Knowing the steps of how to properly confirm an appointment – – any kind of appointment, including a phone appointment, client meeting, lunch meeting, etc. – – is extremely valuable to any office looking to continue to operate efficiently and effectively. However, I have found that a lot of people don’t do this (or don’t do it properly) and this can result in a lot of disruption in the office.
Whether or not you are the one responsible for confirming appointments, if you know that your office could benefit from a makeover in your confirmation process (or if you simply want to make sure that your current process is in line with ours, which is proven and tested to work), then read on to find out the steps to properly confirming an appointment.
Why is an Appointment Confirmation So Important?
The process of confirming client appointments is important for several reasons. You schedule your client appointments and anticipate potential revenue that might come in from that appointment. When a client is a no-show or cancels an appointment at the last minute, it creates a gap in your schedule that might not be able to be filled with another appointment to make up that revenue. If it happens once in a month, that might not be too devastating. However, if it happened 4 or 5 times in a month, what would that look like at the end of the month in terms of your lost revenue for the month?
Another reason why it’s important to confirm appointments has to do with something that not a whole lot of professionals think about and that’s a level of efficiency. If you are booking your calendar in a way that allows you to operate efficiently and at the highest and best use of your time, then you should have a calendar template for when certain activities can take place. This includes telephone calls and client meetings, as well as your preparation time for them. For example, let’s say that you have a phone call or meeting that you have to prepare for. You block some time the day before (or maybe even right before) to properly prepare yourself for that appointment. And let’s say that the appointment was not confirmed and the other party doesn’t show up or is not available. You’ve now effectively wasted not only your time to prepare for the appointment, but now you’ve got a gap in your schedule. It’s a gap that might not be too devastating to you because you might have some things you wanted to work on, but it is still disruptive to your workflow and schedule, as well as your general thought process and stress level!
It Starts at the Beginning.
The appointment confirmation process truly starts at the beginning stages of even booking an appointment – – both with the other party, as well as within your own internal calendaring. When booking any kind of appointment, it’s always smart to follow-up in a written form of some kind (letter, postcard, e-mail, or text message) with the other party to confirm the following details:
- Day of the appointment
- Date of the appointment
- Time (including time zone, particularly if you’re working with people that might not be in your time zone)
- For in-person meetings, the address and location
- For telephone calls, the phone number and who will be initiating the call
- If appropriate, briefly (in a few words) what the phone call or meeting is about
Once these details are confirmed, then it’s important that these details be transferred properly to your internal calendaring. For example, whenever I book an appointment on Phil’s calendar, it might look something like this: JONES, ROBERT & MARY: MTG TO DISCUSS ADV LEVEL PLANNING (TORRANCE OFFICE). A phone appointment might say something like this: PC WITH ROBERT KEEBLER RE: UPCOMING TRIP TO GREEN BAY (PJK TO CALL RSK AT 920-593-1700)
Then, for added detail and assistance in the confirmation process, in the internal notes section that only I can see for this appointment, I might have additional notes (such as who is the person that booked that appointment, who is the person to contact, where to call and/or e-mail to confirm the appointment, etc.).
The more details that you can leave for yourself, the easier the next steps will be, as you will see.
A Day (or Two) Before the Appointment.
A day or two before the appointment, you should take the time to confirm the appointment by phone. We typically like to start this process two days out so that if the client has an excuse to back out of the meeting, such as they don’t have their questionnaire completed, you have leverage to convince them that there’s still time to complete the questionnaire in time for their appointment. Another reason why two days is ideal is because if there are changes and there’s now an opening, you’ve got some time to potentially fill up that meeting by bumping up another meeting or filling it up with something else.
This phone confirmation should happen with a live person from your office and the other party to confirm the day, date, time and details of the appointment. All too often, people are okay with leaving a voicemail or message to “confirm” the appointment. This should always be a last resort, after you’ve attempted to reach the client by phone at least once or twice. This is also why it’s good to start the confirmation process a couple of days before. This also gives you plenty of time to fill open calendar spots where necessary, especially for client appointments where you may have been anticipating some revenue from the business you would have received from that original appointment, which may cancel or reschedule.
If you do have to leave a voicemail or message, it’s also good to follow up your voicemail with an e-mail. Some people are not very good about checking their messages, so an e-mail is a great way to add an additional layer of appointment confirmation.
What About Just E-mailing to Confirm?
E-mail confirmations are perfectly acceptable, depending on the type of contact that you’re confirming with. For example, if it’s a business meeting and perhaps you even arranged the phone call entirely through an e-mail exchange. If that is the case, then an e-mail confirmation is completely fine. With client appointments, it is better to confirm an appointment by phone, particularly so that if they try to cancel or back out, you can speak with them about the reason why and try and reschedule them for another time.
As with phone confirmations, it’s important to remember that an appointment is not truly confirmed until you have received a verbal (or written) confirmation from the other party. If you do choose to confirm an appointment via e-mail, you might want to make sure that you send that confirmation earlier in the week (a minimum of 2 days before) and to make sure that you receive some kind of response. If you don’t receive a response from that person by the day before the meeting, take the time to call them and confirm their receipt of your e-mail and confirmation of the appointment.
This leads me to the next one…
Text Confirmations and Automated Calendaring Systems?
There are services out there that allow clients to automatically book, confirm, and reschedule their appointments. While convenient, these systems leave too much power and control of your calendar (and therefore your predictable income) up in the air. For example, many of the texting confirmation systems ask the client to respond with Y to confirm and N to cancel. Then what? Now you’ve gotta scramble to get a hold of that client and (hopefully) reschedule their appointment. One simple change would be to have them respond with Y to confirm and ask that they call your office (and provide the phone number) if they need to reschedule. This way they can’t just text back a cancellation and have to speak with someone, which is why it’s important that a live person handle that call as much as possible.
Automated calendaring systems can also be utilized, but I would recommend utilizing it in conjunction with telephone confirmations with your staff. To me, this is not only just better service, but a better way to ensure that your calendar is best managed and not empty from people who may not honor the time they’ve blocked with you.
As you can see, the “art” of confirming appointments isn’t really much of an art. It’s really just an important process that is essential to just about any kind of business which is often lost or overlooked. A lot of people don’t realize or see the impact of overlooking such a basic process or have accepted the shortcuts that so many people take because they don’t understand or see the importance of the appointment confirmation process.
Hopefully you will take a quick look at your appointment confirmation process and determine whether or not your process might need some “tweaking” so that you can maximize the level of efficiency in your office and see a reduced amount of appointment rescheduling and cancellation.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach here at The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. She is currently pursuing her MBA degree from Pepperdine University Grazadio Business School. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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