A survey conducted by Vetport found that at least 20% of pet owners don’t show up for their appointment on time. The most common reasons for this were that they forgot the scheduled time, they wanted to save money, or they had no available time to come in.
Effective reminder programs will not only help you remind your clients of the appointment, thereby ensuring they come in, but can also act as gentle reminders of why these appointments are important for the health of their pet.
So, to be effective, what should your practice reminder plan include?
Have a variety of reminders
To make sure your reminder is being seen, it’s good to send a variety of messages via different channels, such as a postcard, email, and text message. This way, even if a client misses one of your messages, it’s likely they’ll get at least one of the others and either turn up to the appointment or take the opportunity to re-schedule.
You’ll also want to time these messages right. Too far in advance and they may forget about the appointment all over again; too close and they may no longer be able to make the appointed time. If you’re sending a series of communications you could schedule a postcard to be sent a few weeks before the appointment is due, and then the email or text reminder a couple of days before as a final reminder you’re looking forward to seeing Fido or Fluffy.
Traditionally, one of the main roadblocks to sending out timely and frequent reminders was the amount of time it took. However, with automation, most of this can be done behind the scenes with minimal human input. Once you’ve set up the types of reminder you’d like to send, the message that should be included in each, and the timing the system takes care of the rest.
It’s good to keep in mind though that automation doesn’t mean ‘set-and-forget’. It’s good practice to review your settings and messages regularly to make sure they’re still accurate and make updates or changes if required.
Use up-to-date data
If you’re going to the trouble of sending out reminder notifications – and especially if these are automated – you want to make sure they get to your clients. This requires your client and patient data to be accurate and up-to-date.
As well as getting these details when a new patient joins the practice, a great time to check that all their contact details are correct is when they come back in for their next appointment. This includes confirming data fields such as email, mobile phone, and physical address. This way you’ll catch any data entry mistakes that may have been made in the past, and ensure that all your reminder messages are getting through.
While reminder communications may feel like a transactional task, there’s no reason they need to be generic or dry. The data you have on file makes it easy to personalize these messages by including the patient’s name, the reason for the visit, and even the name of the veterinarian they’ll be seeing.
And, there’s absolutely no harm in adding some of your practice’s personality into the message or doing something a little outside of the box. Examples include sending messages addressed to the patent, rather than the owner, telling them to remind their ‘human’ to bring them in for their important checkup.
This is also a great, subtle nudge, reminding the pet parent that these appointments are there to make sure everything is going ok with their fur baby.