Ultimate Guides Sending Appointment Reminders: Texts, Phone Calls & Emails
Sending Appointment Reminders: Texts, Phone Calls & Emails
Aug 24, 2021 - 13 min. read
Guide to reducing no-shows and missed appointments. Learn how text reminders, email reminders, and phone calls can reduce appointment cancellations and no-shows.

Learn How Text Reminders, Email Reminders, and Phone Calls Can Reduce Appointment Cancellations and No-Shows

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

Missed appointments and last-minute cancellations 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.

Even last-minute cancellations can hurt too since it’s nearly impossible to fill the gap in the schedule in such a short period of time.

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

But what’s the best way to communicate with clients, customers, or 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. What you need to do to reduce no-shows and missed appointments
  4. Choosing the right appointment reminder software: reminder calls, SMS reminders, or email reminders
  5. How to text appointment reminders (best practices)
  6. Free appointment reminder templates
  7. What else you can do with text messaging
Chapter 1

Why Missed Appointments Affect Your Bottom Line

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The cost of missed appointments

No-shows obviously impact your efficiency and productivity. They also affect your revenue. To see how you just need to do some quick math.

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 should use multiple communication tools to remind and follow up.

But some communication methods are easier and more efficient than others.

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’s generally a best practice to reduce lead times whenever possible.

Having quality meeting scheduling software helps reduce lead times and plays a role in reducing no-shows.

Suggested Article: Top 10 Best Meeting Schedulers & Meeting Scheduling Software

3. Allow for two-way communication

Allowing your patients, customers, or clients to contact you in an accessible way is critical to reducing missed appointments.

Two-way communication is especially important for appointment cancellations. A cancellation is never ideal, but cancellations are preferable to a no-show.

Healthcare providers, law firms, and other service providers plan out their schedules to the minute. With every minute being so valuable, a cancellation allows for the opportunity to fill the gap with another appointment.

And keeping the open line of communication between you and the client is beneficial to the organization as a whole.

4. Automate appointment reminders for upcoming appointments

A recent study showed that “appointment reminders reduced missed appointment rates by 41% on average.

However, an appointment reminder requires a staff member to send out reminders to all the patients who have upcoming appointments.

Setting reminders to be sent automatically when an appointment is scheduled means a staff member won’t have to dedicate time to sending reminders out.

It also means there is no potential for reminders to go unsent.

Suggested Article: Guide to Automated Text Messages

5. Get appointment reminder software that integrates with your scheduling software

You can send appointment reminder messages automatically based on your scheduling software.

Effective appointment reminder systems will integrate with practice management software, EHR systems, or even google calendar to send reminders automatically.

If there’s no integration available, oftentimes you can use a third party like Zapier to integrate with your appointment reminder system.

Chapter 3

Choosing the Right Appointment Reminder Software: Reminder Calls, SMS Reminders, or Email Reminders?

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What are your options?

Many businesses come up with creative ways to remind their customers, patients, or clients.

But the most common are:

  1. Phone calls
  2. Text messages
  3. Emails
  4. Postcards/reminder cards

Each method has its own benefits, and some businesses even use two or even three methods to send reminders.

Appointment Reminder Calls

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.

Despite customers not being receptive to phone calls, they’re also time-consuming. The bigger your organization gets, the harder it is to scale calling to a bigger operation.

Reminder Cards

Postcards are a traditional way of reminding clients about their appointments.

But the truth is that appointment reminder cards aren’t exactly eye-catching. They’re likely to end up in a drawer, get lost, or simply forgotten.

In a recent survey of practices with a client no-show rate of over 10%, 52.1% were using physical reminder cards.

And a physical card can’t necessarily remind a client repeatedly or the day before their appointment. Sure, appointment cards can increase the chances of a client remembering when the appointment is.

But when it comes to appointment reminders, 67% of clients would rather get texts than reminder cards, emails, or phone calls.

And what about the cost of printed reminder cards versus sending a reminder text message?

Standard reminder cards can range in price (depending on the supplier or printer) from roughly $70 to $100 for 500 cards. And prices can go up or down from there based on volume, colors, and card personalization.

Suggested Article: Why You Shouldn’t Use Appointment Reminder Cards

Email Reminders

Sending a reminder email is useful. But other communication tools like texting have clear advantages. 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”.

Suggested Article: Email vs Text? Texting vs Calling? Which One’s Best?

SMS Reminders

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

You can also personalize your text messages with emojis and media. But if you’re using a business-grade text messaging platform 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. Sending a link in the text makes it easy for them to take action if they need to reschedule or cancel.

SMS Appointment Reminder Service

A business text message service can help you send reminder texts to your customers, clients, or patients.

You can even use your existing business landline number for your business text messaging service. Automating text messages with a business text messaging service is much easier than automating a phone call or an email.

But there are some things you should know about texting appointment reminders before you get started.

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 interpreted 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 (8am - 5pm, Monday-Friday). This is part of good text messaging etiquette and it can help you improve your customer experience and how customers feel about your business.

However, this can vary based on the product or 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 collect customer responses like “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 or notification 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.

Chapter 5

Free Appointment Reminder Templates

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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 6

What Else You Can Do with Text Messaging

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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: