Today, we're talking two-way texts! As a dentist, you have a lot on your plate. Of course, you are focused on doing great dental work and helping your patients with their oral health. But you also have to act as an entrepreneur and business owner. You are responsible for managing a team full of people and constantly analyzing the finances.
You are a busy person! We get that, and we know that you’re probably not looking to add anything to the list. But here’s the thing: Your patients are busy too. And we’ve got a solution you can put into practice to keep their complicated schedules from ruining appointments.
Let’s talk about how two-way texts improve patient turnout! We are aware, though, that setting up two-way texts is probably not something you feel you have time for. So, we’re also going to give you a helpful how-to at the end.
To start though, we’re going to discuss why two-way texts are so important.
Text Messages Are More Effective Than Email
Did you know that 95% of text messages are read within 3 minutes of being sent? At least, that’s what this article from Forbes says.
While email has been the traditional way of confirming appointments, notifying patients about specials, etc., it might not be the best way. Text messaging is often the better option. It is more seamlessly integrated into our moment-to-moment lives. Instead of having to remember to open up their inbox, patients will see the text message pop up on their phone’s home screen. Considering how close many of us keep our phones, that will happen pretty instantly.
The impact of this is clear: They’ll answer immediately, because that is what people do with text messages! Just ask Text Request, who published an article on what they call “business texting” that included this tidbit. “Only 20% or so of phone calls even get answered, whereas 99% of texts are read, and have an average response time of 90 seconds.”
All of that being said, you also don’t want to overload your patients with excessive text messages. They’ll get annoyed and ask to be unsubscribed. For that reason, a balance of text messaging and emailing is a good idea.
But maybe you’re wondering, what about the phone call factor? Well ...
Text Messages Are Less “Invasive” Than Phone Calls
You might think the word invasive is a little extreme in this context, but many people feel that unexpected phone calls are just that. This is especially true for younger generations. And don’t forget, Millennials are an ever-growing patient base you want to be tapping into.
When you text a patient something like, “[Name] has an appointment with Dr. Smith tomorrow, February 15th, 2022, at 4 p.m. Please call 123-456-7890 to confirm,” you are giving them the chance to get in touch with you when it is most convenient for them. It also makes them feel less accosted than a phone call.
Think about how many calls your office team makes that go unanswered. Whereas if an automatic text prompts the patient to call, and they do, the whole interaction is seamless on the first try. Two-way texts are also saving your team time!
But of course, what we’re really talking about today is how they improve patient turnout. So, let’s summarize.
Two-way texts improve patient turnout for two main reasons:
1) They are more likely to be opened and responded to than email.
2) They are less likely to create a sense of overwhelm and/or be ignored than a phone call.
You can see how both of those factors result in more impactful reminders and easier confirmation, which will both lead to significantly improved turnout. You’ve got a winning business solution! But how do you get started?
As promised, we’ve got a how-to for you!
Find an SMS app that suits your needs. You’ll want to look for one that is designed for small businesses. Here’s why: Some SMS services are made with giant corporations in mind (think about those texts you’ve gotten about a sale at your favorite clothing brand). They function more as a marketing engine, sending thousands of messages at once but not facilitating any back-and-forth conversation. As a dentist, you want your patients to be able to respond to the messages and get through to you by doing so.
Zapier, a software automation company, published an article sharing the 5 best SMS apps for small businesses in 2021, and this was their list:
- TextMagic for getting started quickly with an SMS service
- SimpleTexting for easy-to-run SMS marketing campaigns
- Salesmsg for small, local businesses using SMS
- EZ Texting for non-technical people who want some guidance on SMS marketing
- Twilio for customizing your SMS marketing
No matter which platform you select, here’s what you’ll do next:
Start compiling/organizing contact information. Whether you want to do this or plan to assign it to someone on your team, the next step after you select and download an SMS app will be to get all of your patients’ phone numbers into the system.
Write some standard messages, or assign this task to a member of your team. As much of a game changer as each of these software options will be, they can’t write your custom copy for you. You’ll want to get this prepped and maintain templates, so that messaging is consistent from patient to patient, no matter which team member is scheduling them to send.
Create a schedule. We think it’s a good idea if you provide input on this, but the scheduling of two-way texts is probably something you’ll then pass off to an administrative team member. They will need to set those reminder messages to go out when the time comes, so you want to be sure this is a defined role of someone specific on your team.
Send a test! Just to make sure the formatting translates the way you envisioned, it’s prudent to test the process out using your own phone number or that of a team member. If you plan to work with a few different templates (appointment reminder, dental membership plan advertising, holiday messages, etc.), you might want to communicate your desire to test each message type to your team. That way, they’ll remember to test each when the time comes.
Now, you’re ready to text your patients—don’t forget the emojis! ;)
For more and more people, text messaging is the most natural and straightforward way to communicate with friends, family, and businesses alike. By making this an option for your patients, you make their lives easier, and that translates to better turnout.
After all, improving the patient experience is the name of the game (after excellent oral care, of course)!