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Text Message Appointment Scheduling: The Ultimate Guide

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 Appointments and client meetings are a critical component for businesses, but scheduling them takes so many touchpoints! It’s time-consuming and leaves too much room for clients or patients to fall through the cracks (and too often they do fall through).

Here are the numbers:

  • The U.S. healthcare system loses $150 billion annually to no-shows
  • The average business within the beauty industry is estimated to experience 5 no-shows per week, leading to $100 million loss in revenue
  • A 20% to 35% no-show rate is standard in sales meetings and costs reps 8 to 11 minutes of time per missed meeting

Now let's look at how we can fix them!

Why text for appointments?

Efficient and effective appointment scheduling is a challenge for your marketing, sales, operations, and customer service. Text messaging for scheduling is proven to save time and lower costs across departments while increasing kept appointments.

That’s the trifecta!

We help thousands of businesses every day improve scheduling by texting, and this guide is us putting that expertise down on paper. I’ll cover what processes to follow, share message templates you can copy and paste for your own scheduling, and give you the playbook for successful text message appointment scheduling.

Sound good?

How does texting compare to other options?

You need to grab customers’ attention (or clients’ or patients’), and get them to take an action. Text messaging is currently the most effective communications channel for doing so, and it’s the most requested channel by the people you serve.

Here’s some of the research behind it.

  • 99% of texts are read
  • The average response time is 90 seconds
  • 9 in 10 people want to text with businesses for sales, service, updates, and reminders
  • About 50% click through or respond to texts, as applicable

How does that stack up against emails and phone calls?

  • 15-25% of emails are opened (depending on email service and industry)
  • 1-2% of emails get a click through or response
  • Average email response time is two days
  • It takes five to eight phone calls to reach 20-25% of contacts
  • And 15% of people will check voicemail within a week

Texting gives you the engagement you need to book and keep more appointments while cutting costs. Here’s how to apply that day-to-day.

1. Schedule appointments with new, first-time visitors.

You probably spend a lot of time and money bringing people to your website. You want to show a good return on that investment, right?

There are many things you can do to convert a higher percentage of those website visitors into booked appointments—like increasing website page speed, answering common questions in your website copy, and having one consistent call-to-action (CTA) across the whole site.

But perhaps the simplest improvement is to enable and encourage website viewers to text you.

There are a few steps to doing this exceptionally well, and the first step that most take is to add text messaging to your current business phone number (landline, VOIP, or toll-free).

This does not affect voice services, and it lets you text back-and-forth using the same number you’ve been using for phone calls for ages.

Check your number below to see if it’s eligible.

Step #1: Change “Call us at…” to “Text or call us at…”

Most websites (and I’d assume this is true for yours, too) get about two-thirds of their traffic from mobile devices like smartphones. Those viewers (a) are likely vetting providers outside of your normal business hours, because that’s when they have time to do it, and (b) would rather text you than call or email.

We’ve seen this small change consistently lead to more inbound requests.

Step #2: Use SMS Chat.

The main pro of a live chat widget on your website is instant engagement with visitors. The main con is those visitors don’t stick around your website long enough to finish the conversation. Plus you have to keep a live representative available to handle conversations.

SMS Chat bridges the gap. It works like a live chat on your site, except your reply is sent as a text to the contact’s cell phone, and you both continue the conversation through text as you have time.

This means no one has to wait on your site for a live agent, and you’re able to capture contact info for valuable follow-up.

Step #3: Use a text autoresponse to encourage self-serve appointment bookings.

The less human intervention you need to book an appointment, the better. So add an autoresponse text prompting them to book a time that’s automatically sent in response when someone texts you.

For instance:

“Thanks for your text! Click here to book an appointment. calendar.com/link
Otherwise, someone will personally follow up between 8-5, M-F.”

Wouldn’t you love to walk into work in the mornings seeing multiple new appointments on the books without doing anything extra? That’s what you can get with texting.

[Schedule demo CTA card]

2. Confirm, confirm, confirm.

A great appointment scheduling strategy has bookings coming in from multiple channels -- your website, texts, third party partners, in-person at the end of a previous appointment, etc.

In all cases, whether it’s their first appointment with you or their 100th, you need to confirm the appointment through multiple channels.

This is particularly helpful when it comes to reminders (see next section), and here’s how texting plays in.

Step #1: Collect the person’s cell phone number when scheduling the appointment.

Step #2. Immediately text them a confirmation.

You might say,

“Thank you for scheduling your appointment with [Company]! We’re excited to see you [Date] at [Time]. Please add this appointment to your calendar.”

Many customer and practice management software (CMS or PMS) provide an option for confirmation texts like these, though you may need to bring your own texting solution to integrate with that software first. Zapier is a great tool connecting texting to your other software in a pinch.

It’s also good to send a confirmation email, and perhaps a physical mailer if it’s applicable and cost effective for you.

People will skip over your email and put your mailer in a pile, but this ensures they see your name in multiple places and become familiar with receiving communications from you through different channels.

That ultimately works in your favor for keeping more appointments and retaining more clients or patients.

3. Remind people when to show up (or when you’ll be there).

Your clients and patients book appointments with you because they need you, but things happen. People forget, they run late, life events come up, they may even get cold feet. That’s why it’s so important to remind them that this appointment is happening.

In an ideal world, you can automate this, and make scheduling updates as needed. You might send reminders one month, one week, one day, or one hour before the scheduled time (depending on your service), but you need to send a text message reminder that prompts them to either accept or reschedule.

Examples:

“[First Name], looking forward to seeing you in [1 hour]! Let me know if something comes up - [Rep Name], [Company]”

“[First Name], still good to meet [Time] [Date] at [Location]?”

“This is a reminder that your appointment with [Person] is scheduled for [Date] at [Time]. Please reply Confirm to confirm, or Reschedule to reschedule. Running late? Let us know.”

Note: Always make sure you have a confirm or reschedule option, instead of confirm or cancel. You still want to keep people on the books if they can’t make that specific time. If someone replies “Reschedule,” you can have an autoresponse send to them with your online calendar link. E.g.:

“No worries, just grab a new time here to reschedule ourcalendar.com/schedule”

Many CMS and PMS tools have automated reminders you can set up -- or have an option for you to integrate your texting software into them. Zapier is another good option to connect your texting service to your calendar as well.

4. Fill last minute openings.

People inevitably have to cancel or reschedule last minute, no matter how ironed tight your scheduling process is. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on an appointment during that time slot, or lose the revenue it would bring.

Simply text your other clients or patients that you’ve got an opening.

Take your waitlist - or if you don’t have a waitlist, be intentional to start keeping track of people who want to work with you that you haven’t been able to fit in yet. Then text that list when an appointment falls through.

You might say:

“Hi [First Name], we just an opening for tomorrow at 9am. Would you like to grab that instead of waiting [X] weeks?”

You can also use the same trick with warm leads you haven’t “closed” yet. E.g.:

“[First Name], just had an opening for this afternoon if you still want to [meet / have us come out / see Dr. X]. Let me know.”

5. Get old customers or patients back on the books.

You serve a customer or patient once, they have a good experience, but then nothing prompts them to reach out to you again. That’s a problem! Even a 5% increase in customer retention - getting them to schedule again - can increase profits by 25% or more.

You’ve got to reach out them, and text messaging will you the best engagement for the least amount of time (and dollars spent).

Pull a list from your customer database of people who’ve completed an appointment six months or a year ago, for instance, but who don’t have a next task or appointment scheduled. If you do not have that list, it’s well worth your time to comb through your contacts to see who applies.

Then with one simple text to all those contacts, you can begin filling your calendar up again. You might say:

“It’s been too long since we’ve seen you! Ready to book your next [check-up / appointment / service]? Do it here calendarlink.com/schedule”

Or

“[First name], it’s been [8] months since your last appointment. Let me know when you’re available for your next one so we can keep you [in tip top shape / relevant descriptor]! - [Rep Name], [Company Name]

Depending on your work, you might even throw a promotion in there.

“[First Name], it’s been too long since we’ve seen you! You’re [3 months] overdue, and we’re offering [20%] off scheduled services through [the month]. Grab an opening before they’re all gone! calendarlink.com/schedule”

Sending messages like these takes only a few minutes (if that), and the returns tend to be out of this world.

How do you start texting for appointments?

The key is that you start, and you only need two things to get going: an idea of what you’ll text for first, and a texting solution to do it. For example, you might want to start with appointment reminders, and use Text Request to do it.

We offer live demos every day where you can see the product and talk strategy. We highly recommend these. Or if you have a simple question, feel free to contact us.