Confirmations make life easier. Whether it's confirming an upcoming flight or reminding a customer about a dentist appointment, each reminder is equally as important as the other.
Text message appointment reminders and confirmations can prevent misunderstandings and chaos, especially if your business provides appointment services.
No-shows can occur when there is a misunderstanding between a business and a customer about what time they were supposed to show up. Or, a customer might not want to attend their appointment anymore and choose not to inform the business.
Either way, no-shows present a challenge for many service-related businesses through wasted time, missed opportunities, and associated costs. If you are a business that provides appointment services, you would benefit from sending appointment reminder text messages to customers ahead of time, to prevent no-shows and time wasters.
Read on to discover more about how missed appointments can negatively impact businesses and why SMS appointment reminders are the solution.
The impact of missed appointments on businesses
Appointments are easily missed these days – we’ve all probably forgotten about an appointment or two ourselves because we lead busy lives that are full of distractions such as family, work, and leisure. So although missed appointments are commonplace for businesses, they’re still a significant blow to the bottom line.
Both private and public sector healthcare get hit really hard by no-shows. NHS England, for instance, sees 1.2 million General Practitioner (GP) hours being wasted each year, adding up to a cost of more than £216 million. That cost alone is bad enough, but consider the knock-on effect on those people who are desperately waiting for a GP appointment; who would jump at the chance of seeing their doctor in the event of a cancellation.
The hairdressing and beauty industry is also severely affected by no-shows. According to research from Powered by Flossie, the UK hairdressing industry loses at least £1.2 billion each year as a result of missed appointments.
Then there’s hospitality; a sector that’s faced disruption more than most this year because of Coronavirus restrictions. All too frequently, people don’t turn up for restaurant reservations. Celebrity chef, Tom Kerridge, recently called out 27 no-shows at one of his own restaurants, stating that the industry was on the verge of collapse and that no-shows affect costs and force uncomfortable decisions about staffing levels.
What is an appointment confirmation text?
Appointment confirmation text messages act as an appointment reminder. Their main purpose is to prevent missed appointments, by reminding the customer beforehand via an SMS message.
The appointment reminder is sent via SMS hours or days before an upcoming appointment. Recipients can reply via text message or click on a link to confirm or reschedule their upcoming appointment. These messages are often used by doctors, veterinarians, hair salons, and other services that offer appointments.
Why send appointment confirmations by text?
As a marketing and communications channel, text messages are extremely popular, because they have an excellent open rate of 98%. Using a communication channel with such high open rates to confirm appointments will drastically improve attendance rates.
Simply put, text messages get seen. People tend to have their mobile device on them, or close by, most of the day – and check their phone regularly. Case in point: Americans check their phone 96 times per day; that’s once every 10 minutes, according to a study conducted by Asurion, a global tech care company.
Text messages can undoubtedly help you connect with your customers, but just how well does an appointment reminder text message work? Well, effectiveness does vary by sector of course, but many experts agree that they help to reduce no-shows.
This review report conducted by the IGEES suggests that sending SMS reminders in advance of hospital appointments reduces non-attendance. It also indicates that SMS reminders are just as effective as phone reminders (but are less costly).1
And if your target audience involves millennials, an appointment confirmation text could be particularly effective. According to OpenMarket, millennials prefer texting over other forms of communication with 75% thinking text is a helpful way to receive appointment reminders.
The key elements of an appointment confirmation text
So, you're ready to start sending appointment reminder messages to your customers via SMS. Now it’s time to design a text message what will garner the best results.
Every appointment reminder should provide the customer with the option to cancel or reschedule the appointment. To make it easy, you can include a link within the 160 character limit that directs customers to a webpage where they can view other days to book.
Cancellations are actually better than no-shows, especially if the appointment was cancelled with plenty of notice. This leaves room for your business to fill the vacant appointment slot with another customer or client.
On top of that, some businesses go a step further to prevent cancellations, referred to as cancellation fees. If a business enforces cancellation fees, an appointment reminder text can also be used to remind the customer of this policy.
Here are our tips for creating an effective SMS appointment confirmation:
1. Use the customer's name
Personalization is key. You can tailor personalization around your business and the customers you are trying to target.
If you're sending appointment confirmation texts for a hair salon, you can be more informal. But, if you are a legal firm or hospital, using formal names would be more suitable.
2. Confirm the important details
This isn't just a reminder about the time of an appointment. An SMS appointment reminder should always confirm the vital information and include the appointment date, time, and location of the appointment.
On top of that, you should include any extra details that might help the customer out such as adding the doctor's name or including directions that explain how to get there.
Avoid burdening customers with too much information and remember that you are limited to 160 characters. So, prioritize the most important parts and then add extra detail if you have space.
3. Provide the option to opt out
Try to make your customer's life as easy as possible. You can do this by allowing them to confirm, cancel or change their appointment without leaving their SMS app.
Although the majority of customers prefer text reminders, some might disagree with them. This is why you should provide an option for them to opt out of receiving your appointment reminders entirely.
Appointment confirmation text message examples
You’ll want to get all those important details across as briefly as possible in a text. Take a look at these examples below which cover different businesses and services:
Hi [Abdul], you’re booked in with our [dental hygienist] at [10am] on [27/11/20] at our [Ripley Lane branch]. Need to reschedule? Change time/date: [add URL]
Hey [Laura], your [cut and blow dry] is booked for [2pm] on [3/12/20] at [Top Cuts Hair Salon]. Can’t make it? Call [012 345 6789] now to rearrange.
[Buster] is due for his annual vaccinations at [11.45am] on [Monday, December 14th] at [Beales Veterinary Centre]. Not convenient? Rearrange it: [add URL]
Your feet are in for a treat at [Webster’s Chiropody Clinic], [4pm] on [17/12/20], [Sally]! Need to cancel? Call 48 hours before to avoid a fee. [0300 1012014]
[Jon], your [Kia Ceed, reg: AB CD 1234], is booked in for a service at [12pm] on [30/11/12] at [Neil’s Wheels]. Rearrange or cancel online: [add URL]
If you’re running short on space while creating your appointment confirmation text, read our top tips on how to fit more content into an SMS.
How to set up appointment reminders
The easiest way to set up appointment confirmation texts is to use an SMS messaging API that integrates with your appointment scheduling system and can trigger messages automatically. That way, once they’re set up, you can simply forget about them and get on with the day-to-day running of your business.
When setting up your appointment reminders, be sure to consider timings. Sending your reminder too soon can mean that your customer still forgets about their appointment. And sending it too late means your customer won’t have much time to think about rescheduling it if they need to.
A good rule of thumb is to trigger your appointment confirmation text to send a few days beforehand, but the right time really depends on your business and the type of services offered. For example, an auto repair company may need to send reminders out a week in advance, so customers have plenty of time to arrange alternative transport for when their vehicle is being worked on.
Get started with appointment confirmation texts
At Messente, appointment reminders are one of our main use cases. Our SMS API can integrate with whatever scheduling system you use, enabling you to automate the process of sending out appointment confirmation texts. Set up can be completed by your developer in just a few hours.
Additionally, you can use Messente to send a range of SMS campaigns, including promotional texts and customer service messages. Learn more – create a free account to get started.
1 Murphy, R., & Taaffe, C. (2019). Using SMS Reminders to Reduce Non-attendance at Hospital Appointments: an Umbrella Review of Key Issues, Department of Health Research Paper.