‘”The patient is king (or queen).” Every aesthetic practitioner knows that putting your patients first is essential to continued success. But putting the patient first isn’t a single task that can be checked off your to-do list. It requires ongoing attention and a willingness to constantly evolve to meet the ever-changing preferences of your patients.
A preference that seems to shift often and varies from person to person is the way patients want to receive communications. Email is a tried-and-tested method to reach audience and send mass messages. However, mobile phones are now a constant accessory in everyday life, SMS messaging is quickly becoming the preferred way to connect with your patients. You may be thinking texting a patient is too casual or perhaps even presents an unprofessional image of your business. However, when using email and SMS as complementary communication channels within your business you can create an excellent customer communication experience to deliver the right messages via the right channels.
In this blog we’ll look into the different points of communication you have with patients and whether you should be sending Email or SMS (Text Messages) for each purpose.
Keeping in touch with patients before and after their appointment is crucial for your aesthetics business but when should you use email and when should you use SMS?
For appointment confirmations which are typically sent at the point of booking, emails are a great choice because there is usually no response required from the patient. The patient is often expecting this message so will check their email inbox for it. By sending the confirmation as an email, you can include as much information as you need:
- Details about the patient’s appointment
- How to find you
- What you should do before your appointment
- Reminder to fill in the relevant forms before they arrive.
There is no limit on the information you can include.
On the other hand, appointment reminders which are usually sent one or two days before the appointment have a higher importance because you want your patient to see this message in case they have completely forgotten about their appointment.
Did you know the average person receives over 100 emails per day? Sending appointment reminders by email can easily get overlooked between daily emails from River Island and CompareTheMarket. With 306.4 billion emails sent and received daily in 2020, your valuable appointment reminders can easily get lost or ignored.
However, when it comes to your appointments, SMS is the best option and you can avoid any issues with missed or lost messages. 76% of people within the UK are sending texts every day and this is the growing preference for patients in communications. It’s quicker and easier for your patient to respond to a text, even allowing them to reschedule themselves with a few clicks. With the response rate to a text message being 8 x higher than to an email you’re in a win-win situation to reduce your likelihood of no-show appointments. Of those people that do reply, most emails have a response time of 90 minutes compared to text messages sitting at only 90 seconds.
Here at Aesthetic Nurse Software, we recommend our practitioners combine communication methods for their appointments comms with the initial confirmation being sent to patients via email (as they are actively looking for this message), then following this with a SMS reminder a few days before the appointment. Sometimes life gets a head of us and a gentle reminder straight to our devices is what patients need to bring their appointments to order.
Do you market your business? Not on social media, we’re talking about sending regular marketing communications directly to your patients. When used correctly both text and email marketing can not only improve your bottom line but also improve your patient retention rates through increased engagement levels. Remember, with any marketing communications methods it is important that you gain permission to send the message to your patients. This consent can be obtained through a GDPR opt-in statement on a patient’s profile or through a specific consent form. You should also make your patients aware that they can opt in or out of a marketing communication at any time.
So what’s the difference between sending Emails or SMS (texts) for marketing?
SMS is a channel your business should be using, but this does not mean it’s perfect. It has both benefits and downfalls which are explored below:
Pros of SMS marketing
- High open rate: SMS has a 98% open rate. Compared to email’s 20%. When you send your patients a text message, you can almost guarantee they’ll open it.
- Timely: Within 90 seconds of receiving a message 83% of people will open the message. If you have an urgent message you want to get out, a text message is the fastest and most reliable way.
- Cost Effective: With ANS sending a text message costs 8p. This is a small price to pay knowing your patients definitely receive the message, rather than the information going to waste.
- Engaging: Patients can reply straight to your phone from the message. Your patients can follow up on a message and ask about their appointment or a specific promotion, immediately turning the conversation to a potential sales opportunity
Cons of SMS marketing
- Message length limit: Text messages are limited to 160 characters. If you want them to be longer, you’ll have to pay for the additional message. Plus, patients expect a short and sweet text, that’s the nature of this method. If the message cannot be condensed its probably better off in an email or even social media post.
- Extra Cost: Unlike email, SMS messages do come at an extra cost to your business. Deliberate if the extra cost could improve your patient engagement or even prevent a no-show appointment.
Whether you want to send a message to your patients regarding a last minute appointment that is available, launch of a new product or even requesting a review! Text messaging leads the way in engagement and response rates. With 160 characters to play around with a short snappy message can catch the eye of the right patient!
To email or not to email, that is the question. Understanding the ‘good and bad’ of email marketing can help build a successful strategy. Let’s start by weighing the pros and cons!
Pros of Email Marketing
- Cost effective: The cost of email marketing is much lower than other marketing forms, making this process ideal for businesses just starting out. All you need is your patients email address and your off! This form of marketing gives you direct access to your patient instead of competing for their attention on social media.
- Branded: Catch the eye of your patients and make them know your brand. Personalising with your logo and brand colours can increase an email open rate sometimes by up to 70%
- Personalisation and Segmentation: with email marketing you can segment your marketing list. Select patient who you have not treated in 12 months, or patients with a birthday next month. Target the patients you want to return to your business directly.
Cons of Email Marketing
- Your message can be overlooked: The number of emails you receive in a day can make finding an email harder, meaning an important message about your business could be lost or even overlooked in the inbox.
- Lower open rates: The successful open rate for an email is significantly lower than SMS with only 20% of emails being opened.
- Design issues: When designing your email template, you need to consider how this will look on a phone, tablet, and desktop. This can sometimes be difficult with functionality and how you want your email to be presented.
Whether you’re sharing a company update, a success story, or a monthly blog sending out a newsletter is a great email marketing tool to keep patient up to date with what is happening in your business. Email communications are a great way to deliver educational, informative, and engaging content pieces that patients can read and find value in.
When it comes to Email vs SMS the decision is clear: choose both!
When used in conjunction, emails can be used to deliver detailed information about your business whereas SMS is a great way to get important messages to your patients and reduce your appointment no-show levels. Consider how your patients currently contact you to book their own appointments, they want fast and easy replies, maybe it’s time for you to introduce the same communications to them.