For small businesses in the service industry, your ability to book appointments and fill your schedule is one of the biggest indicators for success. But the way we see it, appointment scheduling is only half the battle.

Think about it this way: Do you make money when a customer books an appointment, or do you cash in when they actually show up? For most of our clients, you’re not actually seeing that hard-earned moolah hit your bank account until your customers leave pleased with your service. So if customers fail to show up, you fail to get paid.

No-shows suck. But if you’re not doing your part to counteract this issue, that’s on you. And it likely has a tremendous impact on your business. No-show rates vary from industry to industry, but they seem to be highest for medical and healthcare practices, as well as with fitness providers and gyms.

According to Medical Practice Insider, the most well-run practices have a daily average of 12% no-shows and last-minute cancellations. But this number can easily reach up to 50%.

How are you getting customers to show up?

Appointment Scheduling Software

Start simple. Consider investing in a scheduling software for appointments. Using cloud-based tools to book appointments makes it much easier, and less manual, to follow up and ensure these appointments stay filled. And though it’s unlikely these solutions will ever help you reach a 0% no-show rate, they help you replace unfilled appointments on the spot with new or returning customers who need more urgent scheduling options.

Businesses that use appointment scheduling software experience some serious benefits:
  • Customers are happier, because they get to schedule appointments at their leisure.
  • They have more flexibility in filling missed or unfilled same-day appointments, since this information is much more visible online for consumers.
  • Their customers are up to 5 times more likely to show up for scheduled appointments.
Some industry fave solutions:
  • Appointy – Appointy’s made an enviable amount of top 10 lists for appointment scheduling software. They serve a variety of business types. Though they offer a free version with one login, they have paid plans ranging from $19.99/month to $59.99/month.
  • Schedulicity – Used overwhelmingly by spas, salons and other beauty and lifestyle service providers, Schedulicity is one of the most popular, user-friendly appointment booking software solutions. Pricing is incredibly customizable based on the number of providers (logins) you need for your business.
  • – targets all types of service providers, including government services, entertainers and consultants. It’s popular among more niche local businesses. Similar to Appointy, they offer a free plan and have a few versions ranging up to $59.90/month.
    Once you get onboard with the appointment booking solution of your choice, ensure you’re using it to its full potential. The booking tool you choose should be able to book appointments via the web on both desktop and mobile devices. Most achieve this by driving traffic from your website, social media pages, and even advertisements.

But the work isn’t done once someone books an appointment (hence those high no-show rates we mentioned earlier). Getting in touch, and keeping in touch, is the next critical step. Be proactive, and use the 3 methods below to ensure your customers never miss an appointment again (well, most of them anyway).

1. Autoresponders

For getting in touch, set up responses that trigger automatically when someone books an appointment. Remember those appointment reminder business cards, where you had to hand-write a customer’s appointment time on the card, and they were in charge of keeping up with it to remember their appointment? Autoresponders supplement these in a big way.

Businesses most commonly set these up via text and email, but you can also consider triggering pre-recorded phone calls or making calls manually to confirm bookings. Pro Tip: Don’t text or email anyone who has not given you permission to do so. When someone books an appointment online (or via phone), let them know you’ll use their information to keep in touch prior to the scheduled appointment.

2. Opt-In and Confirmation Capability

Next, ask customers to confirm their appointments upon booking. Your text and email service providers should help you do so.

If you’re sending an autoresponder via text message, include response logic. Request that your customers respond “YES” to confirm or “NO” to cancel, for example. If you’re sending autoresponders via email, include a button that helps recipients confirm their appointment and opt in to future reminders.

3. Text and Email Reminders

Speaking of future reminders, don’t drop the ball in sending these via text and email.

They serve 2 purposes:
  1. Most obviously, they’ll remind customers of their upcoming appointments.
  2. For customers whose schedules may have changed, it’ll afford them the opportunity to cancel or reschedule, meaning you’ll reduce the number of no-shows.
Some best practices:
  • Keep the messages short and simple. Content should focus on the customer, not on your business.
  • In the message itself, include the service scheduled, the date, the time, estimated length of the appointment and your address (if applicable). Use this as an opportunity to include other necessary reminders as well, as long as you keep it brief. For example, if you’re a healthcare provider, you may want to remind customers to fast before their annual blood tests (bummer).
  • Pay attention to the frequency at which you schedule appointment reminders. Aside from the immediate autoresponder, try sending an additional reminder up to a month out or as soon as one week prior, depending on how often you see each customer. Then, send a final reminder the day prior to the appointment.

One More Thing

After reviewing the prices for the top appointment scheduling solutions above, we can’t help but mention our product, Thryv, which also includes appointment booking functionality. The best news? Our plan starts at the same price point – $59.99, but includes a whole host of additional automation tools that keep you in touch with prospects and customers.

Want to learn more about how to keep appointment slots full? Check out Thryv.

Updated 3/29/18