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Reduce appointment ‘no-shows’ using SMS appointment reminders

SMS Appointment reminders are one of the most common uses of an SMS API

With an open rate of over 90%, nearly all messages are read within the first 5 minutes. (source Mobilesquared).

When an important appointment reminder needs to be sent, it’s no wonder that SMS is often the communication method of choice.

Despite being over 25 years old, SMS is still the only messaging channel that every phone ever made can use without having to download an app.

Benefits of using SMS for appointment reminders

SMS is universal – every phone can send and receive SMS appointment reminders
Open rates of over 98% ensure that your text reminder will be read
Low cost – SMS client reminders cost around 3 pence and save thousands in missed appointments
Low spam rate – SMS doesn’t suffer from large amounts of spam, unlike email
Easy and simple integration into many CRM and software packages
Trackable – All SMS appointment reminders generate a delivery report, allowing you to identify any non-delivered reminders

Success stories for SMS client reminders

Missed doctors’ appointments in the UK cost the taxpayer £162 million every year. 

NHS logo

Missed hospital appointments cost the National Health Service an additional £750 million.
Reducing the DNA rate (did not attend) could save the British taxpayer almost £1 billion.

One NHS clinic reduced the number of missed appointments by 35% by introducing a simple text reminder, sent 2 days before the appointment.

NHS Clinic Text

Furthermore, the content of the message itself can impact the response rate. One NHS service further reduced no-shows by 23% by including information about the cost to the NHS of missed appointments.

NHS missed appointment chart

KwikFit, a UK automotive garage, sent a perfect SMS appointment reminder, using their workshop management software that’s almost impossible to ignore.

They managed to merge 6 pieces of personal data as well as including a friendly sign off and the all important opt out.

The infographic below provides a detailed study of what makes this appointment reminder so good.

Examples SMS appointment reminders

Vet SMS appointment reminder

Cody, just a reminder that your appointment is on the 29-Dec-20 3:00 PM. Should you need to cancel please call 01324 56789

SMS Client Reminder

MOT SMS reminder

Hi BETHAN, a confirmation that your RENAULT SBXXXXX is booked in for a MOT 07/12/2020 09:00. Mersey Garages 0151 2363758

MOT SMS Reminders

Garage reminder text

Thank you for choosing AZ Autos. Your Kia Sportage registration LVXXXXX is booked in with us on the 25/01/2021. We look forward to seeing you. Please click on this link to find us on google maps and don’t forget to ask about our free loan cars:

MOT SMS Reminders

Restaurant table booking reminder

Embers look forward to seeing you on Friday, 15 January, 2021 at 5:15 pm for 5 guests. Your table is all yours for 90 minutes. Please call if you feel you may need more time to enjoy your meal. 01234 567890

Table booking SMS reminder

How much does it cost to use an SMS appointment reminder service?

There are dozens of SMS appointment providers. Most offer a reliable service at a sensible cost.

There is typically no cost for integrating SMS into a CRM system, you simply pay for the SMS credits that you use to send the texts.

The typical appointment reminder service cost is between about 3 pence and 6 pence + VAT per text.

Here at The SMS Works we charge 2.99 pence per SMS appointment reminders sent.

The table below shows the cost of some of the most popular SMS reminder providers.

SMS Reminder Provider Cost per reminder text  Refund failed texts Based in the UK
The SMS Works 2.99 pence Yes Yes
Text Local 4.9 pence No Yes
Twilio 3.2 pence No No
Clockwork 4.0 pence No Yes
MessageBird 7.1 pence No No
Firetext 4.0 pence No No
Text Marketer 3.6 pence No Yes
SendMode 3.4 pence No No
Text Magic 4.0 pence No No
Fast SMS 4.0 pence No Yes
Clickatell 4.4 pence No No
Bulk SMS 5.4 pence No No


6 Tips for getting the best response from an sms appointment confirmation service

1 Personalise your SMS reminder
The more relevant information you can include in your text reminder the better. As well as the obvious date, time and location information, remind customers of any documentation that they need to bring.

2 Make use of capitals
Draw attention to important details with capitals. In the inforgraphic example above, all the crucial customer data is easy to spot.

3 Avoid giving a text reply option to rearrange an appointment
If you give people an easy reply option, some will take you up on it simply because they’d rather delay their appointment. This can create more work and suck admin time, rebooking appointments. Don’t make it too easy for customer to rebook.

4 Send the text 2 days before the appointment is due
If you send the SMS reminder too early, then there’s a danger the customer will forget. Send it too late and the customers may not have enough time to rearrange their diary.

5 Provide contact details
Ideally all your customers will attend their appointments but some are inevitably going to need to rebook. Provide a contact number so people can call if they need to. (As above, avoid a text reply option for rebooking, it makes it too easy for people to cancel.)

6 Don’t cram in too much to one text
A standard SMS has just 160 characters.

It’s often difficult to get all the points across in such a small character allowance. In order to stick within this tiny limit, it’s tempting to try and abbreviate or cut the text reminder short.

It’s much more effective to allow the message to run over 2 text credits so that your message remains unambiguous and you can get over all the important appointment details.

It might cost you more than 1 text credits but you’ll avoid any potential confusion.

3 Alternatives to an SMS appointment reminder service

1 Sending reminders by email seems the obvious alternative to SMS reminders. Email has the advantage of being free to send but open rates are around 20% compared to SMS at over 90%

2 WhatsApp, RCS messaging and Apple Business Chat and other messaging apps might be viable alternatives to SMS reminders in the future but at the moment they are all just too fragmented and expensive to replace SMS reminders as a viable alternative.

3 An expensive alternative to SMS would be to contact customers by phone using an online business phone system . While the appointment dropout rate using this method would be impressively low, the cost for most would be prohibitive.

Related articles

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A guide to using short links in SMS Can you use shortened links in SMS messages and it is it a good idea? Are there any technical problems to watch out for? This articles give you the answers.

15 ways that you can use business SMS What else can business SMS be used for? This articles runs through some obvious and not so obvious ways that you could use SMS in your business.

author avatar
Henry Cazalet Managing Director
Co-founder and Director of The SMS Works, a low cost and powerful SMS API for developers. About Henry