Appointment Confirmations

Which Appointment Confirmations Should YOU Send?

Let’s face it, no shows affect our bottom line. Even if we reschedule, we are losing money. We have to pay employees, utilities, rent… and get no compensation for that block of time. Appointment confirmations increase attendance and decrease no-shows. And, you can get even better results by using the right confirmations for your market. How? Well, customers don’t all use the same devices. Younger patients, for example, prefer using text messages to communicate. So they like text-message confirmations. Yet others still own landline phones and can’t receive SMS. Plus, confirmations that customers understand work better than those they don’t. So if you have a large Hispanic base, you may want to send out Spanish appointment reminders.

Which Appointment Confirmations Should YOU Send?

It’s simple: if possible, offer a couple of options and let your customers choose. Let’s look at the different types available.

Automated Phone Reminders

Reminder calls are still the most effective type of appointment reminder. Most people have access to a phone, even if they do not have email or SMS. Plus, automated calls offer the most flexibility. They allow you to customize language, length, and key presses. For example, you can set a key press that confirms the appointment. A different key press can connect the customer to your office. Yet another key can play an audio file containing directions to your office. If you use your own voice, automated reminder calls add a human touch where other reminders do not. They project an upscale image and they reach the recipient immediately.

Pros:

-Automated appointment confirmation calls reach the most people.
-They are immediate and create a sense of urgency.
-They can include your own voice which gives them a human touch.
-The recipient can push a button to connect to your office.
-The recipient can confirm the appointment.
-You can always verify receipt.
-You project an upscale image.

Tips:

-To reach more people, send in the late afternoon or early evening.
-Include your phone number in the message.
-Take the time to create confirmations in different languages.
-Customers who see you several times a week need help to remember appointment times.

Automated SMS Reminders

Automated reminder text messages are more and more in demand, especially with millennials. They offer convenience and leave a handy record of the appointment right there on the phone. They are immediately received and enjoy a great open rate.

Pros:

-Automated text message reminders are effective.
-They have a great open rate.
-The recipient can confirm the appointment.
-They better serve the hard of hearing.
-They leave a record of the appointment on the phone.

Tips:

-Stay under 160 characters.
-Include business name and phone number.
-Instruct recipients to confirm.

Automated Email Reminders

Emails are not the most successful reminders on their own. They get missed, opened too late, or filtered as spam. But, emails are great pre-reminders. Try a pre-reminder email a few days before the appointment. It gives your customer time to confirm or make changes to their appointment. This avoids last-minute cancellations.

Pros:

Automated email reminders can include more information.
-They leave a printable record of the appointment on the device.
-The recipient can confirm the appointment.

Tips:

-Include the date, time, and physical location of the appointment.
-Include directions to your office.
-Keep your email reminders short, clean and clear.

Do You Need Permission to Send Appointment Confirmations?

FCC laws mandate that you get permission (a.k.a opt-in) to send automated messages to a cell phone. To send confirmation calls or text messages, you need customers to opt in to receiving them. For healthcare providers, this rule is sometimes waived. But, to be on the safe side, we recommend healthcare providers get written opt-in too. This avoids any complaints from the occasional patient. There are several ways customers can opt-in to receive your automated messages. They can check a box on a form, such as a new patient form. They can also check box on a web-site form. If you are a ReminderCall.com customer, you have access to an opt-in portal. This allows you to put a button or a link on your website where customers can opt-in.

If you are using email reminders, you do not need to get permission before you send the first one. But, you do need to include an “unsubscribe” link in the body of the email. This way customers can stop receiving emails from your business. Keep in mind that there are different laws in Canada. For more information, please read: What you, yes YOU, Need to Know About the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

Always Ask For A Commitment

During a campaign for a blood drive, Group A received automated messages that had:
-the time of the appointment,
-the location of the appointment, and
-instructions to eat before the appointment.
Group B received all the above, but also had to confirm the appointment in order to attend. In the end, participants from Group B participated much more than those from Group A.
Greater expectations led to better performance. In other words, you may get better attendance by asking your customers to commit. In your reminder script, ask patients to confirm by pressing a key or typing “C”.

Don’t Make It Too Easy to Cancel!

We’ve all heard: “Press 3 to cancel”. So people tend to include that in their reminders because that’s how they’ve heard it done. But, this is a bad strategy, and here’s why.
Imagine you’ve been dreading a root canal for an entire week. You consider yourself a pretty brave patient, but this appointment has you scared. The night before the root canal, you get an appointment reminder. It instructs you to press “3” to cancel. So you think about it. You realize that you took the afternoon off work for that appointment. You realize that if you press “3”, you could spend some family time with your son instead. After all, family time is important. So you press “3”. Easy, peasy. You can always reschedule, right? Well actually, your tooth doesn’t hurt as much. Maybe you need a second opinion instead… The next morning, your dentist’s staff discovers the cancellation. They hustle to call patients from their waiting list, but nobody needs a long appointment. They are able to book half the time. The other half stays empty. The dentist looses money.

What would have happened if the reminder had not given you the idea to cancel the appointment? What if it had told you to call the office to make changes? You would have had to call a real person. You would have had to make excuses. That option doesn’t feel so easy. Chances are, you would not have canceled the appointment. In our experience, if you tell your customers to cancel, they will.
Last-minute cancellations are hard to manage. We recommend you do not put the word “cancel” in your reminder script. Instead, offer a way to confirm the appointment. Then, suggest the customer call your office to “make any changes”. When they call, your staff can salvage the appointment and reschedule them right away.

What to Remember About Appointment Confirmations

To make confirmation systems effective, choose technologies that are appropriate for your customers. In low-income areas, customers may not be able to receive text messages or emails. Undelivered reminders cause no shows. So, reminder calls, in this case, are a better option. In the same vein, research finds that age is a factor to consider when selecting a reminder system. Millenials prefer texting to speaking on the phone. As a result, text message reminders may be a better fit for them.

Although there is no magic bullet to eradicate all no shows, the more tools you use, the more success you will have. We invite you to test the waters and try several strategies to find what works for your business.

Copyright Reminder Services Inc. - 2019