Improve Patient Communication with Two-Way Texting
Texting has evolved over the last few decades from a quick way to engage with family and friends to a sophisticated business communication tool.
Two-way SMS texting is used by dental offices to:
- Increase patient communication volume.
- Improve engagement with patients.
- Enhance relationships with patients.
Two-way texting enables you to send and receive Short Message Service (SMS) communications via a dedicated number. SMS was introduced in the 1980s and, although one of the oldest texting technologies, is still the most popular.
While Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging is a one-way SMS system that precludes a meaningful, direct response from the recipient, two-way texting helps businesses schedule and automate interactive marketing strategies.
Why You Should Be Texting Your Patients
Statistics point overwhelmingly to the value of two-way texting as a method of communication that your patients will appreciate and engage with.
Alongside taking photos, texting is the most popular non-voice use of mobile phones in the U.S.A., particularly among young adults.
However, dental practice two-way SMS texting can also appeal to older patients. According to a 2016 global mobile messaging consumer report, texting was the preferred customer service choice of nearly a quarter of people aged 55-plus.
Nearly half of the world’s text volume comes from the States, and Americans text twice as much as they make calls, with more than six billion texts being sent each day.
Other research shows that:
- The average response time for a text message is just 90 seconds, compared with 90 minutes for emails.
- More than two trillion texts are sent every year.
- SMS engagement rates are up to eight times higher than with email marketing.
- 80 percent of Americans text regularly.
- Nearly all American adults text weekly.
- 75 percent of consumers are frustrated when they get a text through a system that precludes a reply.
- Nearly 70 percent of people prefer texting over emails or phone calls when it comes to scheduling appointments.
Benefits of Two-Way Texting for Dental Offices
SMS two-way texting provides a flexible, simple tool for dental offices to reach out to patients and build loyalty and goodwill.
Research indicates that texting is the preferred method of communication for many patients, and more than half of millennials are willing to share their mobile number if given an incentive.
Compared with emails, the open and response rates with two-way texts is 60 times higher, and they’re delivered immediately – perfect for time-sensitive communications such as appointment reminders.
Appointment Reminders via Two-Way Text
Many people may not prioritize dental appointments in their busy schedules, which results in no-shows – the bane of every dental office. According to Dental Economics, up to one in ten dental appointments are canceled, and just one missed appointment a day can cost $20,000 to $70,000 over a year.
Two-way SMS texting can be invaluable in reducing missed appointments by sending automated reminders to patients, which have been shown to reduce no-shows by an average of 40 percent.
Once your patients reply with a confirmation, the calendar in your practice management system can be updated automatically.
Two-way texting can be used to significantly decrease missed appointments by:
- Scheduling appointments six months in advance.
- Contacting unconfirmed patients a few days before their appointments.
- Delivering reminders the day of the appointment to confirm the patient’s availability.
Resolving Scheduling Conflicts
Another benefit of two-way texting for dental offices is resolving scheduling conflicts.
If you’re called on to deal with an emergency case, routine appointments will invariably have to run late.
Two-way SMS texting enables you to contact multiple patients simultaneously to alert them to the situation – far more efficient than calling each patient – so they don’t end up in the waiting room any longer than necessary.
Increasing Patient Reviews
Patient reviews are one of your greatest marketing tools, helping you to attract more new patients – research indicates that 80 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and almost 70 percent of consumers will post a review if asked to do so.
Two-way texting can increase online reviews of your practice by giving patients direct links to your Facebook, Google, or Yelp platforms, and encouraging them to leave feedback in the testimonials section of your own website.
Many people tend to ignore emails, turn off push notifications and discard paper forms, but they almost always read their texts, and response rates for SMS marketing are far higher than those for email.
Two-Way Texting Vs. One-Way Texting
One-way texting enables you to send messages to patients and possibly receive simple confirmation replies.
Two-way texting is much less restrictive and a far more powerful communication tool, allowing full conversations with patients.
Here’s a hypothetical example.
You send Patient X a text: “You have an appointment today at 3pm. Reply Yes or No to confirm”.
Patient X responds with: “No – but can I reschedule?”
If your dental productivity software has one-way texting, it will cancel Patient X’s appointment.
If you have two-way texting, the software will not only cancel the appointment but also open a chat session with a front-office staff member to help Patient X reschedule.
Two-Way Texting Strategies
If you get it right, two-way texting will not only improve your communication with patients but also help you consolidate the trust they have in you.
Good strategies for two-way texting include:
- Making sure the recipient has chosen to receive your messages.
- Focusing on the needs of the recipient.
- Keeping messages short and clear.
Two-Way Texting Software
The best two-way texting software includes:
- A tracking and history system so you can easily see who’s been communicating with your office.
- The capability to draft message templates that can be adapted easily.
You might also want to look for a productive software package that alongside two-way texting allows patients to make payments by text as well.