Do you run a busy clinic, a swanky salon or have recently opened a restaurant? If you’re a service business, you probably rely heavily on clientele keeping their appointments and bookings. When customers don’t show up, that can easily decimate the ability for any service business to succeed.
No show appointments are, in no uncertain terms, costly.
Most businesses average 10-15% no-shows but this can go as high as 80% for some industries, including healthcare. That sort of hit to your profits can be deadly.
Reducing no shows to your business should be a priority. No-shows can also impact the business in other areas including:
- Employee Productivity (what do your staff do when a client doesn’t turn up?)
- Clients returning
- Business efficiencies
- Overall growth
The simple SMS text message reminder is a feasible solution for any service businesses looking to significantly increase attendance rates for upcoming appointments. With added automation, it saves time while ensuring client happiness and better bottom lines.
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Here are seven tips to help you optimise SMS reminders for appointments:
Know when and how often to text reminders
When sending reminders, timing is everything. There are no hard and fast rules, but it’s best to keep these generalisations in mind:
- Try to send them during business hours.
- Sending an appointment reminder 24 hours before is optimal. This will stop customers from forgetting, but gives both of you leeway if they need to reschedule or cancel. Marquis Software Systems determined that sending 1 friendly reminder a day before a parolee appointment brought about 43% fewer no-shows.
- Optimal timing may depend on the industry. Some reports demonstrate that reminding patients at 6 PM is best for healthcare clinics, while others show that 10 AM is best for restaurant bookings.
RELATED: Read our full university study collaboration with Marquis Software and Arkansas Corrections to find out how they set up automated appointment reminder software to drive better outcomes for parolees.
There is also a fine balance when it comes to how often to send SMS reminders – we don’t want to flood people’s SMS inboxes or have open rates begin to drop as low as e-mail.
We suggest starting with one text reminder and experimenting with sending 2 or 3 depending on the lead time. Continue to measure engagement, and optimise your frequency as needed.
Make your SMS content count
When crafting an SMS text, you only have 160 characters before you are charged for a multi-part message. That’s why you must be ruthless when it comes to writing an impactful message!
Ensure you always:
- Keep all facts relevant and important
- Make your copy clear and concise
If you have special instructions or additional information, consider putting that into a separate text message. You could also address it within another communication channel (email) and link to it within the text.
Automate SMS reminders and replies
Today, appointment reminders often offer customers the ability to reschedule, cancel or make further queries. Allowing customers to interact with you will seriously increase customer engagement.
Best practice tip: Make sure you include a strong call-to-action (CTA) in your SMS appointment reminder.
Once the customer is informed of the important details of their appointment, such as the date and time, ask your customer to respond by confirming. This will firm up the appointment in their mind and make them more likely to attend.
You could also:
- Provide an avenue for the customer to change the appointment if necessary – don’t let the opportunity escape altogether! Ask the customer to respond with ‘No’ to cancel, but set up an automatic reply to any inbound messages that include ‘No’ which say something similar to “is there a date and time next week that works for you?” They might reply and you can ensure that you keep a booking (and the customer).
- Enable two-way messaging so that if a customer needs to ask questions or has issues, they can ask via text. In some instances, this is even better than a phone number as the business and customer can converse at their leisure.
NOTE: If you are using two-way messaging with clients based in New Zealand, you must make customers aware if you are not using a zero-rated short code, and if they must wear the cost of replies.
RELATED: Find out how this telecommunication provider uses two-way text messaging to reduce customer support queues by +50%.
Tailor your text messages to make them personal
Personalising your messages is essential, especially when it comes to appointment reminders. An impersonal message can reduce engagement and can exhibit a negative or alienating tone. It can also demonstrate to customers that you have little interest in developing long-term relationships.
Best practice tip: It’s easy to add automated personalisation to your messages within our portal. Simply upload your database with segmented information (name, doctor, appointment time, etc.) and drag custom parameters into your message.
It is also important that you choose the right tone for your message. Be friendly, but professional. Consider what is right for you and try out a few message tones until you get it right.
RELATED: Learn to send personalised messages with our guide on how to send custom SMS.
Keep text message compliance in mind
Legal requirements may vary across regions, but most jurisdictions prohibit contacting customers via mobile without their permission. Ensure you are aware of the local compliance laws in the geographic areas where your customers or their numbers are from. Make sure you have obtained permission from the customer and that this permission is kept on record and up-to-date.
Optional, but important: 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.
Plan out SMS appointment reminder workflows
Finally, plot out your appointment slot reminders as if they are a full campaign. This can include when customers confirm appointments, or their responses if they are looking to cancel/reschedule.
It might be as simple as:
Or it might be a little more involved like this:
Seeing it all laid out will enable you to grasp the bigger picture and easily make tweaks for further optimisation. Are you sending too many texts? Is your email reminder working as effectively as your text reminder? Testing different journeys will help you understand what customers want.
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Final thoughts, further reading
Now you know exactly how to start sending effective appointment reminders, isn’t it time to start? Send automated text reminders now, and you can even start with a free trial!
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