Appointment reminders, either by phone, email, SMS or as calendar notifications, are an excellent way to ensure your business operations are running smoothly. Not only do these appointment reminders reduce customer no-shows, but they also help the office run more smoothly, cut down on double bookings and eliminate last minute cancellations. However, by making the most of the technology you can get even more from your appointment reminder software, helping create an ever more streamlined and effective business practice and an improved experience for your customers.
So how can you make the most of the technology? Read on for some top tips:
1. SMS appointments
If your appointment reminders currently come from a Google or Outlook calendar in the form of emails or phone calls, then it’s well worth considering moving over to SMS reminders or having the two work in conjunction with one another. Data such as contacts can be imported easily from your existing calendar, so there’s no need to start from scratch, it merely adds a new dimension to your appointment reminder process that it might not currently have.
Furthermore, mobile phone ownership on a global scale is growing rapidly. While mobile ownership in Europe and the US is basically at saturation point, even in Asia and Africa the vast majority of the people and businesses have some form of mobile phone connection. On the other hand, not everyone has instant access to their emails, making SMS reminders the fastest and most convenient way to get in touch. While emails need to checked, a text message will appear on the phone screen and will be hard to miss. Indeed, Mobile Marketing Watch say that, while emails only have an open rate of 22%, SMS messages are read 98% of the time [http://mobilemarketingwatch.com/sms-marketing-wallops-email-with-98-open-rate-and-only-1-spam-43866/].
Another huge benefit of SMS reminders is that the phone itself doesn’t need to be up to date. While only smartphones have access to emails, any mobile phone can receive a text message. This means by using SMS reminders as part of your appointment reminder system, you have a catch all solution that includes the over 65s, who are the most likely group to have older models of mobile phones.
2. Breaking the barriers in your industry
Currently, SMS reminders are used extensively by hospitals, doctors' surgeries and dentists, but is your business the one that’s ready to break the barrier in your industry and move into this process as well? Profit-driven services such as hairdressers, plumbers, beauty therapists and web designers are all lagging behind when it comes to SMS reminding, therefore potentially losing appointments when customers do not show due to forgetfulness. Whatever your business, you could be making more from your calendar system by setting it up to send out a variety of messages in a way that your competitors currently do not do.
3. Not just for one-offs
Most businesses or organisations utilising appointment reminder software only use it for one-off appointments. But the software can be used to set up all sorts of reminders, not just appointments. Opticians and dentists can advise customers that they are due to book an appointment. Hairdressers can use them to let customers know of a special, last minute deal or space in the diary. Members’ only businesses such as gyms or clubs can let customers know that their membership needs renewing. Weekly, monthly or yearly text reminders across a plethora of subjects can be set up months in advance - this is especially useful for classes or clubs.
It’s important not to badger clients and to keep appointment reminders to a minimum of course, especially if you are using this format for a bit of promotion. But very few will mind the odd text about something they are actually interested in.
4. Add a cancel clause
An appointment reminder is not just there to act as a reminder of those who have forgotten their appointment, it can also encourage those who can’t make the appointment to call the office and let you know. They may have forgotten that they have double booked or have been putting off ringing the office to cancel. Add a clause in your text along the lines of, ‘cancel appointment today with no charge, call the office now’.
5. Include staff
It’s not just customers who will benefit from being reminded of appointments, staff kept in the loop will also be more effective at their jobs. If staff are agreeable, get their mobile phones set up on the system too. They can be alerted to meetings, client appointments and even when special visitors are due to the building or fire alarm testing is occurring. If they are reminded a day or two in advance, you are less likely to end up with cancelled meetings from double bookings, as this can be ironed out ahead of the meeting. With staff working here, there and everywhere these days, emails are not always accessible, and again, emails involve people actually going in and checking them, so having staff mobile phones set up as part of your SMS appointment reminder calendar can see the whole show run more smoothly and more effectively.
6. Staying ahead of the technological curve
When you start using an appointment reminder service, make the most from it by staying ahead of the curve. When a new upgrade becomes available, try to get it implemented as soon as possible. New upgrades often come with better, more enhanced features, which usually mean less work for you and a better experience for your staff or customers. Customers put a lot of credence into knowing that their GP, electrician, library or even school are investing in progressive technology.
7. Provide feedback to your service provider
Rather than just use the software, try to help it develop in the future by providing feedback. Many new features come about because of clients providing their views on their experience.
8. Train multiple staff
The software used in appointment reminder services is usually as simple and straightforward as it comes. Training time to show a new member of staff therefore, is minimal, but the more staff you have able to use the software, the better. Reminders that are not uploaded because the member of staff who normally does it is on leave or sick could result in no-shows where customers are accustomed to getting a reminder. Have a backup of a few members of staff, or preferably everyone in the office, so anyone can set reminders up at any time. As a manager, don’t rely on staff below you to do something, make sure you yourself understand the software as there may be times you need to make sure reminders go up without hiccup.
9. Lookout for free trials
Before you invest in an appointment reminder service, make the most of a free trial. This will allow you to see for yourself whether it’s right for you and also means you don’t have to sign up to something if you change your mind. A service that doesn’t offer a free trial may not have confidence in its product, but one that does knows you won’t be disappointed.
As you can see, once you have an appointment reminder service set up, there’s plenty you can do to make the most from it. Never rest on your laurels when it comes to technology, as it's changing all the time; be ahead of the game by helping shape the technology with your own feedback and by upgrading whenever you can to make the most of new features. Send appointment reminders to your staff as well as to your customers for a more seamless, holistic business approach and think about what else you can remind customers of than simply their appointments, such as reminders to renew membership, class dates or to book an appointment.
Making the most of your appointment reminder service will improve your business practice no end. It will reduce no-shows, improve internal communications and enable you to provide an even better service in the future.