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I’m not the one who needs the reminder…

Yesterday, we talked about appointment books and how they get used, misused and underutilized. I’d like to follow up on a related topic: reminders.

Reminder postcards from a business are a pretty common thing these days. Some businesses hand write them – after all, your receptionist isn’t exactly swamped with work since your book isn’t full.

In some cases, the business actually uploads a list of “people due for appointments” to a service, and that service prints and mails the cards to the customer who is due for an appointment.

While this is better than nothing, almost no one gets this right – and you’re leaving hard dollars on the table.

I get these postcards all the time from veterinarians, dentists, etc and not a single one follows up after mailing the card. NO ONE.

In many cases, they aren’t reminders of appointments, they’re reminders that it’s TIME for an appointment.

In other words, I don’t even have an appointment, so they’re reminding me to call and make one.

Question #1 – Why didn’t they make an appointment for me before I left the office the last time I was there? Some do, but not many.

Yeah, I know the typical excuse: “Nobody sets their schedule 6 months in advance.” Right, and no one asks off for a specific week of vacation a year in advance, and no one buys baseball, football, basketball or hockey season tickets. After all, isn’t a season ticket little more than a prepaid appointment to see a ballgame?

Sounds a lot different when you look at it that way, doesn’t it?

Question #2 – If for some reason, I couldn’t make an appointment the last time I was at the office, why don’t you ever call back? One postcard to remind me that “I’m due” is pretty weak. Follow up with a call, an email, another postcard, then start warning me that the nearest appointment is 27 days out.

NO ONE that I do business with, personally or professionally, does this. You’d think that they’d want to keep me in the habit of going to their business. Habits are easy to break. Don’t you want people to be in the habit of doing business with you? I sure do.

Have you ever met anyone who says they haven’t been to the dentist in 5 years? I’ll bet you have. More often than not, it’s because they forgot an appointment and no one ever bothered to call them to reschedule it. No one followed up. No one seemed to care on the one year anniversary of their last appointment. Two years go by, then three years. Meanwhile, that poor mouth is not getting any healthier.

Print a list of everyone who you haven’t seen in 5 years. Then 4 years. Then 3 years. Then 2 years. Then 1 year. Keep going until you get down to the normal appointment interval for whatever you do.

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the dentist. Most of you can use systems like these to fix the leaks in that bucket.

Joel the coffee roaster should know how often I need a pound of Ethiopian Wonder Coffee based on how often I’ve bought them in the past. I shouldn’t have to run out on the morning of that super important appointment – the morning when I really needed the jolt his special beans provide. He should have systems in place to remind me and then follow up – assuming he hasn’t already got me on the auto-shipment plan.

My oil change guy shouldn’t motivate me to return for an oil change BEFORE I realize that it’s been 7200 miles and 5 months since my last change. I shouldn’t get reminded when I lend the car to a friend who has the engine die on him in the middle of Moab, Utah.

My dry cleaner – you know, the one that collected my complete contact information the first time I went there and never used it again – shouldn’t wonder why they haven’t cleaned a suit in 2 years. I shouldn’t get reminded by pulling a suit out of the closet and remembering the last meal I had when I was wearing it – smells like the Vegas Benihana’s.

Hard dollars. Easy fixes.