For years, providing patients with appointment cards was the standard method used to remind them of their future appointments; however, according to a recent study, modern technology is making the appointment cards an impractical reminder method for dentists, veterinarians, and really just about anyone else still using appointment cards.
Other Methods Used to Remind Patients About Upcoming Appointments
Staff Members Making Appointment Reminder Calls Can Be Costly
A single reminder call takes approximately 3 minutes. This time includes picking up the phone and dialing the number. Taking this into consideration, a staff member can make 20 calls an hour. If you divide your employee’s hourly rate by the number of calls made in per hour (20), you get an accurate cost of each reminder call. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average hourly wage for a veterinary receptionist is approximately $13/hour; hence, each call costs you $0.65.
Text Message Reminders Are Cost-Effective
Automated recall is a very effective and inexpensive tool for reminding patients about their appointments. Be sure to ask your patients if they would like to receive text reminders, and verify the number they would like the messages delivered to; otherwise, you may be sending a text to an outdated or incorrect number.
Notification Mailers and Printed Postcards Are Expensive
Take into consideration the cost of postage, printing and the labor it takes to fill out these reminders; in addition, you send these reminders via the United States Postal Service (USPS) and there is no way to ensure your patients actually receive the reminder (unless you pay even more money to send them using the USPS Signature Confirmation ™ service). By using automated services, patients can quickly and easily confirm or cancel their appointment. Furthermore, by the time your office receives a notification from the USPS that an address is undeliverable, the appointment time will have most likely passed. If the patient was a no-show, your office has lost quite a bit of revenue when you consider the cost of the postage, printing, labor and the fact that you were unable to fill the open appointment time because you thought it was already filled.
Cell Phone, Home Phone and Text Messages
According to the study, Appointment Reminder Systems and Patient Preferences: Patient Technology Usage and Familiarity with Other Service Providers as Predictive Variables, the majority of patients prefer to be reminded of their appointments via their cell phones.
In the end, the reminder method you use proves the most invaluable if the patient confirms or cancels the appointment, which is why choosing the least expensive and most effective method is essential.
Your 3 Step Guide to Accepting Payments in the Social Distancing Age
The age of social distancing, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, has incentivized businesses to discover new ways to minimize the amount of human contact that goes on in their offices. These ways include having employees work from home, reducing the number of clients on site at a given time, and implementing curbside waiting rooms and wellness forms.
As businesses have attempted to set up proper social distancing, they’ve also had to maintain effective communication with customers. Consolidated lines of communication make it easier to call, text, and email clients in spite of social distancing protocol. It’s also important that businesses keep a personal touch in their communication by utilizing customer insights and scheduling software.
Social distancing after appointments is just as crucial as before and during client visits to your office. Much of the post-appointment conversation between administrative staff and customers involves handling payments. Depending on how your office deals with payments, you can simultaneously protect customers and staff from COVID-19 threats and optimize your existing payment platform.
In fact, optimizing your payments in the age of social distancing is synonymous with protecting people with contactless payment options. This blog post discusses how adding contactless payments, prioritizing them over credit cards, and using analytics are some of the best ways to improve your office’s payment processing in the new normal.
The statistics included in this article come from an independent survey commissioned by Weave this year to understand the payment preferences of 750 different healthcare providers and patients.
1.Adding Contactless Payments
The first step for accepting payments in the age of social distancing is adding a contactless payment. What is a contactless payment? A contactless payment is a payment method that doesn’t involve a physical exchange, such as traditional methods like cash, checks, and the swiping of credit cards.
Contactless payments can involve mobile wallets, which are offered through companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung. They can also take place with a simple text message. At Weave, we refer to our text payment feature as Text to Pay.
The respondents in the survey recently commissioned by Weave had a lot to say about contactless payments. Let’s take a look at why both providers and patients want to use contactless payments.
Employees and Contactless Payments
Healthcare practices are finding that contactless payments are necessary if they want to set themselves apart on the market. 70% of the healthcare employees interviewed said contactless payments are now a competitive advantage. Those practices hoping to remain viable in the present and thrive in the future need Text to Pay.
High-growth practices are significantly more interested in contactless payments than low-growth practices. In the survey commissioned by Weave, high-growth practices were 40% more likely to say Text to Pay improves the patient experience. High-growth practices understand that contactless payments protect their customers and make their service more satisfactory.
The overwhelming majority of practices recognize how contactless payments are uniquely capable of promoting good social distancing. 73% of the healthcare providers in the survey said contactless payments support social distancing. Because social distancing has become standard practice in the healthcare industry almost overnight, it’s crucial that offices build social distancing into their payment processing.
The demand for contactless payments stems directly from the COVID-19 crisis. According to 71% of the healthcare employees in the study, coronavirus has increased patient interest in contactless payment options. Taking action by offering Text to Pay is a great way to meet this increased demand.
Right now, only 19% of practices feel like they’re using texting to its fullest potential. The younger generation of clients prefers text options in their communication with healthcare providers, and this communication shouldn’t be limited to scheduling appointments and answering patient questions. Text payments increase employee productivity and protect everyone in your office through social distancing.
Patients and Contactless Payments
Employees aren’t the only ones who recognize the value of contactless payments. Of the healthcare patients interviewed in the study, 64% of them said they feel safer using contactless payments compared to traditional payment methods. This response makes sense; cash, checks, and cards inherently risk the transfer of germs and viruses.
Just the idea of touching a payment portal, whether it’s swiping, tapping, or scanning, is problematic for many patients. 43% of the patients surveyed said touching a payment portal is risky business. Practices that allow their customers to forego this risk increase the likelihood of a pleasant customer experience.
Contactless payments are no longer a thing of the future. 68% of healthcare patients prefer contactless payments according to the study commissioned by Weave. If healthcare providers aim to attract more customers and keep their current clientele happy, they should strongly consider adding Text to Pay.
Weave’s Text to Pay
Weave created its Text to Pay feature to integrate contactless payments into the other communication tools it already offers businesses. The age of social distancing has revealed to us how using a text payment option allows businesses to keep their waiting room clear of improper social distancing while increasing the rate of collections.
Once your practice has patient credit card information on record, your administrative team can simply send a payment request to customers by text following appointments. These text requests are able to be customized and include a link to a site for submitting payments. Patients can make payments from the parking lot or from home without sacrificing social distancing measures.
2.Prioritizing Contactless Payments over Cards
Healthcare practices aren’t going to switch to exclusively contactless payments yet. Payment methods like Text to Pay are one option among many. However, pushing for patients to use contactless payments optimizes their experience by protecting them from the threat of COVID-19 with good social distancing.
When asked about their preference between contactless payments and credit cards, the majority of healthcare providers stated they prefer contactless payments. 67% of them said they want to see more payments transition from credit cards to Text to Pay. Clearly, the age of social distancing has demonstrated the value of contactless payments.
Patients manifested a similar preference for contactless payments over credit cards. 68% of the healthcare clients interviewed said they think Text to Pay is more hygienic than credit cards. Practices should not only be offering contactless payments to their customers; they should be actively letting their clients know about the need to transition to text payment options.
The complete payment platform offered by Weave gives healthcare providers the flexibility to continue to collect traditional payments while prioritizing contactless payments. You know about Text to Pay from the previous section, but we didn’t discuss the other features of the Payments tool. This tool includes secure payment processing and a terminal for point-of-sale transactions.
Payment processing can be a complicated affair when accepting various payment methods. With Weave Payments, you don’t have to deal with upfront or monthly fees. There’s one flat rate for each payment that’s processed. Along with Text to Pay, Weave Payments accepts major credit cards (Visa, AmericanExpress, Discover, and MasterCard), as well as HSA/FSA cards, prepaid cards, and mobile wallets.
3.Analyzing Your Payments and Communication
The business world has put a premium on collecting and analyzing data in recent decades. Gathering statistics on how your practice is functioning provides you with the opportunity to systematically approach the process of moving toward greater efficiency. Getting analytics on payments is as important as studying any other component of your business strategy.
Analytics are available through software that’s connected with your office communication and payments. Communication analytics look at phone calls and identify the times your office is busiest to help you get staffing optimized. Payment analytics show how customers are paying and when, letting you find better ways to collect payments and make your practice profitable.
The Analytics tool in Weave’s suite allows businesses to gather the data necessary to make better business decisions. It shows you to study call times and traffic. For dental practices, Practice Analytics identifies unscheduled patients and unscheduled treatments, letting you take immediate action by calling or texting. Recall Analytics helps you recapture customers you haven’t seen in a while by identifying those customers and easily messaging them.
Payments Analytics gives you the ability to understand how customers in your specific organization want to pay for services. While the general market trend is toward contactless payments over credit cards, you need to have the tools to make sure this is the right move for your patients.
Weave Payments in the Age of Social Distancing
There are three steps for businesses and healthcare practices hoping to optimize their payment processing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, add a contactless payment method like Text to Pay in order to protect employees and customers from community spread. Second, prioritize contactless payments over traditional payments like credit cards. And third, use Analytics to understand the best payment methods for your specific practice.
If you’d like to get a better idea of how Weave Payments works in the age of social distancing, contact our team today for a free demo.
Historically, veterinary offices have relied on their reputation in the community and some conventional advertising to discover new clients. Times have changed. Although word-of-mouth marketing, promotions on local media and billboards, and print ads still have their place, veterinary clinics should increasingly be focusing on their online presence to find customers.
95% of consumers now read online reviews¹ before making a purchase. This statistic means the vast majority of your prospective clients are googling veterinary offices in your area in order to make a decision about whom to trust with their pets’ health. A modern marketing strategy has to involve a push for a high number of positive reviews on sites like Google and Facebook.
Some small veterinary practices may believe they can continue to stick to their old strategies for adding customers, like personal recommendations. However, 84% of customers now trust online reviews as much as recommendations from their peers.² It’s become easier for pet owners to simply search for vets online than for them to ask friends about their favorite clinic.
Collecting online reviews for your veterinary office requires strategy. The goal of this blog post is to give you some ideas for building your practice’s online reputation with reviews. Below are thirteen ways to boost your clinic’s online review status.
1.Make a profile on Google My Business
The first step for ensuring that your office gets online reviews is registering on key sites. Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, so setting up a profile with them is a great place to start. Registering with Google builds your online credibility and makes it easier for potential customers to see your business in Search and on Maps.
Once Google has your physical address, website, and other significant information about your veterinary practice, its search algorithm is more likely to make your business visible to the public. From here, you want to increase the amount of positive reviews you have on Google Reviews. Real customer reviews further authenticate your business and boost its visibility in search results.
2.Strengthen your communication system
As you go about collecting reviews, using communication technology will greatly improve your efficiency. Formerly, vet clinics and other businesses gathered reviews and testimonials by recording tapes or videos and having customers write down their thoughts on paper. Digital tools now make it possible to collect reviews with much less effort. A VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone system is foundational for offices hoping to upgrade their communication. VoIP phones allow your practice to utilize the internet instead of landlines, thus increasing the speed and flexibility of your network. It also lets your office gather online reviews with modern approaches like text requests.
3.Ask for online reviews
An obvious holdup for veterinary offices looking to collect online reviews is simply not asking. When you forget to ask customers for reviews or avoid the conversation, you cost your business the opportunity to build its online presence. Be sure to emphasize the importance of online reviews to other practitioners, administrators, and receptionists.
Asking for online reviews doesn’t require you to antagonize or annoy customers. People are happy to share their opinions, and many consumers choose to post reviews without any prompting from businesses. Politely request reviews after successful appointments. Studies show that the best time to ask for reviews is directly following a satisfactory visit.
4.Request reviews by text
Text messaging is becoming a favorite form of communication with businesses, especially among the younger generation of customers. If your office is set up with VoIP phones, it can use these phones and associated software to text review requests to customers. Texted review requests contain a short message and a link to a popular review site.
Review requests sent by text allow your customers to post their reviews at their own convenience. They also save your front office team significant amounts of time to focus on more pressing tasks. Texted review requests open up the opportunity to have a two-way conversation with customers and discover their thoughts on your practice.
5.Automate your review requests
With the right software, your staff won’t have to worry about asking each pet owner to share an online review. They can set up review requests to go out to customers in advance, protecting them from forgetting about requests after appointments. Automation is a powerful tool when it’s employed properly, and using it in your text outreach is a great place to start.
6. Reduce front desk visits
During the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinary offices have attempted to cut down on the number of people in their waiting rooms by implementing curbside waiting rooms. A curbside waiting room keeps pet owners out of your office unless their animals are being seen by your staff. Offices ask customers to check their pets in from their car, then bring them back with a text once the practice is ready to receive them.
Texting review requests allows your clinic to mirror the curbside waiting room protocol. Instead of having clients stop by the front desk after appointments, your team sends them a simple text message. Contactless payments are an additional tool for those practices hoping to eliminate unnecessary traffic in their waiting room.
7.Personalize your review requests
Personalized messaging performs better than generic communication. As your office sends out review requests by text, try to include references to your veterinary practice. Match the tone of your other communication, and, if you have time, bring up the pet owner’s recent visit to your office.
Text messages can be customized using templates in communication software. These templates let your team compose personalized messages in a short period of time. Thanks to automation, personalized review requests are able to be saved and scheduled to go out to customers at specific times on specific days.
8.Get notifications about online reviews
As your veterinary practice garners more and more reviews, you’ll want to keep tabs on your rating across various review sites. Asking administrators to regularly bounce between your profiles on review sites is a bit time consuming. The job of checking your review status is simplified by notifications.
Your office should set a weekly or monthly goal for reviews. Using review monitoring software to get notifications on newly posted reviews will make sure you have an accurate idea of how your business is faring. Review notifications will also help your clinic keep an eye on extremely positive or negative reviews.
9.Share positive reviews on social media
In the process of monitoring reviews, you will come across some remarkably strong reviews that capture exactly what your veterinary practice does for its clients. These sorts of testimonials are great fodder for social media posts and website quotations. This is the point where online reviews begin to inform and shape your other marketing efforts.
Before you share a customer’s review on social media, please be certain that you have their permission to publish it. Don’t offer benefits or prizes for positive reviews, either. Giving clients discounts or free services for their opinion is seen as a violation of protocol on most ethical review sites.
10.Respond to negative reviews
Negative reviews also require your practice to take action. Negative reviews are a necessary part of the online review game, and you shouldn’t be discouraged by a few bad opinions. In fact, consumers are more wary of businesses with perfect star ratings online than those that score closer to four stars on average.
A trusted member of your team can reach out to negative reviewers to ask how to improve your customer service. This practice can yield new insights and possibly inspire the unsatisfied client to remove the negative post. If you encounter false or libelous reviews of your veterinary clinic, the best course of action is to report those reviews to Google or the administrator of the review site you’re using.
11.Find a user-friendly interface
All this monitoring of online reviews necessitates an interface for ease of use. Just as notifications help your office keep on top of its review progress, the right interface can save team members from having to bounce between review sites. This interface should give you concrete statistics and analytics for understanding trends across sites like Google and Facebook.
13.Use CTA buttons
CTA (Call to Action) buttons are fancy links that catch the attention of email readers. Emailing is a supplemental option for veterinary practices trying to gather online reviews. Your email marketing campaigns can be enhanced by providing customers with professional-looking emails that ask them to share their reviews online.
Everyone is busy, and convincing your patients to keep appointments, especially for routine and non-urgent office visits can be a challenge. Looming work deadlines, family obligations, and social commitments can all seem more important in your patients’ minds than a routine oral hygiene appointment or an eye exam.
However, missed appointments can be detrimental to your practice, and your clients also suffer by not getting the care they need. If you’re dealing with cancellations because your patients are busy and strapped for time, we’ve got 10 tips that can help you increase your show-up rates while also strengthening the relationship you have with your patients.
1.Remind Your Customers About Their Appointments
Arguably, the most effective strategy is to simply remind your customers that they have an upcoming appointment. Relying on your busiest customers to automatically remember their appointments is going to result in a lot of missed and forgotten office visits.
Even your most organized customers will probably appreciate a quick call or text reminding them a day or two in advance. But before you start bombarding your patients with appointment reminders, there are some best practices to keep in mind. For most scenarios, there’s an ideal window of time to reach out to the customer. That timeframe is typically 24 to 72 hours before the appointment. It’s close enough to the appointment time to serve as a reminder, but far enough away for them to make rescheduling arrangements with your office if that is necessary.
With today’s systems and technologies, you also have several options to deliver your appointment reminders, such as:
Texting is a convenient method that’s easy to set up, and with Weave’s smart appointment confirmation options, it can be configured to work with almost any customer base. If you’re not sure what your customers prefer, ask them. For more tips on best practices for using your appointment reminder software, check out this article called Three Reasons Your Practice Should be Using Automated Reminders.
2.Make it Inconvenient for Customers to Cancel
As much as we dislike it when customers cancel, we often make it very convenient for them. A cancellation call often goes something like this, “hi Jenny, this is Jared. I have an appointment scheduled today, but I am not going to be able to make it.” To which Jenny would respond something like this. “No problem Jared, let’s go ahead and find a time that will work for you.” At first glance, this seems like a great way to handle a cancellation call. But, if you look a little bit closer, you have made it very convenient for your customer to reschedule which will likely lead to more reschedules and cancellations in the future.
Instead of letting customers do something very inconvenient for your office while finding another time that “works for them”, set some rules about how your staff is able to reschedule customers. Those rules could look like this:
If a customer cancels their appointment, they are not allowed to get back on the schedule for at least three weeks. This communicates that your time is scarce and in high demand. Your front office could say, “is there anything we can do to help you make it to your appointment because we wouldn’t be able to get you in again for at least three weeks”. The customer might still cancel their appointment, but they will be less likely to cancel again next time.
If a customer cancels their appointment, they are not allowed to take a prime-time appointment spot when they reschedule. Again, you are communicating scarcity and making it inconvenient for them to reschedule. If they ask for a convenient time slot, your front office can say something like, “that time is very popular and is typically booked months in advance”. Then they could give them some options for other times that are available.
Many offices are hesitant to implement a policy like this because they are worried about offending customers. This is a legitimate concern, which is why having a policy that is adhered to with every patient is so important. If you have the policy set in stone, you can train your customers to understand that your time is valuable. If you adhere to this policy with every customer, you may lose a few customers over it, but your schedule will be significantly more productive because of the time that you won’t lose to broken appointments.
3.Ensure Your Information is Up to Date
If you’re sending appointment reminders, it’s important to remember that this system is only as good as the accuracy of your contact information. If your customers’ phone numbers and email addresses are outdated, then they’re not going to get your messages.
We recommend checking in with customers every 6 months to 1 year and asking them to confirm that their contact details are current and accurate.
4.Manage Your Schedule
No one likes to be kept waiting, and while some wait time is inevitable, take a look at your office flow to make sure your customers aren’t waiting longer than they should. If your customers are waiting for several minutes, then they might feel like their time isn’t’ being valued. They’re busy, remember?
And, if they don’t get the sense that you value their time, it’s going to be harder for you to convince them to value yours. By having your office staff greet them promptly and then allowing them to be seen with a minimal wait time, they’ll be more willing to sacrifice time out of their busy schedule to keep their appointments.
Make sure you let them know that you appreciate their promptness and attention to their health. Again, when they know that you respect their time, they’ll be more likely to respect yours in return.
5.Implement a Cancellation or No-Show Policy
If missed and canceled appointments have gotten out of hand, you may need to implement a cancellation or no-show policy to deal with these extreme cases. Some offices institute a nominal fee ranging from $5 to $20 to enforce their policy.
Other offices, understandably, elect not to fine their customers. Instead, they find that just publishing their policy and displaying it prominently in the office and all written customer communications is equally effective without seeming heavy-handed.
Most people are happy to comply with a request if you simply ask. So, why not ask your customers to notify you at least 24 hours in advance if they won’t be able to make their appointment? You can explain that it opens up space for other customers to be seen. When they understand that it’s polite and the right thing to do, they’re more likely to comply.
6.Offer Fun Rewards for Showing up on Time
Many offices have seen excellent results in show-up rates by doing raffle drawings that incentivize customers to show up on time for their appointments. An example of this in action would be to give a raffle ticket to a customer for showing up on time for their appointment. Each month, one or more tickets could be drawn, and the winner gets a prize, like an iPad, a gift certificate to a local restaurant, or some other desirable prize.
7.Fire Customers Who Repeatedly Miss
It can be tough to “fire” a customer, but if one of your business has clients who are constantly missing appointments and not showing any improvement in behavior and attitude, it might be time to let them go.
Consider the effect they have on other customers who aren’t able to get in to see you because this person has taken up an appointment slot. Consider the negative effect it has on your staff’s morale when they have to monitor this customer and handle no-show appointments and rescheduling challenges. Consider the example it sets for other customers who might observe this patient breezing into the office 20 minutes late or hearing your staff on the phone rescheduling yet another missed appointment.
If this person is harming your office or having an effect on the care your clients receive, then it could be time to refer them out.
8.Nurture Customer Relationships
Work on having a positive rapport with your customers. Make them feel like welcome friends in your office. By showing that you value the relationship you have, they’ll, in turn, enjoy coming to your office. It’s easy to cancel an appointment that you don’t look forward to, especially if you don’t like going to the office. However, if your customers genuinely enjoy seeing your staff and chatting with you about tennis (for example), then they’ll be less likely to dismiss their appointments.
9.Schedule Appointments When They’re Still in the Office
Before your customer walks out the door, make sure your staff schedules their next appointment. It can be helpful to discuss the calendar in person and having a conversation with someone face to face can be more compelling and memorable than a phone call, email or text. This also helps the patient experience momentum and the positive reinforcement that comes with taking care of their health.
For example, if your patient has just had their teeth cleaned, your staff should schedule their next cleaning on the spot. The patient is already feeling great about the steps they’ve taken to maintain their oral care, and they’ll be more likely to take the commitment of their next appointment seriously when they make it in your office rather than waiting three months later when they schedule a cleaning just because they know they’re supposed to. This also gives you and your office staff a chance to explain the importance of the appointment, so it’s etched in their mind. This applies to any service that your business has provided.
10.Identify and Track Cancellation Reasons
Using a system like Weave, you can easily document and track cancellation reasons. Taking a data-driven approach allows you to identify patterns and then proactively adjust your procedures to increase show-up rates.
For example, let’s say your office staff notices an increase in cancellations between 5 pm and 6 pm. Maybe your clients are having a hard time getting out of work or they’re stuck in traffic. You could consider moving these customers’ appointments or building in a time cushion and explaining to your customers that you know traffic can be hectic and that you’re okay with them being a little bit late in these instances.
Whether you choose a low-tech or high-tech system to manage your appointments, the key is to pick a method and stay consistent.
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