Eliminating no shows: How SMS appointment reminders can keep you on schedule

Say goodbye to missed appointments and hello to a more efficient, punctual routine.

14 June 2023

We are living in a fast-paced world where everyone is squeezing so much into their busy schedules. Quite frankly, many of us have too much on our plate so, it’s understandable that plans change at the last minute or that we might forget bookings and appointments.

Sadly, the cost to businesses and organisations is colossal and cannot be ignored. The Daily Mail recently reported that the NHS is losing on average £1 billion per year from appointment no-shows. According to The Caterer, the UK hospitality industry alone loses around £17.6 billion per year for the same reason! This has to stop, but how? The answer could well lie with business SMS.

What are SMS reminders?

SMS reminders are text message alerts that can be sent to customers, patients, or clients to remind them of an upcoming appointment. Using a robust business SMS appointment reminder system, businesses and organisations can look to reduce missed appointments or bookings.

Why do SMS reminders work?

A text message reminder is the fastest and easiest way to reach your customers. With a 98% open rate, it’s unrivalled in customer communication. Automated appointment reminders can even include two-way communication so that your customers can provide you with information too. For example, as well as simple reminder messages you can also give customers the option to cancel by reply.

Hi Jade, we are looking forward to welcoming you to The Cherry Blossom Cocktail Lounge at 7 pm on 30th May. Please confirm that you can still attend, reply Y to this text. Alternatively, reply N to cancel your booking.

How organisations and customers benefit from automated SMS appointment reminders

The process of using text message reminders will not only reduce no-shows but will also cut down on unnecessary phone calls to clients to chase or remind them. A great add-on to this service is rescheduling. A good SMS platform can not only allow customers to cancel their appointments and bookings via text message reminders but it can also allow them to reschedule by diverting them back to your booking portal. This will mean that although the booking is cancelled, you may still be able to benefit from the custom.

To offer another level of sophistication, if you operate a waiting list system, the cancellation can be automatically offered to the next person on the waitlist, without you lifting a finger. Meaning that you need never have gaps in your service that aren’t making you money.

By managing your appointment system via business SMS, you can improve customer satisfaction and cut down on unnecessary workloads.

One way businesses try to cut back on no-shows is by taking deposits up front to keep the deposit if the customer fails to turn up. There is nothing wrong with this, but it can lead to confrontation and unpleasantness when the customer challenges the loss of money. You are also in the difficult position of deciding what classes as an unavoidable emergency or good enough reason as to why a customer stood you up. Send SMS appointment reminders instead of charging upfront to save any ill feelings and protect your reputation.

What if customers still don’t show up?

Despite your best efforts, there will always be a small percentage of people who won’t show up, life is never perfect. What can you do? You could send them a message after the event to check in to see if everything is ok. For example:

Hey Min, we are so sad you weren’t able to make your appointment with us on Friday 12th May. If there is anything we can help with, please click the link to talk to a member of our team [Insert URL].

Ok, so you potentially gain nothing financially from doing this but, it may serve two different purposes. Firstly, there could be lots of legitimate reasons why your client was a no-show and a message like this proves that there are no hard feelings, so the customer will feel comfortable to book again and actually turn up. Secondly, it pricks at their conscience and prevents their carelessness from being faceless – in other words “Your absence did not go unnoticed by us!”

Cancellation charges

If you operate a cancellation fee for no-shows or last-minute cancellations, you can alert your customers about the charge for their missed appointments automatically via SMS. Add links for customers to pay the charge or to refer them to your booking terms and conditions. This is a more business-like approach that will help small businesses in particular who can often end up negotiating mitigating circumstances over the phone with a client.

Appointment rescheduling

As mentioned, businesses have reported that one of the huge advantages of an SMS appointment reminder is that it has the facility for a two-way conversation. The two-way function allows organisations to add a cancellation option to their text messages. Little intervention is required once the cancellation has been actioned by the customer but the business database can be automatically updated to allow slots to be rebooked.

For leisure and hospitality, the cancellation function will help enable staff to take walk-in clients last minute.

Internal Business SMS reminders

It’s not just our customers that can benefit from a text message reminder. As part of a wider business SMS package, an SMS appointment reminder system can help you to manage staff within your organisation.

Traditionally, staff would be sent physical memos as a notification for meetings. This had obvious pitfalls such as paper waste and tracking issues. Email reminders are much more common but, unfortunately, not all staff members are good at checking emails and responding quickly. Text message reminders and confirmations tend to garner a larger and quicker response. Use SMS for all future meeting reminders to boost attendance.

How to get started with text reminders

Find a good SMS provider

Not all SMS marketing providers understand the needs of different types of businesses, so make sure you choose one that does. TextAnywhere is experienced in dealing with all types of businesses and can offer as much support as you need to get started and for the duration of your time with us.

Take a look at some of our testimonials to see how we have helped businesses to improve their services and maximise their ROI. We understand how hard it is out there right now and are constantly sharing new ideas and tips to help you to reach your customers directly.

A good provider can support you with bulk SMS and automated SMS. It should also be able to integrate with your existing marketing systems and internal communications. Most importantly, it doesn’t need to be expensive. At TextAnywhere our prices start at 3.7p per text message.

Whilst cost is important, the value an SMS appointment reminder system can add to your business is not only measured by how much you are paying for it. Equally important is how much it is saving you by reducing last-minute cancellations or cancelled meetings. The SMS platform you choose should have tracking capabilities to enable you to monitor your open rates, click-through rates, and responses. This way, you’ll know how it’s performing.

Send a booking or appointment confirmation

When a customer books an appointment with you or makes a reservation, your SMS software should automatically issue a text message confirmation. Your customer now has proof of their booking and a point of reference. Bookings can be synced with customers’ diaries on their phones and alerts set.

When sending out an appointment confirmation internally, the calendar element is invaluable and employees can respond instantly to confirm attendance. Any updates to the schedule can also be communicated via your SMS appointment reminder system.

The confirmation sets the automated text reminders in the system. You don’t have to do a single thing once the booking has been taken, text messages will automatically be sent out to the end users to remind them to attend.

How often should text reminders be sent?

Customers or staff will welcome reminders from you to save them from a missed appointment or booking but, be careful not to harass them. Two SMS reminder messages is generally acceptable and expected by customers. Following on from your confirmation text, a reminder one week before a booking is useful, and another one on the day. Large restaurant chain Miller & Carter send a reminder text messages a week in advance and then 30 minutes before expected arrival.

In conclusion

If you are a business owner and have become frustrated by customer no-shows or internal staff management issues, SMS reminders can revolutionise the way you work and save you thousands in business costs.

We hope that this article has highlighted how you can:

  • Increase productivity – reduce the number of no-shows, making better use of your time and resources, increasing your productivity and profitability.
  • Improve customer satisfaction –  Send timely reminders to improve your customers’ experience and satisfaction, getting repeat business and recommendations.
  • Be cost-effective SMS appointment reminders are a cost-effective way to reduce no-shows by no longer relying on phone call reminders or having no strategy at all.

If you would like to know more or start your free trial TextAnywhere can help. Get in touch today!

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