Do you run a busy healthcare clinic? A stylish salon? Or perhaps a bustling restaurant? Then you’ll know all about the pain of no-shows.
When customers don’t keep their appointments or bookings, it can really cost you. Not only do missed appointments eat into your profits, but they also impact employee productivity and overall efficiency. And, given that most businesses average 10-15% no-shows, it’s a huge issue.
Businesses with over $120,000 yearly revenue can lose over $26,000 each year due to missed appointments.10to8.com
To help reduce the number of no-shows in your business, consider using automated SMS reminders. They’re easy to set up, and give your customers, patients or clients a helpful and timely reminder about their upcoming appointment.
Here are some best practice tips to keep in mind when getting started with SMS appointment reminders.
1. Timing is everything with SMS reminders
Get the timing right, and you’ll get better results. To time your appointment reminder text messages to perfection, you could:
- Send SMS 24 hours before the appointment.
This is close enough to the appointment to stop the customer from forgetting, yet gives you both enough time to organise things if they reschedule or cancel.
- Consider your industry.
For example, reminding patients at 6 PM the night before may be better for a healthcare clinic, while 10 AM may be best for same-day dinner bookings.
- Start with just one text reminder and measure engagement.
You don’t want to bombard people with reminders. That said, if one message doesn’t seem to do the trick, you can always add a second (or even third). Keep testing to see what works.
2. Be as helpful as possible
Knowing that you’ve only got 160 characters to work with, think about how best to include all the info your customer needs.
For starters, include their name and the appointment time, day and location. Then, include a clear call-to-action (CTA) that gives them an easy way to confirm or reschedule (more on that below). And don’t forget your opt-out line.
If there are special instructions or you need to include additional information, consider sending a separate text message, or use email or another communication channel.
3. Save time with automation
One of the best things about sending appointment reminders? You can set up automatic reminders as part of your booking system, so it’s a set-and-forget task.
By integrating your messaging platform with whatever platform you use to manage appointments, you can then set up automated replies that are timed to go out the day before an appointment (or, whatever timing works for you).
For example, to lower the number of people skipping their parole meetings, Marquis Software helped Arkansas Corrections automatically send out text notifications and request a response to confirm the appointment. These automated appointment reminders have reduced parole no-shows by 43%.
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4. Ask for a response
Give your customers an easy way to reschedule, confirm, cancel or make an enquiry by including a strong CTA.
Asking your customer to respond with a ‘Reply Y or N’ will help firm up the appointment in their mind and make them more likely to attend.
You could also:
- Set up an automated reply if the customer responds with ‘N’, asking if there’s another date or time that works. This could increase the likelihood of them returning at a later date.
- Use two-way messaging if it’s likely your customers would want to ask questions about the appointment.
5. Make each message personal
This is super important. Personalisation will boost engagement and reassure your customer that you’ve got the right person, and the right appointment info. A generic message isn’t helpful at all.
As well as personalising fields like name, time and whatever else is relevant to the appointment, you can make your messages more personal by using a tone of voice that reflects your brand. In most cases, this means being friendly, but professional.
6. Stick to the rules
While the rules can vary from region to region, in most jurisdictions you’re not allowed to contact customers via mobile without their permission. Get to know the messaging rules in your area, and wherever your customers live.
At the very least, make sure you’ve got written permission from customers and that this permission is kept on record and up-to-date.
You may also want to create a messaging policy for your business, to encourage consistent and proper use of appointment reminders.
Such a policy might cover things like:
- How customer permission is obtained, stored and updated.
- Details to include or exclude in messages.
- Staff who are 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.
7. Plot out your SMS appointment reminder workflows
Finally, plot out your appointment reminder messages like you would any other marketing campaign, including every step from the moment a customer books an appointment, to the appointment and beyond.
It might be as simple as:
Or it might be a little more involved like this:
Seeing it all laid out will help you grasp the bigger picture and easily make tweaks for further optimisation. For example, are you sending too many texts? Are texts more effective than email reminders? How do different workflows impact your no-show numbers?