Last-minute cancellations are a frustrating aspect of front-office management, as empty chair time can greatly impact a dental practice’s bottom line. While many practices continue to debate the best way to fill in last-minute recall cancellations, patient communication software providers, like Lighthouse 360, are attempting to make it a “no-brainer” through the power of mobile technology.
Many software providers already offer a feature that can text appointment confirmation requests and reminders to patients. However, Lighthouse 360 has taken the technology a step further. The company’s recently introduced Fill-In feature leverages automated technology to detect last-minute cancellations in the practice PMS. The software then notifies the office manager of the cancellation and offers to help find a patient to fill the spot. From there, Fill-in intelligently identifies a small, targeted group of patients who are most likely to want the opening based on a myriad of factors and past behaviors. If a contacted patient replies “yes” to the message, the staff member receives a notification and clicks to confirm the new appointment. It’s a game-changing approach to an old problem in dentistry—helping avoid costly holes in the schedule without causing a disruptive scramble at the front desk.
If automated technology and text messaging seems like a radically new approach for your practice’s recall efforts, you must consider the current state of mobile device ownership. According to the latest statistics from the Pew Research Center, the share of Americans who own smartphones is now 81%, up from just 35% in the organization’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011. Smartphones aren’t just for “kids,” with adoption at nearly 80% for Americans in the 50-to-64-year-old age group and more than half for seniors in the 65-plus age group.
As for text messaging, specifically, studies showed that Americans sent 32 texts per day in 2014, a number that has likely risen in the past 5 years, given the increasing adoption of smartphones. In 2019, 39% of businesses are using some kind of texting to communicate with clients, according to Zipwhip’s 2019 State of Texting report. Among businesses that haven’t yet adopted texting, 64% still acknowledge that they see value in the approach.
Meanwhile, more than half of consumers, 58%, said they tried to reply to a missed call via text, and 3 out of 4 said they feel frustrated when they can’t reply back to a company’s text messages. Coincidentally, the report used the example of a dental practice texting a patient, but an error prevents the patient from confirming, which results in a frustrating customer-service experience.
“Unfortunately, not all texting tools are created equal, and we do expect to continue seeing adoption of one-way, automated text messaging tools like short codes,” the report stated. “As our research shows, this strategy eliminates the best quality of texting: its conversational nature. We hope this report will shed some light on why conversational texting is key in the business-customer relationship.”
In line with the report findings, Lighthouse 360’s Fill-In feature offers a distinct advantage—it leverages automated technology to initiate contact but is more conversational in nature, as it requires the human touch to confirm new appointments. And unlike other systems whose only option is to mass text their entire patient base for every opening (which is both annoying to patients and ineffective), Fill-In targets a small, curated list of patients who are more likley to accept. In other words, Fill-In offers the best of both worlds.
Watch the video below to learn more about Fill-In and to see if this feature could be valuable to your practice.