How to Text Appointment Reminders | Guide + Free Templates

How to Text Appointment Reminders | Guide + Free Templates

Aug 22, 2020 - 13 min read time
Guide to reducing no-shows and missed appointments. Learn how to text appointment reminders and more using our free appointment reminder templates.

Learn How to Reduce No-shows and Improve Your Appointment Reminder Experience

You’ve got a fully booked schedule - great! You look at your calendar so see your appointments stacked and ordered until... someone no-shows. They’ve put a gaping, non-productive hole in your workflow.

Missed appointments are frustrating. Every no-show wastes time, hurts revenue, and affects your bottom line. This is true for everyone running a service-based business - from estheticians to doctors.

Why do people miss appointments? Miscommunication. Most forget to attend or cancel or just write down the wrong day or time.

However, clear, proactive communication can prevent no-shows and missed appointments.

But what’s the best way to communicate with clients, customers, and patients to prevent no-shows and missed appointments?

To help you out, we’ve created a guide to reducing no-shows and missed appointments. The insights here are for everyone from estheticians and auto mechanics to gyms and medical practices.

We cover everything you need to know about creating and sending appointment reminders as well as how to improve your appointment reminder experience.

In this appointment reminder guide you’ll learn:

  1. Why missed appointments affect your bottom line
  2. Why people miss appointments
  3. Why SMS text message reminders work
  4. How to prevent no-shows and missed appointments
  5. How to get consent and manage opt-in, and opt-out for text reminders
  6. How to text appointment reminders (best practices)
  7. Free appointment reminder templates
  8. What else you can do with text messaging
Chapter 1

Why Missed Appointments Affect Your Bottom Line

No-shows obviously impact your efficiency and productivity. They also affect your revenue. You’ll need to do some quick math to calculate the effect.

Take your average number of monthly appointments and multiply it by your average revenue per appointment. Then multiply that number by your missed appointment rate. What you’ll get is the dollar amount of missed revenue per month from each no-show.

Example: 100 (clients, customers or patients per month) x $100.00 (average revenue per appointment) x .10 (1 in 10 average no-show rate) = $1000.00 lost monthly revenue

At the above rates, you’re missing out on $12,000.00 of revenue per year!

Why people miss appointments

In a recent survey, 53% of people said they forgot to attend or cancel their appointment. Another 28% said they wrote down the wrong date or time, and 24% blamed traffic or work.

You can’t control traffic or work conflicts. However, you can do something about the 81% of missed appointments due to forgetfulness or miscommunication.

In another report, 38% of people said a text message reminder would have helped them. Another 19% and 24% said email and voice reminders (respectively) would have helped.

The takeaway is that you may need to use multiple methods to remind and follow up. However, some communication methods are easier and more efficient than others.

We know that many no-shows occur because patients write down the incorrect time. This means it makes sense to use a digital, text-based reminder system.

Many businesses and organizations already do this with email, but you can do this with text messages too.

Asking patients to confirm appointments via text, helps keep a clear digital record for everyone. It can also help you cut back on the large percentage of people who forget to respond or cancel.

Why SMS text message reminders work

People read their texts. Texting is also easier than sending emails, playing phone tag or sending postcards.

  • Texts are more friendly and conversational.
  • Text messages work on every phone.
  • 90% of text messages get read within 3 minutes.
  • Recipients don’t need to install an app or log in to a portal to communicate with you.
  • 67% of people prefer getting appointment reminder texts.

You can also personalize your text messages with emojis and media. But if you’re using a business-grade text messaging platform (like MessageDesk) you can even insert personalization tags.

These tags allow you to dynamically add information like {{ FirstName }} into every message. All without having to type the first name for each individual reminder. This saves time.

Compared to voice, texts are also unobtrusive. Recipients can check their texts and confirm appointments more frequently than they could via phone or email.

When your texts contain appointment details, it also allows recipients to refer back if they forget their appointment time. This makes it easy for them to take action if they need to reschedule or cancel.

Text message appointment reminders vs voice appointment reminders

76% of consumers report they don’t like talking on the phone. Phone calls can be untimely and intrusive.

You could leave a voicemail, but there’s no way of knowing when someone will listen to it. In fact, texting is 7 times more likely to get a response than talking on the phone or leaving a voicemail.

Text messaging is also much more efficient than calling a phone number. Phone conversations can take forever, and you can only complete them one at a time.

You can complete that same task by sending automated text messages to your entire audience at one time.

Text message appointment reminders vs. email appointment reminders

Email alerts are becoming increasingly popular. But most inboxes are already overflowing with messages. Plus, many emails get ignored and spam filters can keep your reminder from seeing the light of day.

Compared to text messages, emails don’t typically get high engagement rates either. Many wind up in the trash before they even get opened. Appointment reminders are more urgent than normal mail. However, emails still only get around a 20% open rate and about a 6% response rate.

Text messages typically perform better (especially for appointment reminders).

With a text, you might see up to a 98% open rate and a 45% response rate. That’s how texting appointment reminders can reduce your no-shows - better engagement.

Medical offices are some of the most prolific texters. Especially when it comes to appointment reminders. A recent poll of 1475 patients asked if their doctor’s office used texting for reminders. 88% said “yes”,11% said “no”, and the remaining 1% were “unsure”.

1. Have a defined no-show and cancelation policy

A no-show policy tells your contacts, customers, or patients what happens if they miss an appointment with you. Many organizations charge a fee for every missed or canceled appointment that occurs within a certain time-window.

Keep in mind that your policies will only be effective if your people know what they are and how they work.

A recent survey found that nearly 42% of people surveyed were unaware of their doctor’s no-show policy. This being the case, consider the time it would take for you and your staff to explain your no-show policy.

In the end, you’ll collect more revenue if you make your no-show and cancellation policies and procedures transparent.

2. Reduce appointment lead times

Appointment lead times are the calendar days between making an appointment and the actual appointment itself. Shortening this time leads to greater customer satisfaction and reduces no-shows.

One case study found that an appointment lead time of 30 days increased no-shows, missed appointments, and cancelations.

Lead times will vary based on your business or organization. But it is generally a best practice to reduce lead times whenever possible.

Getting consent is a general text messaging best practice and good texting etiquette. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) also requires that all businesses and organizations get consent before they text.

To get the right consent for appointment reminders, you need to know the difference between transactional and promotional messages.

Suggested article: TCPA Compliance Checklist & Guide for Business Messaging

Transactional vs. Promotional Messages

Transactional messages establish implied consent. These messages help facilitate, complete or confirm a previously agreed-upon business type transaction or relationship.

Has someone already scheduled an appointment with you? If yes, then their consent is implied because you already have an established transactional relationship with them. This makes it ok to text appointment reminders.

Promotional messages require express consent. These are all messages that don’t directly involve an already existing business type transaction or relationship.

Has the person given you or your organization their express consent (written or verbal) to receive messages? If not, then you don’t have permission to send them promotional messages.

Transactional Text Messages
(implied consent)
Promotional Text Messages
(express consent - written or verbal)
Appointment reminders Schedule next appointment
Appointment confirmations Advertising new services or products
No-show / missed appointment reminders Tips and tricks
Check in and ready reminders Satisfaction surveys and polls

How to get consent and manage opt-in, and opt-out for text reminders

1. Ask for consent when people schedule an appointment.

You can always ask for permission to send appointment reminders. You can do this before you use a digital appointment scheduling software like Calendly or Google Calendar or take appointments over the phone or in-person.

You’ll also want to get the scheduler’s preference for appointment reminder messages. As we’ve learned above, following up using multiple communication methods can reduce appointment no-shows.

Asking for communication preference is also good etiquette. It gives you the chance to ask if the scheduler would like to opt-in to receive promotional messages too.

If the person consents, be sure to record this. Some apps like MessageDesk can do this for you automatically.

2. Give people a way to opt-in to reminders and messaging on your website.

Can your people schedule appointments online? If so, then you’ll also want to give them ways to opt-in to other kinds of messaging.

Many appointment scheduling platforms have built-in mechanisms for obtaining consent. Some also allow users to set their messaging preferences.

3. Display opt-in prompts in your lobby or waiting room.
If your clients, customers, or patients wait somewhere before their appointment, then they’ll most likely be on their phones.

Consider displaying a prompt to opt-in to messaging on a tv, sign or placard.

Include simple instructions that direct a person to a website or give them instructions for recording their opt-in non-digitally.

You need consent before you text anyone. As noted above, the standard for consent is much lower for appointment reminders.

You have implied consent to text if a person has already scheduled an appointment. This includes either in-person or over the phone.

2. Make your no-show and cancellation policies clear

Before you text your contacts, customers, or patients, you’ll want to make your no-show and cancellation policies clear.

Be sure to gently remind people of your rescheduling and cancellation policy.

As a best practice, you may also consider including a link to your cancelation policy in your message. This could be part of your templated reminder messages.

3. Text from a local, 10-digit phone number

Foreign looking phone numbers, like shortcodes (e.g. 555-666) can create confusion for people who schedule appointments with you.

Instead, your first text should come from a normal, 10-digit, phone number with a local area code. This is a much better way to introduce yourself since the number is local, familiar, and more reputable.

Sending an appointment reminder from a shortcode also increases the likelihood of your message getting read as spam. Your recipient may misinterpret a valid appointment reminder as a spam message.

4. Only send essential information at the right times

You’ll only want to send your appointment reminder text messages during normal business hours (8 am - 5 pm, Monday-Friday). This applies to most businesses and organizations.

However, this could vary based on the service you provide.

In addition to timing, you’ll want to keep your text messages short and easy to read. Keeping things short and relevant is partly why 67% of people prefer texts for reminders.

Including the appointment day, time, and a link to your no-show and cancellation policies are obvious best practices.

5. Personalize text messages whenever possible

If your service is non-medical and not subject to HIPAA compliance, consider personalizing your messages whenever possible.

Texting apps (like MessageDesk) allow you to save text messages as templates, include emojis, share media, and even insert personalization tags.

For all medical practices, you’ll need to avoid sending any personal health information (PHI) in your text messages.

This potentially includes your practice name e.g, ABC Dermatology.

How to send HIPAA compliant appointment reminder texts

Text messaging (as a technology) is not HIPAA compliant. However, HIPAA doesn’t prohibit you from sending text messages for patient appointments.

You just need to be aware of some specific rules and best practices before you start texting.

To send text messages to patients:

  1. Messages can’t contain personal health information (PHI)
  2. Patients need to opt-in to messaging.

Read More: Guide to HIPAA Compliant Texting For Medical Offices

6. Make your texts actionable with calls to action (CTAs)

Giving people a clear way to confirm their appointment, cancel, and reschedule is a best practice for reducing no-shows. A call to action (CTA) is a clear instruction like, “respond ‘yes’ to confirm your appointment or ‘no’ to cancel.”

Many automated reminder systems make it easy to respond “yes” or “no” to confirm appointments. Other platforms like MessageDesk even allow you to respond in real-time and carry on a two-way conversation.

Conversational text messaging can improve your appointment scheduling experience. It gives you and your staff the opportunity to respond to more complex questions in more personalized ways.

7. Use a business text messaging app that supports call forwarding

If you text appointment reminders, what happens if the recipient tries to call your 10-digit text messaging number? If someone tries to call, make sure their call gets forwarded to an active phone line.

Some text messaging platforms allow you to text enable an existing phone number. Other organizations will want a separate, dedicated text messaging number. For dedicated text lines, just be sure your text messaging service supports call forwarding.

The last thing you want is to miss inbound phone calls from people who need to reschedule or cancel their appointment.

8. Treat text message appointment reminders like a campaign

If you use multiple communications methods to remind people, then you’ll also want to consider staggering reminders. In this way, you’re treating them like a campaign.

For example, you may send an email reminder five days prior to an appointment. This could be followed by a text message three days in advance. Then, finally, a phone call the day before an appointment.

You’ll also want to send your appointment reminders early, but not too early. Don’t send reminders too frequently or too far ahead. Otherwise, people are more likely to opt-out or forget their appointment. Send too close to the actual date, and it might be too late for a reminder to be effective.

The best business text messaging software will allow you to create campaigns and send messages triggered by events or keywords. For instance, responding STOP to a text message would opt a user out of receiving further messages.

Suggested Article: Guide to Automated Text Messages

Chapter 4

Free Appointment Reminder Templates

If knowing when to send is half the battle, knowing what to send is the other half. To help, we’ve created a list of free appointment reminder templates.

Copy and paste our free SMS text message templates and edit them to suit your messaging needs. In each of our examples, we use tags and templates. Both are MessageDesk features that save you time and make it easy to personalize messages at scale.

Personalization tags like {{ FirstName }} automatically insert details like name, email, job title, and company into any text message sent from MessageDesk.

You can also use custom fields to save other relevant info like account number, last appointment date/time, and more.

Text message templates are also great when you have to send the same message over and over again. With templates, you can draft a text message and save it for you or your staff to send in the future.

Referral SMS Template

Hi {{ FirstName }}, this is {{ OrganizationName }}. We received a referral from [ company name ] and need to schedule your initial appointment. To schedule, please text or call us at {{ OrganizationNumber }}.

Appointment Reminder Template

“Hi {{ FirstName }}, this is {{ OrganizationName }} confirming you have an appointment on [ date ] at [ time ]. Thanks for scheduling your appointment with us. If you have any questions or need to reschedule please call or text us at this number.

Consultation Reminder Text Message Template

Thank you for scheduling a consultation with {{ FirstName }} at {{ OrganizationName }}. You are confirmed on 3/25 at 3pm. If you have any questions, please reply via text or email. We’ll see you then!

Missed Appointment Reminder Text Message Template

Hi {{ FirstName }}. We’re sorry to see you missed your appointment today and hope everything is well. If you’d like to reschedule, please reply to this message or call us at {{ OrganizationPhone }}.

Appointment Follow-up Text Message Template

Hi {{ Firstname }}. We wanted to follow-up on your experience with us today. Please take the following survey and let us know your thoughts: [ survey link ]

HIPAA Compliant Appointment Reminder Text Message Template

You have an appointment with {{ OrganizationName }} on [ date ] at [ time ]. Reply “yes” to confirm or “no” to cancel. Please call our office at {{ OrganizationPhone }} if you have any questions or need to reschedule. P.S. Don’t forget to bring your insurance card.

Chapter 5

What Else You Can Do with Text Messaging

Text messages are one of the most versatile messaging mediums. They provide one of the fastest, clearest, and most direct ways to reach people. Text messaging also works for more than appointment reminders.

Here’s a list of a few other things you can do with text messaging:

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

Ready to start texting? MessageDesk is here to help with smarter, simpler ways to text automated appointment reminders.

Visit our learning center for information on how to get started with MessageDesk. You’ll find a quick start guide to texting, a features overview, and an explanation of what MessageDesk is.

You’ll also want to check out our list of free SMS text message templates. Just copy and paste to start texting.

Finally, feel free to start a 7-day free MessageDesk trial with 50 free text messages.