By Dr. Greg Grillo
Mobile devices hold our attention for over three hours every day, but we can’t live without them. As an essential communication link, they help us juggle full calendars, endless news cycles, and family commitments.
Imagine a world before text messaging. If you’re under age 30, you probably can’t. Texts started flying through cyberspace in 1992 and gained popularity in Europe and Asia as a low-cost alternative to phone calls. In the mid-2000s, texting began to explode in the U.S., and many carriers charged $20 monthly for unlimited texting. In 2021, 23 billion text messages transmit every day, and SMS (short message service) helps us keep life moving on the fly.
SMS offers our practices one of the simplest tools to cut our no-show rates in half. If we don’t do anything else, implementing this one strategy produces more productivity and patient satisfaction.
Consider these five insights and what they mean to our practices:
1. SMS messages are opened 98% of the time, and 95% are opened within 3 minutes.
Getting any message in front of consumers takes a small miracle. Emails sit untouched 80% of the time, and it’s not unusual for a phone call to end up in voicemail. But our patients need reminders to keep their appointments, and the majority want them.
Text message reminders hit the target. Hands down, there’s no other method that comes close to cutting through the static and ending up in front of our patients. No-show rates can hover around 15% for many practices. But Legwork clients find this critical rate falls to 5% or less with a well-designed system.
2. U.S. smartphone owners aged 18-24 send around 2000 texts every month.
Texting belongs to the masses, but younger generations rely on it more than anyone. Smartphone users aged 18 to 24 text twice as much as people aged 25 to 34 and a stunning ten times more than the 55+ crowd.
Nothing reinforces a stereotype more than a 19-year old who doesn’t show up for their appointment. But are we communicating with them on their wavelength? If we’re sending emails or calling from an unidentified number, we’re unlikely to reach them. But when we reach out with SMS, we’re operating in their favorite space. As this generation continues to age, they’ll take their affinity for texting with them. Using text reminders today can save us time and frustration now and in the future.
3. 75% of consumers want to receive SMS messages from brands after opting in.
Nobody likes to get hit with spam messages in any format. Cold-calls, generic emails, and junk flyers in the mailbox all belong in the same pile: Untouched. Marketers now use text messages to send offers and coupons to consumers, and there’s an inherent danger of saturation. But the same consumers are open to text messages from brands they’ve chosen. And that’s an advantage for productivity in our offices.
Customized text reminders that include the patient’s name and specific appointment instructions make an impression. Plus, asking patients to confirm with a quick action helps solidify the commitment in a few seconds.
4. 64% of consumers think businesses should contact them via text messages more often.
Just when we think consumers can’t get their heads above the waves, we find out that they want more contact from us. And since SMS messages have a 209% higher response rate than phone or email, we need to hit Send more often.
Some patients still want a phone call, postcard, or email to confirm their appointments. And others opt for all reminders. If that’s the state of their busy lives and we want them in our chairs, we’d better deliver. We need a system that allows a personalized reminder strategy with minimal effort from our team. And what if it’s still best to reach a landline and leave an automated voicemail as another option? Those are the solutions that make sense to our patients and our bottom line.
5. 80% of people want the option to use their smartphones to interact with their healthcare providers.
Mobile devices continue to evolve and offer more capabilities than ever. Texting may be simplistic, but it’s essential to the world as we know it. Unlimited Text and Talk packages are a bare-bones service for most users today. But these essential functions underpin the vital link that opens up endless possibilities with smartphones.
Our dental practices may start with a reminder system based on smart technology combining voice, email, postcard, and SMS reminders. Once that door opens, don’t expect patients to stop there. Two-way texting with your front desk for check-in or quick questions removes another barrier to communication. A teledental consult through their device while they’re sitting at home brings them closer to choosing treatment. And an online payment portal keeps cash flow moving in the practice 24/7.
Is texting essential? It seems so.
In a world where 50% of us report feeling uneasy without our smartphones, our patients may rely on our messages for survival. At a minimum, they rely on strategic contact from us to help them from missing their appointments. A smart SMS reminder system is a cornerstone for the health of our practices, and it encourages patients to choose more treatment and keep their commitments.
Legwork Reminders isn’t just another reminder software, although it performs that critical function with style. We can stay in touch with patients via SMS, email, auto-call, and postal communications, all from one interface. Adding a logo, social media links, and customized messaging elevates the brand message, and family communications can be grouped into one message to avoid communication fatigue.
Once you see what Legwork does for your no-show rate, you’ll discover a dozen more tools that add revenue, patient satisfaction, and growth to your practice on the same platform.