senior man listening to phone message

In the age of instant information and communication via text messages, it may seem outdated to extol the virtues of the old-fashioned phone call.

But they’re still hugely important to our service, because many people all over the world rely on them to keep track of important dates and responsibilities. Certain key demographics continue to rely on voice calls as a primary mode of communication, so they remain critical to businesses in certain industries and with certain customer or client groups.

While text messages and emails are how we most often communicate, they are also ubiquitous and can be fleeting.

Other mediums serve their purpose and may be right for some cases, but that doesn’t make call reminders irrelevant.

On the contrary, our data has shown that call reminders receive nearly the same response rate as reminders sent via SMS (23 percent vs 32 percent, respectively). And our customers often find that voice reminders are actually preferred to text or email messages as a primary way to receive information.

If nothing else, it provides important, relevant information in a way that cuts through the noise of everyday life.

By the very virtue of their slowing popularity, they may be growing in importance.

Why call reminders still matter

Woman on the phone in the 1950's

Believe it or not, voice calls are still a very important system for conveying information.

They’ve largely fallen out of favor as businesses have tried to “keep up with the times” in terms of technology and communication. Troves of businesses have pushed the importance and convenience of communicating with customers via text messages and emails.

But there is one thing that remains true: Voice calls can be received by nearly 100 percent of the population. This can’t be said for other forms of communication.

While text messaging may be popular, for example, there is still nearly a full 10 percent of the population that does not own a cell phone (and therefore cannot receive text messages). And beyond that, there are populations that own cell phones but still hold out on using text messages.

This is an important consideration, but it doesn’t mask the fact that voice reminders are an imperfect system.

Part of the reason why businesses have abandoned them in such a hurry is because of the many drawbacks that have plagued automated calling systems for decades.

In order to keep voice reminders relevant, we need to start by admitting that they have problems, and then look for ways to solve those problems.

Making call reminders better

It’s no secret that voice messages — “robocalls” — are not the most popular thing in the world.

Even as phone technology has improved, many companies have failed to update their systems to deal with more complex scenarios or solve age-old problems that come with mass communication via phone line.

Common problems including messages being cut off, responses not being recorded properly, or people simply hanging up, thinking the message is from a telemarketer or other undesirable caller.

Luckily, these challenges aren’t insurmountable; they just take some time to solve.

We’ve been able to make some strides with our service by carefully analyzing each scenario and looking for solutions either through better technology or smarter planning.

  • Extensive personalization – A key reason why automated calling is often disliked is because the tone and delivery is often robotic — literally. Automated messages read by robots can be difficult to understand and feel a bit impersonal. Apptoto specifically addresses this by allowing customers to record customized, personal, and human messages with automated information being dynamically inserted. The messages feel more natural and human.
  • Human answering detection – One of the more sophisticated tools used by our system is to actually detect the presence of a live person answering the call. This system is able to differentiate between a call being picked up and one that is sent to voicemail, which means that the message can be adjusted accordingly.
  • Automated repeat – This simple solution solves the age-old problem of timing that occurs with many automated call systems, particularly when the call is sent to voicemail. Rather than leaving a message that will be cut off by the voicemail message that comes before the beep, the system simply repeats the message three times to ensure that it is recorded in its entirety at least once.
  • Introduction prompt – This message prompts the person to first press 1 in order to hear the rest of the message, allowing the system to know that the person is on the line and listening before it delivers the reminder message.

Each of these solutions is a small improvement on its own. But taken together, we think we can provide a much better system and experience for the people who still rely on phone calls as a way to receive alerts and information.

Serving the right people

Group of diverse people that could benefit from call reminders.

Ultimately, choosing the right kind of reminder message is about the people you serve and what works best and is most convenient for them.

There are two main considerations that you should take into account when deciding if voice may be a worthwhile system or if you should rely on text messages as your primary form of communication with customers.

1. Who is receiving the reminders?

The first and most important consideration is the recipient of the appointment reminder message: your customer, client, or patient.

Apptoto’s system is designed to accommodate individual preferences and deliver messages in the way that is best and most convenient for each individual. However, depending on the dynamics of the business or practice, this may not be easy to implement.

If setting individual preferences is not an option, then you should consider the majority of your clients and how they prefer to receive these kinds of communications. While millennials prefer texting to calling at a rate of about three to one, that same trend doesn’t hold true for all generations. As one might expect, older generations in particular use text messaging much less frequently than younger ones and also prefer to be contacted by phone rather than SMS.

Depending on the demographics of your clientele, you may not be able to please everyone. But you can at least provide reminders through the method that meets the needs of most of the people (the highest number) that  you’re trying to reach.

2. What information is being shared?

Secondly, you should consider the nature of the information that’s being shared and how that information should be delivered.

While SMS is a great resource and incredibly convenient, it is relatively less secure or private than a voicemail, which can’t be easily read by an onlooker.

No matter the medium, you should be extremely cautious about relaying sensitive or possibly protected information. But voice messages also provide an added level of discretion that doesn’t come with SMS reminders.

If your clients prefer this extra privacy, then voice reminders may be a better choice.

3. Making the choice

Although voice reminders aren’t right for every business or for every customer, they remain a very viable strategy in many cases. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s best for your particular business and provides the most value to your customers or clients.

If we compare SMS reminders to call reminders side by side, we can see that there are relative strengths and weaknesses for each option:

 

Reminder type

Strengths

Weaknesses
Call reminders 100% universal

More secure

Less convenient
SMS reminders 100% passive

More convenient

Less secure

Easier to overlook or ignore

What this tells us is that there are no “right” answers. While the best solution may be to tailor the medium to the person and to the message, the choice between the two is not so clear.

Calls afford extra security and ensure acceptance at the expense of some added convenience that comes from text messaging. And while SMS texts are convenient, they are also relatively easy to ignore or miss.

But there’s one key takeaway here: Don’t make the decision to abandon voice reminders lightly. While it may seem obvious that fewer and fewer people are using their phone to place actual calls, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a vital medium for some portion of your customers.

If you make the decision without careful consideration, you may be doing a major disservice to your clients and also hurting your business.

So, tread lightly, weigh your options, and remember to send the reminder.