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3 Solutions to the Problem of Missed Appointments

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y Frank Cort, Founder of Apptoto

There's a hidden problem costing the American economy at large an estimated $66 billion per year: missed appointments. If you’re a lawyer or work at a law firm, you’ve probably seen first-hand how this can damage your bottom line. So how do we solve this problem?

While there’s no foolproof solution, there are proven tactics to not only increase the likelihood your client will show up, but that they will show up on time. The key? Automate! It’s estimated consumer-oriented law firms could increase revenue and productivity by 33 percent if they were able to eliminate appointment and court date no-shows entirely. And while ending no-shows is unlikely, an effective messaging strategy can cut the rate by 50 to 75 percent. For law firms, automated SMS messages and phone calls can be a huge win.

While devising an effective appointment messaging strategy (over SMS, Phone calls, and Email), you should keep the following things in mind:

People Forget. In a recent survey, we found that the main reason why clients miss appointments and court dates is that they simply forget or are misinformed about the appointment.

You Should Double-Up. The best way to keep clients informed about appointments is to send them an automated message 1 or 2 days before the appointment or court date, asking for confirmation. Then, send another message the morning of the appointment telling them where to be and what to bring. Of course, the content of the messages can and should vary depending on the client, the type of appointment, and the location. Regardless of content, you should always include the location.  You should know that there are cloud-based services allowing you to link to an “Appointment Page” with detailed instructions, such as what to bring, where to park, and how to get to each location.

Variety is Key. To ensure deliverability, you should send more than one type of message.  I usually recommend sending via SMS and Email, or SMS and Phone calls.  SMS messages have been shown to be read in their entirely 97 percent of the time because they are short and easy to access. SMS messages are also responded to more often.  In October 2015, we sampled 178,000 random appointment reminder messages that we sent on behalf of clients and found 30% of SMS messages were replied to; whereas calls and emails were replied to 23% and 12% of the time, respectively.

People Are Busy. The abovementioned survey also revealed the second most common reason clients give for missing appointments: “something else came up.”  While you can’t control unexpected work or life emergencies, what you can do is increase the perceived importance of the appointment you have with the client. How?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Spell It Out: Explain why the appointment is important in your communication, and what would happen to the client (not you) if it is missed. Don’t assume that because it’s obvious to you that it’s clear to them.
  • Befriend: Establish a two-way communication channel. Let them know if they reply to the message, they’ll get a reply back. It’s been shown that if a client believes they have a friend at your firm, they are 80% more likely to attend, simply because they don’t want to let down a friend.
  • Personalize: Include the client’s name and what the appointment is about in the message. This is especially important for initial consultation meetings because consumers are likely shopping around. Win their business by making them feel they are heard.

While there isn’t one automation strategy that is going to work for everyone, remember the adage Garbage In, Garbage Out. Requiring staff to enter an appointment into a case management system and appointment reminder system will result in errors and inconsistencies which can do more harm than good. To minimize risk, it’s important to look for or develop a messaging service that adapts to your existing workflow and requires as few changes as possible. With strategies like these, you can chip away at this “secret” problem costing law firms billions each year.


rank Cort, founder of Apptoto, is a serial entrepreneur and software programmer most recently from Yahoo via Xobni, an email data-mining software company recently acquired by Yahoo. As an entrepreneur, Cort identifies with professionals trying to improve, manage, and grow their business.

Apptoto is a cloud-based, automated appointment messaging service that extracts contacts from your calendar and sends accurate and timely appointment reminders and confirmations to clients on your behalf, increasing the likelihood they arrive on time and prepared. Apptoto also sends follow-ups to ensure clients keep coming back.

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