There are many different dental appointment reminders a practice can send. Here's a look at the more popular ones, with an explanation on how they can take your office to the next level.
There's not a dental practice in the world that doesn't send out some form of an appointment reminder. And if you do hear of or see that practice, go and take a picture because they won't be around for long. We live in a busy world. There are distractions, quite literally, at our fingertips. People need reminders. It's the reason push notifications exist — to remind you there's something on your phone that needs attention.
So, the question is not why send appointment reminders, but rather what kind of appointment reminders to send. No two patients are alike, and that's with regards to everything from their oral health to their communication preferences. Some reminders are old school; others are paperless. Some patients only need a quick nudge; others need nothing short of a full-blown reconnaissance team.
Following are a variety of dental appointment reminders — some of which you may use, some you may not — with a little guidance on how to make them next-level.
Ah, the postcard. Or, as we like to call it, Old Trusty. For most patients, a postcard is synonymous with the dentist. And while it's not the sexiest reminder around, Old Trusty still has its benefits.
For one, it's tangible. There's a selection of people who will, no matter what, put every reminder postcard they ever receive on the fridge. Secondly, it's not beholden to tech. For the people with crowded inboxes and flip phones, a postcard may be perfect.
The thing to remember about postcards is that they should never (never!) be your only reminder solution. They're too easily thrown in the trash or lost among junk mail.
Let's pick up where we just left off. The best way to take your postcard reminders to the next level is to not leave them sitting on an island. Think of them, if you will, as the pawns on a chessboard. By themselves, they're not that strong. But when flanking other reminders, they work perfectly. Use a postcard in tandem with email or texts, or any of the other reminders you'll read below. They're not an anchor, but a very nice complementary piece in a multi-touch recall campaign.
Another way to take your postcards to the next level: automate sending them. This saves you so much time — no more printing labels, stamping, and running out to the mailbox every week!
Just think: there once was a time when doctors (or maybe someone on the team) would sit down and pen a very thoughtful letter on why a patient should come in for their next appointment. And then they'd do it for the next patient. And the next and the next and so on down the line. If this is your practice, please tell us what kind of quill and ink you're using. We kid ... kind of.
Letters fall in the same vein as postcards above. They certainly serve a purpose; they just can't be the only reminder you use. There are too many variables in place. Will the letter carrier deliver your letter to the right address? Will it get there on time? How confident are you that the recipient will open the envelope? Or will it get mistakenly chucked alongside that Bed Bath & Beyond coupon and the political mailers?
The first tip for creating next-level letter reminders is to tie them in with specific treatment plans — ideally the bigger-ticket plans. Make them listicles so they're easy to read, like "Three reasons why a deep cleaning today will save you money tomorrow."
Now you have a bunch of pro forma letters ready to roll when the time calls for it. Here's where you can kick things up another notch: address every envelope by hand. Time-consuming: yes. Differentiating: also, yes. If you're a patient who receives a personally addressed envelope from your doctor, you're opening that bad boy.
Again, this is not a reminder you want to use for every single patient. It's also not a one-off item. Use letter reminders as part of a complete recall campaign, and they'll have the desired effect. If they're your only option, then you're likely spinning your wheels.
Alrighty, here we are: digital communication. Email is great for many reasons, the foremost being that it's ubiquitous. Most people check their inbox daily, if not multiple times during the day. Some folks even have push notifications on their phones to alert when new a new email comes in.
Email reminders are also faster and easier to send than the aforementioned postcards and letters. You draft up a few emails or use your patient communication platform, and they're ready when you need them. Instant sending. Instant receipt. In a busy day when every second feels like a precious commodity, emails feel like a godsend compared to the previous options. If there's a negative with emails, it's that they are passive communication — active would be something like text or a phone call.
Add videos to your emails! A personal video from the doctor or one of your team members goes a looooong way. Especially compared to a postcard! All you need is a 5- to 10-second clip saying, "Hi Bob, we can't wait to see you for your appointment next week!" Pull out the party poppers, sing a song, or just play it straight: the fact remains that your video is personal. It shows how much you care about the patient's oral health.
Here's another tip: If you use digital forms, add a link in the email and encourage people to fill out their paperwork before coming in. This will cut down on intake time (great patient experience!) and has actually shown to reduce no-shows.
There's a lot of room to maneuver with emails. And when part of recall campaigns, they make for a nice first touchpoint. They're also so easy you can send several if needed — as compared to snail mail, which should really be one-and-done.
It's time for some active reminders. Let's get people in that chair by paying them a personal call. Phone call dental reminders are wonderful because you can convey all the info needed — and ensure that the patient understands what you're saying. Go beyond date and time, and answer questions ranging from medication to parking validation.
The only problem with phone calls: getting somebody on the line. When your patients answer, life is great. When they don't, you've just hit a major HIPAA roadblock.What was supposed to be a lovely, informative conversation just turned into a vague answering machine message that hits on only the baseline topics HIPAA allows.
Two words: unlimited reminders. That's right. Set your communication platform up with unlimited phone call reminders and truly take things to the next level. It'll make the calls on your behalf and save you a ton of time. Don't worry, you won't be spamming people's voicemail. However, you will offload the calls from your daily workflow.
And let's double down on the phone calls by getting ready for when the patients call back. If your dental practice phone is a smart one, a patient's info should pop up on the screen right when they call. You can jump right into the conversation — essentially carrying on from where your automatic reminder call left off — and set things up nicely for the upcoming visit.
Once upon a time, text messaging patients would've seemed impersonal. A passive tactic that doesn't carry much personal weight. Nowadays: quite the opposite. It can be argued that text message appointment reminders are the most personal form of patient messaging.
Think about it: your text reminder goes right into a person's pocket (or maybe even their hand, should they be holding the phone at that moment).And if they're part of the 77% of Americans who have a smartphone, then your text is likely going right to their lock screen.
There's a whole host of stats that explain why you should text reminders, but these two matter most: texting is the most popular form of communication in America, and 82% of texts are read within five minutes. People love texting, and it's the best kind of reminder you can send.
If you're texting patients, then your reminder game is already next-level. How do you level up from that? It's tough, but here's a good trick to take your texting game to elite levels: use a set of pre-scripted texts. Texting is already super fast. When you have a list of texts for every instance — same-day reminders, ASAP notifications, family reminders, etc. You'll be messaging at a whole new clip. And there you have it: from mailing postcards to texting patients, there's a whole spectrum of dental appointment reminders. If there's one common thread that applies to each, it's this: reminders work best in groups. Diversify your options, and watch the patients roll in!
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