I have observed that most doctors’ offices are now using text messages or a series of texts to remind clients of their appointments. They use texting because it works and it decreases the rate of no-show appointments, which impacts many health and service-related businesses.
A couple of years ago, my children’s dentist started sending out a series of reminder texts for their six-month checkup appointments. The first reminder text comes in about seven days before their appointment. The next text comes in the day before the appointment and the last text is the day of the appointment. Occasionally, I have received a text within two hours of the appointment.
While that many texts may sound excessive, I have personally come to appreciate it. In today’s world of distractions and overwhelm, it almost takes that type of cue to have my attention to fulfill my appointment obligations.
This notion of text message appointment reminders brings us to the modern expectations of the average massage client.
To Text or Not to Text
The upside of reminder texts for your massage therapy clients is obvious. Texts serve to decrease your no-shows or last-minute cancellations from not recalling the reserved appointment. The downside of reminder texts is that it will also potentially increase your no-shows, but for a different reason.
Once your client comes to expect a reminder text from you for their appointment, the precedent is set. Your client will wait for, and require, a reminder from you and lose the diligence to remember the appointment themselves.
The dilemma with your business and texting is that your client is most likely already conditioned to this type of reminder. If you are experiencing a high rate of clients not showing up for their appointments, it could be that you just need to meet this conditioned response.
We are going to look at two ways you can approach integrating text reminders into your practice.
Approach #1: Self-Directed Reminders
This is the easiest approach because it is free. This is where you plan time at the beginning or end of each day to send out reminder texts for clients coming in one to two days from now.
This method is a wonderful way to start out when you need to control your money and time. It is also cost-effective if your practice is small and does not warrant utilizing a reminder service, which we will talk about next.
There are few considerations with the manual-sending option. Best practice is to ask clients’ permission to send reminder texts prior to sending them. Also, make sure your phone plan allows you unlimited texting or that you know how many texts you can send to avoid overage charges.
If you start doing reminder texts, especially without a service, you need to commit to consistency. It is unprofessional to forget to send texts or be haphazard in your efforts to send them. Clients need to know they can rely on you to consistently remind them of their appointments as part of your new customer service to them.
It does not work to only send reminder texts the morning of appointments. If for some reason the client honestly did not remember, giving them some time to rearrange their day and obligations is a courtesy. If they need to cancel, it also gives you time to fill that time slot so as not to lose the income.
Approach #2: Paid Reminder Services
This option requires that you research and select a paid service that manages text reminders for you.
Most massage office software programs offer text reminders in the mid-level to high-end monthly packages. The advantage to this is that when someone books an appointment with you, there is automation working for you in the background, cuing the text reminder to be performed once the appointment is set. Most systems will confirm with the client that the appointment was made on the date it was scheduled, and then also send a reminder just prior to the appointment.
If all you need is a texting feature, there are text-only services you can integrate with your business practices. These apps or programs require that you take the time to input each appointment reminder into the system with repeating features for returning clients.
This helps resolve the day-to-day requirement of manually typing reminder texts, allowing you to batch this task to inputting information once or twice a week. This would be a helpful solution if you only need a text reminder to be performed for you while managing your business with a paper calendar.
Text-only services can also integrate with someone’s personal digital calendar associated with their email, which can integrate with your own digital calendar. I know therapists who manage their appointment calendar through their email account. They set up “meetings” with their clients and the calendar reminders notify clients, but only if clients’ notifications are turned on. The additional reminder text supports and helps manage this type of scheduling preference.
Lastly, adding text reminders into your business practice can be considered a valuable increase in customer service. I am a firm believer that when you increase how you serve your clients, it creates the future opportunity for your pricing to increase as well. Great customer service is always a key component to increasing your pricing structure while maintaining your existing clientele.
Whichever option is your preference, consistency will be the requirement for you with text appointment reminders. Choose the option that supports you best with your business structure and behavior. We are in an era that will require more from you to not only help your client with their health and well-being, but to arrive on time to those appointments.
About the Author
Amy Bradley Radford, LMT, BCTMB, has been a massage therapist and educator for more than 25 years. She is the owner of Massage Business Methods and the developer of PPS (Pain Patterns and Solutions) Seminars CE courses and a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved CE provider. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “MTs Ask: What Are Exact Steps I Can Take to Raise Fees?”