News & Features

Remind Me, But Don’t Stop There

Commentary: Business is Personal

Reminder postcards from your favorite business are common these days. Some of them are hand-written – after all, your receptionist isn’t exactly swamped with work since your appointment 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 leaves 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. 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 have an appointment, so they’re reminding me to call and make one.

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.

I’ve heard the typical excuse: “Nobody sets their schedule six 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?

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 e-mail, another postcard, and then start warning me that the nearest appointment is 27 days out.

I can’t think of anyone that I work with personally or professionally who does this. You’d think that they’d want to keep me in the habit of going to their business. Don’t you want people to be in the habit of doing business with you?

Ever met anyone who says they haven’t seen a dentist or doctor in years? Likely it’s because they forgot an appointment and no one ever bothered to call and 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 and the dentist’s summer place in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., isn’t getting paid off any faster.

Print a list of everyone who you haven’t seen in five years, four years, or three years. Keep going until you get down to the normal appointment interval for whatever you do. Call them and get them back in the habit.

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

Joel the coffee roaster should know how often I need a pound of Ethiopian Wonder Coffee based on how often I’ve bought in the past. 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 should motivate me to return for an oil change before I realize that it’s been 7,200 miles and five months since my last change.

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

Hard dollars. Easy fixes.

Got a business or marketing question you’d like Mark to write about or just want more info about him? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com