If you’re a business that sets appointments with your customers, it can be easy for your scheduling to get lost in the shuffle. Sometimes, clients miss appointments. We live in a world in which information comes at us 24/7, often causing people to forget what’s going on at any point in time.
One of the best ways to stay on top of your customers’ appointments is to send out appointment reminders. One study found that the U.S. Veterans Affairs Health system’s implementation of appointment reminders was associated with greater patient access to services. Beyond just improving customer service, however, appointment reminders have multiple other benefits. Most importantly, they increase the likelihood that your customers show up for their scheduled appointments.
Of course, the question then becomes how you as a business can make sending these appointment reminders as easy as possible for your staff. The answer is by using automated appointment reminders.
Read on to find out more about why you should be doing this as well as the best practices you should keep in mind for implementing your reminders.
The Importance of Automated Appointment Reminders
When considering integrating automated appointment reminders into your communication plan, there are two perspectives to consider: your customers and your staff.
From your customers’ perspective, automated appointment reminders help keep them informed and up to date on their appointment with you. Whether you’re a doctor’s office, an attorney, or some other kind of business, you’ll establish a line of communication that keeps them connected to your appointment.
This decreases the odds that they’ll forget to show. It also highlights how thorough and customer-centric your office can be. An automated appointment reminder puts your customer first, putting the onus of remembering the appointment on the business as opposed to the customer.
From your staff’s perspective, automated appointment reminders help make their lives easier. You eliminate the need to have your administrative staff reach out to every appointment manually. Now automation takes care of that for them. It removes one menial task off their to-do list, freeing them to focus on other ways they can help the business.
If there are cancellations, the automated appointment reminders will bring those to light more quickly. It gives the recipient the opportunity to respond to an intelligent automated appointment reminder to inform you they won’t be able to make it. That enables you to fill those slots before the appointment date arrives.
This minimizes your office’s need to take a “wait and see” approach. They’ll know well beforehand if the individual won’t make it and can work on offering that time to someone else while rescheduling with the original customer or patient.
Best Practices for Automated Appointment Reminders
Being able to automate your appointment reminders can certainly do wonders for your staff’s effectiveness and productivity, as well as ensuring more appointments are made or rescheduled if necessary. But when it comes to designing the actual appointment reminders, there are some best practices you’ll want to keep in mind that will keep your customers better informed while making the process easier for your staff.
While your automated appointment reminder process may differ depending on what type of business you operate, following these rules will help you employ more effective communication practices that both your customers and organization will appreciate no matter what industry you’re in.
Below are a few best practices to consider when building your automated appointment reminders.
If you leave a voicemail, be sure that your message is delivered clearly without any room for misunderstanding or misrepresentation. Caution the person recording the message to speak slowly and clearly.
Write your message out beforehand and if you need to take multiple attempts to record it, do so. A slow, clear message that transmits the right information can be the difference between someone making an appointment and missing it.
Leave all the necessary information, but nothing more
You may feel the need to pack in as much information as you can into your message, but the reality is you should only include exactly what your recipient needs to hear. That said, be comprehensive in the information you do include. For example, the digital marketing firm Hubspot offers a summary of what to include in a reminder email. While your reminders will be voice broadcasts or text messages, the same general principles apply.
Make sure your reminder includes the following information:
- The date and time of appointment. This is the most basic yet most important information to provide. Include the day of the week as well.
- The location. Is it an in-person office visit or virtual? Have you provided the address, or in the case of a virtual appointment, the video conference link? You may want to briefly include any logistical details on the reminder also (i.e. parking information), but don’t go overboard so that the reminder runs too long.
- The nature of the appointment. Is this your first consultation or a follow-up visit? Don’t go into too many details here, but provide just enough context so the recipient understands what’s going to be happening.
- Any materials they’ll need. If you’re a doctor or dentist’s office, you may need the patient to bring insurance information. An attorney may need legal documents. Whatever your customer, client, or patient needs to have with them, remind them to bring it. It will save time, making the appointment much more efficient.
- Any vital instructions they’ll need to follow. This applies to cases such as a doctor asking a patient not to eat prior to a blood test or surgery.
- How to get in touch with you. They may have additional questions, so offer a phone number for calls/texts or an email address for anything they may need to clear up.
The type of information you include might vary, but this should just about do it.
Keep it brief
Don’t make your reminder too long with any additional information. You have a limited amount of time to grab and hold your recipient’s attention. Only tell them what they need to remember without confusing matters. Anything more and you run the risk of creating a message that is too long, and your recipient may tune you out.
Personalize the reminder
You’ll also want to include your customer’s name in your automated appointment reminder. Everyone likes hearing their own name – it’s one of the touchstones of good customer service. There’s another critical reason to personalize your reminder with the person’s name, however. It reassures them that you’re reaching out to the right person with the right information. It promotes the idea that your office is organized and efficient.
Don’t use unnecessary personal information
While personalizing the reminder is good for both parties, including too much personal information can be troublesome and distracting. For example, a doctor’s office shouldn’t use an automated reminder to discuss any kind of medical information.
Beyond including their name and the general nature of the appointment (i.e. first visit versus a follow-up), there isn’t much personal information you should need to include on your automated appointment reminders anyway. The rest of the data should revolve around the appointment itself, making sure they know where to go and when to go there.
Use interactive features wherever you can
Simply reminding your customer is helpful, but it isn’t the limit of what you can do with an appointment reminder. You can also prompt them to take further action if needed. An example would be providing them with an opportunity to notify you that they need to cancel or reschedule.
There are other interactive features you can tap into as well. Sometimes, your recipient may need additional clarification beyond what’s included in the automated message. You can give recipients the option to connect with a live operator, either by pressing a key or by forwarding the call.
You can also give them the opportunity to opt out of the reminders. While reminders can be helpful, you don’t want to be distracting. If you inundate the customer with messages they don’t find helpful, it may sour them on doing business with you. An opt-out helps them turn that option off if they prefer.
Automated appointment reminders are about keeping the recipient informed, but it should also prioritize convenience for them. With interactive features, you can go beyond the simple reminder and take the customer service experience to the next level.
Ask them to confirm
There’s one interactive feature that deserves special mention: asking your customers or patients to confirm their appointment.
If your recipients have to miss an appointment, asking them to confirm helps keep your office informed. You’re then equipped with the information you need to save your office time and money. You can provide your recipient with the opportunity to cancel or reschedule if they can’t make the appointment. If they confirm, then you know you can expect them to show up at the appointment’s date and time.
Reminders do more than just remind your customers or patients – they also give you a versatile option to provide more flexible customer service to your intended audience. They’ll no doubt appreciate that flexibility.
Above all else, emphasize empathy and customer service first
Always strike a helpful, friendly tone when writing and recording your automated appointment reminders. Be patient with your customers if they neglect to respond or you have to follow up multiple times. View your automated appointment reminders as a tool to help your customers while keeping their business.
How to use automated appointment reminders to your organization’s advantage
Ultimately, these automated reminders are a way to keep your office organized while also keeping your customers aware of their upcoming appointments. They’ll help you maintain the right balance with your customers – staying on their radar without being obtrusive to their daily lives. Your goal is to give them a nudge rather than be overbearing, and automated appointment reminders help you do that without disrupting your staff’s daily operations.
So how do you capitalize on these capabilities most effectively? The key is to find a platform that allows you to automate these reminders while implementing the best practices described above. To do that, you’ll want to partner with the right team.
VoiceShot offers a comprehensive voice broadcasting platform and r automated appointment reminder system. You can manage the entire process from the cloud.
To see how VoiceShot can help you implement automated appointment reminders that leave your customers and staff well-informed and happy, contact us or start a free trial today.