So… exactly how much should the average appointment reminder service cost? It’s a question that’s more complicated than it looks. With so many different features and such different pricing models, it’s hard to nail down. Even a savvy business owner can struggle to figure it out.
The decision to use automated reminders is a no-brainer. This one purchase reduces costs in terms of staff hours, phone expenses—and stress. Plus, it increases your income by significantly decreasing no-shows.
On the flip side, figuring out which appointment-reminder solution is right for you is not easy. Even after days of research, it’s hard to tell how much the reminders will cost. And after that, you might end up paying more than you budgeted, because the features, you thought were included, weren’t. Or worse, you might end up stuck in a contract with a “communication platform service” paying hundreds of dollars per month for features you thought you needed but never use.
To help you make an educated decision, we’ll examine some different features, highlighting the ones you are most likely to use. Then we’ll define various appointment reminder pricing models to shed some light on costs.
In this Article We Explore:
Let’s look at qualities reputable vendors tend to have in common. When evaluating different companies these characteristics should appear as standard features, and not raise costs unreasonably. Keep the following requirements in mind when comparing various vendors.
Made in the USA
Many appointment-reminder and patient reminder services (or their servers) are offshore–even if they show up #1 in your Google search. Sending your customer data to another country raises concerns (and, for medical providers, is a no-no). There is simply no way to check whether servers located on another continent are in a high-security facility (or in someone’s apartment!).
A foreign company has no incentive to pay the high cost of ensuring data safeguards (such as having cyber insurance). They are not bound by American laws. Unfortunately, if your offshore vendor has a breach of your data, guess who’s liable? Be sure to get the physical address of all the vendors you are considering, and stay in your neck of the woods.
What good is an expensive system if it goes down all the time? Anyone can make a beautiful new website, but not everyone can guarantee a high level of service uptime. Be sure to look at review sites to see what customers are saying about outages. Go old school and choose the services that have been around for a while. Check your Better Business Bureau. Call prospective vendors to see if you can speak to a live, knowledgeable person. The more you know beforehand about the company, the better.
A known must-have for healthcare providers and best practice for all other businesses, HIPAA compliance means your data receives the utmost protection. To be HIPAA-compliant, companies must use encryption, secure server facilities, and have strict data security policies and training in place. These are just a few of the 100+ requirements of HIPAA compliance.
There are two things to keep in mind about companies who claim to be HIPAA compliant:
- No vendor has HIPAA-compliant servers and policies for those who pay more, plus a separate non-HIPAA-compliant system for those who pay less. So any pricing plan that wants you to pay more for HIPAA compliance should make you raise an eyebrow. Either they are HIPAA compliant, as a business, or they aren’t (and nobody should charge you money to sign a HIPAA BAA).
- It is costly for a vendor to be HIPAA compliant. Most offshore companies won’t be able to afford the added levels of security. And since the arm of American law does not reach them, why would they? Yes, they can sign a BAA, and they can advertise HIPAA compliance on their website, and they can charge you more for it, but in most cases, if they’re not in the U.S., they are probably not HIPAA compliant.
A reputable firm will carry Cyber Insurance that covers them in the case of a data breach. Everything else being equal, cyber insurance can save the day when things go wrong. It will mean you don’t have to incur the costs of notifying your customers and providing identity theft prevention software if that is what the law requires. Be wary of any entity that does not know what this is.
Let’s look at a list of essential features that companies tend to use the most. If any of these features are missing, you’ll end up doing more work than necessary. Some companies include these features, and some charge extra for them. If any of these core features are missing you’re not getting the maximum ROI from the service.
Unlimited Technical Support
Look at any vendor with bad reviews, and the number one complaint is inadequate, non-existent, or overpriced technical support. If over-the-phone technical support costs an hourly fee (or worse, is non-existent), you *will* eventually find yourself in a pickle. Be sure you understand what kind of help you will get—and if you’re on a website with no phone number, run!
Unlimited Calendars and Users
Buyer beware: additional calendars and users are the most common type of hidden fees in this industry. Since most companies have more than one employee managing appointments and more than one professional seeing customers, these fees allow services to list a very low price but charge double. Be sure to choose a service that offers unlimited calendars and users and your usage will dictate your costs, without any hidden fees.
These allow your customers to confirm their appointments. In some cases, the confirmation can be written to your scheduler automatically. These are very useful. They save time and help keep your schedule full.
A popular feature that allows your recipient to reply to your appointment-reminder text message. The ability to go back and forth and fix scheduling issues via text message can save your business quite a bit of work.
Works With Your Software
If you are using a popular scheduling system or EHR, you will save yourself a lot of time and effort by selecting a vendor who can interface with your existing software or offer a semi-automated way to upload your appointment data.
Custom Reminder Scripts
You should control the messaging. A vendor’s standard offering should allow you to set up scripts specific to a location, practitioner or appointment type. Not all of your clients want or need a reminder. Your solution should allow you to exclude certain types of appointments from getting a reminder if they are not required.
These core features are must-haves for any appointment reminder package. That said, each company is different. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. If you have specific needs look for a vendor who offers custom solutions for your business.
A recent study of medical practice software found that smaller clinics rarely use advanced EMR features. In the same vein, we here at Reminder Services, Inc. have noticed that many small businesses don’t use advanced communication features either. By speaking to customers, we’ve learned that many smaller companies often test the following features only to abandon them.
Surveying customers started as a great idea… until everyone started sending them. Not only do customers complain about them, but now, “survey response fatigue” appears to be a growing phenomenon. There have been so many complaints specifically about text-message surveys that some phone carriers have started to block them. So, best-case scenario, you will annoy a few of your customers; worst-case scenario, you will pay for blocked text messages without ever knowing it. And, some customers reply to surveys with the word “STOP”, which blocks all of your future text messages to them, even your appointment reminders. Proceed with caution.
Some businesses love sending email newsletters. They offer an affordable way to educate customers and stay on their minds without generating paper waste. Unfortunately, like surveys, they have been overdone. Let’s face it; most customers don’t have the time to read newsletters written by CPAs, yoga instructors, and mechanics. In many cases, they will try to unsubscribe. Unfortunately, once a customer clicks on “Unsubscribe”, they will no longer receive any emails from you. Not even the appointment reminder emails that they do want to receive. So, if newsletters are your thing, try sending them from a separate email address or email marketing service.
Now some companies do benefit from inter-office chat widgets such as Slack. People who are spread out on different floors and in different buildings can chat and share documents. But, for smaller businesses, this can be overkill. In any case, an inter-office chat feature should not impact the cost of your appointment reminders. There are excellent, secure solutions available online at low prices (some are free).
Online Reputation Management
Quite frankly, the hype for this service rarely seems to live up to expectations. There are indeed legitimate firms that can scan the internet for mentions of your name. If they find critical comments, they can contact the site owner to try to get those removed. This time-consuming outreach to site owners tends to be expensive.
When a communication platform software promises to do reputation or review management, ask how they go about the task. They may ask your customers for reviews via text message. Or they might add your business to their own online directory. But it is unlikely they will spend the hours required to fix your review problem on Yelp.
Online booking allows your customers to book appointments with you using an online calendar. For businesses that need to fill every time slot with the same service, such as a photo shoot, this can be a great feature. But for medical practices, who need to schedule different types of appointments on different days, this rarely works. Nothing is more precious than time to physicians as well as to entrepreneurs. With online booking, you might find yourself with one meeting in the morning and another one 4 hours later in the afternoon. In any case, these types of schedulers should not raise the price of your reminders as they are typically available online at quite reasonable prices.
VOIP Phone Systems
Here’s an actual story of something that happened to one of our team members. She tried calling her doctor to make an appointment, but couldn’t get through. So she walked there to make an appointment in person. She found that the doctor’s staff couldn’t help her. Their VOIP was down. This meant their phones were down, and their internet was down. So their practice management software was down too. They were dead in the water for several hours. Don’t let this happen to you. If VOIP is what you need, we recommend using an established, bonafide VOIP provider with dedicated support that can provide the uptime you need. This is one scenario where a bundled solution may not be advised.
In general, many unrelated features can be included in an appointment reminder system. Keep in mind that unneeded features can obscure the pricing. Therefore, we recommend paying only for features you know your business needs. The latest, state-of-the-art technology may sound great on paper, but it may reduce your ROI if you don’t use it. Start simple with a solution that lets you add more advanced features that really work for you.
Now to address the question that brought you here. Why are some services so expensive? Why do some charge overages, when some do not? How much should appointment reminders cost?
To help you answer some of these questions, we’ve compared the pricing models of top-rated appointment reminder solutions. Interestingly, many vendors do not disclose pricing on their websites. Instead, they would like potential customers to contact them. Before signing up for a sales pitch, familiarize yourself with the following pricing models so that you can recognize what you’re going to get.
Typically, appointment-reminder service pricing falls into three models. We will refer to them as Communication Platforms, Subscription Plans, and Pay-As-You-Go Plans. Let’s look at the initial, recurring, and hidden costs of each:
These come in many flavors, but they generally promise a customer communication or relationship management solution. You do not know the price of the individual appointment reminders because they come packaged with other features such as VOIP, online scheduling, online payment apps, marketing tools, etc. These plans are usually the most expensive and require a contract.
-A one-time setup fee (this can range from $300 to $1,000 and up)
Typical Recurring Costs:
-A monthly subscription (typically starts at $100 per month and up)
-A contract (usually a one-year contract)
-Add-on features and apps (typically an extra $25-$50 per month, each)
-Additional fees for other users
-Extra charges for extra calendars
-A dedicated caller I.D.
-Hardware service cost
Possible Extra Costs:
-Customizations (custom fields, reports, forms, and newsletters)
-Integration with existing systems (e.g., EMRs, EHRs, schedulers, billing systems, phone systems)
-Storage for extra customer data
-Staff time to learn a complex system
-IT costs to implement and maintain, especially if your telephone system or software must change
Downtime. Complex solutions take time to implement. How much does a lost day cost if the platform goes offline?
In this scenario, you pay a monthly plan, which includes a certain number (or “block”) of appointment reminder calls, texts, or emails. If your usage is under the allotted amount of reminders, you still pay for the entire block. If your usage goes over the allotted amount of reminders, overage rates apply. These plans may or may not require a contract.
-Some require a setup fee
Typical Recurring Costs:
-A monthly subscription plan
-A dedicated caller I.D.
Possible Extra Costs:
-Overage rates if you go over your plan’s allotment
-Fees to integrate with your existing system if your software isn’t fully supported.
Typically the most cost-effective appointment reminder service plan, this one works like a utility. Each month your usage is measured and you pay only for the reminders that you send. Typically this payment model does not require a contract but you may need to agree to minimum monthly usage.
-Some require a setup fee
Typical Recurring Costs:
-The reminders that you send
-A dedicated caller I.D.
Possible Extra Costs:
-Extra costs are not typical. Look for an appointment reminder service that does not charge extra for support, customizations, compliance, additional users, more calendars, or overages.
As you have probably noticed, the Pay-As-You-Go pricing model is usually going to be the most cost-effective choice, especially if you’re primarily looking for appointment reminders. That said, when evaluating different systems, be sure to ask the right questions:
- Where are you located?
- What kind of customer support do you provide?
- How will you keep my data secure?
- Are you compliant with all US federal and state laws?
- Do you carry cyber insurance?
- In the event of a breach, who will notify my customers? Who will provide identity theft remedies to my customers?
- Is your system encrypted?
- Does your appointment reminder service work with my schedule, CRM, or EMR?
- Will I pay for extra users?
- Do you charge for training and setup?
- Can you send me your HIPAA compliance policy?
These are important questions, and prices will range from hundreds to thousands of dollars for your system. Be sure to prioritize your needs before making your final selection.
Conclusion: 4 Key Appointment Reminder Service Pricing Takeaways
Here’s what we’d like you to take away from this article:
- Don’t assume what you need is included. Look very carefully at the fine print. Are you going to pay more for HIPAA compliance, extra users, extra customizations, or extra storage? Be specific about your requirements so that you can get the most accurate pre-sale estimate.
- Beware of hidden and overlooked costs. The cost of some services can be much higher than the published monthly plan. Be sure to factor in hidden costs when planning your budget.
- Don’t skimp on security. Yes, you can send text reminders from other countries for pennies. But, a security breach could be extremely expensive to your company and to your reputation. Security is important, even if your business isn’t in the medical field.
- Prioritize needs over wants. Don’t be blinded by the shiny objects bundled in an expensive service. Nowadays, appointment reminders are a need. Customers are used to them and tend to rely on them. Other features are cool, but why pay for more than what you will use?
We hope these insights will help guide you and avoid confusion when you begin evaluating appointment-reminder software.