist4You – instead of a mobile number, which is a more professional and established look for your marketing communications.

6. Observe legal requirements

Legal requirements may vary across regions, but most jurisdictions prohibit contacting customers via mobile without their permission. Make sure you have obtained permission from the customer and that this permission is kept on record and up-to-date.

A messaging policy is a means to encourage consistent and proper use of appointment reminders in your business. Consider implementing a messaging policy for your business that covers information such as:

  • How customer permission is obtained, stored and updated
  • Details to include or exclude in messages
  • Personnel in your business authorised to send messages
  • The process when customers do not respond to confirmation messages
  • The policy for marketing type reminders, such as reminders for vaccinations etc.

Conclusion

SMS appointment reminders are hugely successful in reducing no-shows and last minute cancellations. By following best practice, your business can keep the diary full and maximise revenue and productivity.

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