No service provider appreciates when a client is a no show for an appointment they’ve scheduled.
If you charge for your services up front, then it’s much less likely that your clients will forget about their appointments. While that’s great for those types of businesses, what about businesses that have clients schedule for appointments where they don’t require pre-payment?
How do they make sure clients show up?
Sending a friendly reminder email may be an obvious solution, although sending a reminder email alone does not guarantee that the client will remember the appointment (or at least remember to cancel the appointment if they can’t come). You could accept a refundable deposit for the appointment, but that could decrease your total number of appointments and may conflict with the fact that your business just doesn’t charge for appointments.
I’ve experienced this problem myself as a software support person. There have been users who book appointments and don’t dial in for the call. I’d spend 15-20 minutes researching their business and their account to familiarize myself with everything only to be stood up.
After waiting for 10 minutes to see if they’d dial into the call, I’d ultimately hang up and send them a quick no show note. Sometimes the client would respond telling me something had come up and they would have to reschedule. A kind gesture, but…
We can’t charge our users to book support calls nor can we accept deposits. So how do businesses like ours get over the frustrating no show hump?
Enter: the appointment reminder email
Again, sending an appointment reminder note alone doesn’t guarantee that the client shows. That power comes from the subject line and body of the email and how much you care to play around with it to decrease your no show rates.
We’ve talked [in the past] about the importance of making your reminder email personalized and how to briefly summarize the details of the appointment. These are all things that help to make your reminder email friendly and useful for your client.
But what about for you? How do you use your reminder email to meet your end goal (i.e. making sure the client actually shows for the appointment)?
The recipe for a friendly reminder email that gets your clients to the appointment on time is a delicate balancing act. You definitely don’t want to threaten your clients (“show up for the appointment or I’ll have your head!!”), and yet, you also don’t want to go to soft (“I really wish you would show up for the appointment tomorrow”).
Since the balance is so delicate, let’s talk about the ingredients that go into a strong, but friendly, reminder email that works for both you and your clients.
Ingredient #1: A dash of Urgency
Expressing urgency in your reminder email doesn’t make it any less friendly, but it does generate more of a reason for the client to open the email as well as for them to take any action that they may need to before the appointment.
A great place for urgency is in your subject line. Most businesses will send a fairly generic subject line for their appointment reminder emails that reads like “(Appointment Reminder) Appointment Date & Time with Staff Name”.
It’s not that that’s a bad subject line; it’s just, why does a client actually need to open the email if you’ve spelled so much out in the subject line?
If instead you said something like “(Important) Updated information on your appointment scheduled for Appointment Date”, you give the client a bit more of a reason to open the email. You don’t have to have actually updated any information on the appointment, but you are incentivizing the client to at least open the email to make sure they know what’s going on.
Having urgency in the subject line is really just a catalyst to get your client to actually open the email. If they understand that by opening it they will gain something (maybe new knowledge with the “updated” information), then your open rates will be much higher.
Another great place to add urgency is around your cancellation or rescheduling times. If you allow a client to cancel up to 3 hours before the appointment start time, then you can easily add in a section in the body of your email that says something like:
“Need to cancel or reschedule the appointment? Better hurry! Your window closes soon.
Any changes to the appointment must be made at least 3 hours prior to the appointment start time. Here’s a link to cancel or reschedule the appointment: (insert link)”
The words “Better hurry” are deceptively powerful. They will draw the client's attention to your policies and provide more of a reason to take action if they need to cancel or reschedule.
Ingredient #2: 2 tablespoons of Potential Loss
Why do some clients just not show up for appointments? Most likely because they don’t associate losing very much with missing their scheduled booking.
If you want to increase the likelihood that people show up for the appointments they’ve scheduled, you better make sure there’s a good reason for them to do so.
In brief, you can’t let the only reason that you want clients to show up for an appointment be that you don’t want to get frustrated by a “No Show Client”. Because, and I really hate to be the one that breaks this to you, but…
Your clients really don’t care if you’re frustrated by them not showing up.
So ask yourself this question: “What will my clients lose if they don’t show up for this appointment?”
This is going to be something different for different businesses. For me, if our users don’t show up for an appointment they’ve scheduled with me, then they’re going to miss out on getting our web scheduler to its very best to fit their specific clients. If the user cares about making it easy for clients to make appointments with them, then this will be a pretty big loss.
Another thing you can do if you don’t charge for appointments is issue a small word of warning that if they don’t make this appointment, they can’t reschedule for some time period that you specify.
The cool thing here is you don’t even have to enforce this for this perceived loss to work. You can type it in the email and already the client will feel at risk of losing something they feel like they already have: the ability to make an appointment with you.
Brainstorm what the loss could be for clients in your business. Take those losses and work them into your appointment reminder email template so that they take you more seriously and won’t stand you up for the appointment.
Ingredient #3: 1 cup of Action
Your clients are (most likely) all human so there’s bound to be times where they’ve goofed and made an appointment for a time that they ultimately can’t make. You, being the kind and empathetic service provider that you are, understand this and it’s fine if a client does cancel, you just want them to do it within the time period that you allow and not last minute.
So in your appointment reminder note, make sure that you include the action that they’ll need to take to actually cancel or reschedule the appointment. You’ll want to emphasize this so that it stands out in the email.
A good way to emphasize it is to use text formatting to draw your clients eye to that part of the email. Try out different wording to see what resonates most to get your clients to take action if necessary.
For instance, in the default email templates for TimeTap we say simply “If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment, you can do so at this link” and then provide a link for them to cancel that specific appointment. This may not be enough emphasis for your business or the right wording. It may sound better if you say, “No longer able to make this appointment? Click this link to cancel or reschedule”.
Whatever words you use, I recommend spreading this cup of Action throughout the appointment email. Instead of just mentioning it once, go ahead and spell it out at least twice. This way, the message doesn’t get overlooked or misinterpreted.
Ingredient #4: A pinch of Pain
Along with the action, make sure to associate some kind of pain if they don’t take the action. This could be the loss that’s mentioned above, or it could be the type of pain that they’re actually inflicting.
For instance, by not cancelling they are essentially blocking off your time where you could be helping another client. Non-sociopathic people don’t want to inflict pain so by explaining the consequences of not taking the action, you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll take action if necessary.
Be careful with this ingredient as it’s easy to be heavy handed. You’ll want to be gentle with how much pain you’re implying they’ll cause.
Take all these ingredients together and you’ll have one powerful appointment reminder email while maintaining your friendly tone.
I know that it can be really tedious to type these up for each of your appointments which is why online scheduling services have automated the process for you. All you need to do is customize the template that gets sent out.
Want to try it out for yourself? Sign up for a free web scheduler to day and start editing your email templates on the Beta version of TimeTap Plus:
Have you had any success with getting clients to take action on appointments with your reminder emails? If so, let us know what made your email stand out in the comments below.