There is an art to texting with clients. Health practitioners can make a multitude of simple mistakes that can seriously irritate clients, particularly prospective ones. And I can speak from personal experience. As a client, a number of health practitioners have irritated me via SMS – which almost saw me looking for someone else.
WHY ARE THEY TEXTING?
Many clients choose texting over phone or email. Why? Often it’s because it’s fast and immediate. They don’t feel like having a conversation. Emailing even takes too long. They just want to get an answer – and asap. Or maybe texting is just their comfort zone. And If it is their comfort zone, then it’s worth staying in it. At least in the beginning. If a conversation is necessary, then ask first if you can call them to talk it through.
FIRST CONTACT VIA SMS
Increasingly prospective clients are making first contact via text (SMS). You might receive something like:
“Hi. Would like to make an appoint. When r u available? Rachel”
How do you respond? Some practitioners might reply with something like:
“Hi Rachel. Next available appoint is today @ 4pm. How does that suit?”
Sounds like reasonable reply, right? Actually this reply is going to start a back and forth that can drive the prospective client nuts. This is where a longer text is necessary.
“Hi Rachel. I have available: today @ 4pm; tomorrow 15th Feb @ 11am and Saturday 17th Feb @ 2pm. If none suit then perhaps I can call you and we can fast-track a booking that works? Or you can book online if easier: www.evovlenm.com.au/bookings. Note: Sessions are 50mins @ $95 – health rebates may apply.”
This is the kind of text you can copy, paste and tweak from new client to new client. The content covers these key points:
- A small selection of choices across a week at different days/times (if possible)
- Option to have a phone conversation (or book online option if you have one)
- How long sessions are so they can factor the booking into the rest of their day
- The fee so there are no surprises
- If health rebates may apply (makes the fee less in real terms)
If the client picks one of your proposed booking date/time choices then another text would be helpful.
“Great Rachel. you are booked for Sat 27.8.16 @ 2pm. As this would be a 1st appoint, please come 5min early to fill out an intake form. We take card & cash. EFTPOS + HICAPS available. Address: 70 Elizabeth St, Tighes Hill (corner of William St), easy parking on William St. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.”
Again, this is the kind of text you can copy, paste and tweak from new client to new client. Why is this so important? Because this stops more texting back and forth. Everyone’s busy. They just need the information they need so all key bases are covered – including:
- Confirmation of booking date and time
- Coming in 5 mins early for initial sessions only
- Payment options
- HICAPS (automatic health rebate) option
- Address (+ an easy landmark)
- Where to park
- Open to any questions
It’s worth asking on your intake form how the client would like to be contacted by you. The two main areas are:
- Automated session reminders
- This depends on what system you have. Some systems are just SMS, some are just email, some allows for the option of SMS or email or both. If your system allows for an option, use the intake form to find out what suits your client best.
- Personal contact to discuss their health/situation
- Your client may prefer phone calls or emails over SMS when it comes to direct personal communication about specific matters pertaining to the client.
It’s also important to be clear on what phone number is best for what communication. More urgent communication might require using a work mobile number over a private one. SMS reminders might be handy for both work and personal mobile numbers. It’s important to have this clear and agreed to for the sake of a harmonious relationship – and to be in sync with privacy laws.
Recently a practitioner asked me if it was okay to send a general text to all clients letting them know he’s going on leave, so the clinic would be closed. I recommended NOT to do this. Why? Because people are busy and texts are still considered a personal domain. Not one for general news. He would have told his regular clients at their last appointment about the temporary closure. His website and voicemail message would also have that information. That’s enough.
So make sure your texts are friendly, professional – succinct but also informative. It’s a balancing act, but worth getting right from the very beginning.