Creating an appointment reminder system that helps your clients requires setting rules and timely reminders.
Jessica True is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a virtual PBX system and modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level
When you think of the words “appointment reminder system,” who else imagines a harried Anne Hathaway breathlessly rushing around to meet the demands of her cold but magnificent boss? Nobody? Just us? Is that already a dated cultural reference? Darn.
Maybe you think of one of those sparkly appointment books people used to have in the 90s that people would write all of their upcoming meetings and roofing contract template jobs while also sticking pictures of their crushes and drawing big hearts around their faces. We’ve lost you now, haven’t we? Do young people still use paper?
Well, in the past, people would often write in their agenda book whatever meetings they had coming up, and if they needed to cancel or change them, they would have to pick up a phone and talk to someone about it. And then - now you’re going to gasp when you read this - both parties would use something called Tipp-ex to cover the out-of-date information - it was a sort of smelly white paste if you will - then wait for it to dry, and then write over the paste with the correct new information.
Luckily, times have changed since the 90s, and we have some pretty great systems to get everyone to their appointments on time and tipp-ex free. Somehow Tipp-ex is still sold today, maybe for nostalgia reasons? Or as a weirdly expensive and ineffective nail polish alternative? Anyway, we digress.
An appointment reminder is when a person or automated system reaches out to a customer or client via text, phone, or another method to remind them of an upcoming meeting.
Your dentist, for example, might email you a week or a few days before your scheduled teeth cleaning appointment. You, the client, then have the option to confirm the appointment or cancel it and hope your cavities magically fill themselves. Or reschedule your meeting to after your hypnotherapy appointment for overcoming your fear of dentists. You do this by following the directions in the appointment reminder message.
The point of the appointment reminder system is to remind the client of the appointment in case it slipped their mind (or they chickened out) - which can happen if you have had to book an appointment many months in advance.
The obvious answer to this, which we just mentioned, is that it helps people get to their appointments on time. But it’s a little more than just that.
Sending appointment reminders allows your clients to cancel or reschedule their appointment through an online appointment booking system, which then frees up their original timeslot for other potential clients. Perhaps there are some same-day, urgent cases that could fill in those gaps.
Or maybe someone else wants to reschedule to the first person’s slot. Or else, maybe you could land a new client who’s looking for an appointment closer in time than your competitors are offering.
While many companies will charge the total price for missed appointments, many don’t, or they may charge some fraction of what the appointment would have cost. This translates into a loss of income for your company. The earlier someone reschedules or cancels, the more time you have to find someone who can fill that slot or change your rotas around so that you don’t have staff in when they are not needed.
Other companies offer free cancellation up to 72 before the appointment, which then gives them 3 days to make up for the loss in earnings. Whatever system you have in place, reminders don’t just help the client, they also help the company.
Money, of course, is not the only thing of value to people. The last thing most people want is to come to work on a Saturday morning only to find out their client has forgotten all about their appointment.
They might have skipped margarita night with the guys to be there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for an 8 am cleaning, only to find themselves in the throes of an existential panic because they have a moment of sober solitude to re-examine their life. And nobody wants that.
With appointment reminder systems, you have a bunch to choose from. This candy store has all the flavors!
Your safest bet if you want to make sure your clients have been sufficiently reminded of their upcoming appointment with you is to use a combination of the options mentioned here and offer an online booking system so customers can DIY it. It helps overcome the weak points of any one system.
Someone weary of texts might feel reassured upon seeing that they have an identical email about the same subject that they can perhaps navigate more easily on their computer. It’s pretty rare for scammers to have your email and phone number and target both simultaneously. It’s even rare for them to know the name of your dentist.
Someone who hates answering the phone will feel relieved, hopefully, upon seeing they can just text a response to confirm their appointment.
Now that we’ve covered the different ways you can send the appointment reminder, let’s go through the steps you need to take around your appointment reminder system to deter clients from missing appointments.
The best way to get people to let you know if they want to cancel their appointment is to let them know how to do so, and what the consequences are of missing their appointment without letting you know first.
Do you charge a fee for missed appointments? What about last-minute cancellations? What is the grace period you allow people to let you know if they need to make any changes?
You should also learn about the local rules and regulations around this. It could be that there are already rules in place and that your customers have specific rights you should be aware of. Is it down to your company or is there a predefined set of rules?
The longer someone has to wait for their appointment, the higher the chances that they will forget the appointment or have to cancel. If you can give people appointments as close as possible to the date they make the request, the better.
The easier you make it for your clients to contact you, the easier it will be for them to let you know that they can’t make their appointment or need to change to a different date. So making it easy to get in touch with an enterprise communication solution will help reduce the chance of no-shows.
Make sure your numbers are listed in multiple places, including confirmation emails, email signatures, and of course, on the website and google maps. Also, include email, and of course, check it regularly and reply as soon as you can. A good website design with a meeting reschedule function can also help customers to serve themselves.
As well as the above, make sure to automate your appointment reminders so that you don’t have to remember to do them manually. This decreases the chances of somebody forgetting to do it and frees up time for your staff to do other things in the company.
Bonus points if you get app integration for your appointment reminders and scheduling software - or one system for the whole thing: scheduling and reminding.
Decent scheduling and reminder software will allow your company to seamlessly send out appointment reminders and automatically update your schedule. You should ensure you have the correct contact details for your clients and that they are aware of your missed appointment and cancellation policies.
Sending out timely reminders will allow everyone to adjust, if necessary, and save everybody time, money and stress. Then everyone can enjoy margarita night.
Jessica True is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a virtual PBX system and modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.