The Hidden Cost of No Show Appointments

Guest post by Shaun Clark, Prompt Appointment

The average billing rate of a lawyer in Oregon is $242 per hour. So when a client fails to keep an appointment, you stand to lose a substantial amount in consultation fees. Add in the time it takes to follow-up with the client and re­schedule, and the real cost of a no-show becomes more apparent.

Even if you offer free initial consultations your practice is still at risk if you have a high no-show rate. Clients who fail to keep initial appointments rarely, if ever, book a subsequent appointment for which the lawyer can actually bill.

This Isn’t Only Your Dentist’s Problem

No show appointments can be a huge drain on your practice’s bottom line. Clients are difficult to get and the ones you have are important to keep, that’s why utilizing automated appointment reminders in your practice is an inexpensive way to solve this profit-draining problem.

Automated reminders can be used to: 

  • Stop no show appointments
  • Drive up collections rates with bill reminders
  • Compliment marketing efforts by creating positive online reviews for your firm through the use of follow-up e-­mail surveys

How Does an Automated Reminder System Work?

Automated reminder systems send text, e­-mail, or voice messages to clients prior to their appointments. Reminders can be initiated through your existing legal practice management software (i.e. Clio, Rocket Matter, MyCase) or through the appointment reminder Web interface.

When the text, e-mail, or voice message arrives, the client is asked to confirm his or her attendance at the appointment. If the client cannot keep the appointment, he or she can initiate a request to reschedule. When the client responds to the appointment reminder, your office will be notified immediately. If the client asks to reschedule, you or your staff can quickly reach out to set a new appointment date and time.

Are Automated Reminder Systems Costly?

Automated reminder systems cost as little as $30/month. At an average billable rate of $242 per hour it doesn’t take long for an automated system to transition from paying for itself to actually making a law practice money. (Money that was simply being lost month in and month out in missed consultation fees.) In addition, providers of these services usually offer free trials. This makes it easy for a solo or small firm to take a test drive before committing firm dollars to new software that doesn’t work or falls short of its promises.

How Can an Automated Reminder System Help me Collect Fees?

Automated reminders don’t have to stop at appointments. You can use the reminder system to prompt clients about overdue bills. With an automated system client invoicing can transform from a confrontational endeavor (tracking down late payments; sending clients to collections) to improved collection rates and lower receivables. Text or e-­mail reminders can alert clients their invoice is ready and provide a link for online payment. Any system that assists in prompt delivery of client bills and provides clients with an easy way to pay and will reduce the number of days your unpaid accounts remain outstanding.

The Benefits of Integration with Practice Management Software

The best appointment reminder systems will integrate seamlessly with your legal practice management software. To you, the user, this means the appointment reminder system will appear as another tool in your existing software (i.e. Clio, Rocket Matter, or MyCase) without the hassle of having to learn a new program.

PromptAppointment

If you or your firm is suffering from client no shows, we would be happy to arrange a free 30­ day free trial of PromptAppointment. We send automated appointment reminders and can link to your existing practice management and accounting software. Try PromptAppointment today and make no shows a thing of the past.

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A note from Oregon Law Practice Management:  I have reviewed automated appointment reminders in the past, but was happy to offer Shaun the opportunity to blog about PromptAppointment, a home-grown solution based right here in Oregon.  Unlike Demandforce, the product I blogged about previously, PromptAppointment promises to integrate with your existing practice management software – a real plus. With that said, this is not a product endorsement. If you are interested in appointment reminder solutions, conduct appropriate research.

Demandforce – Appointment Reminder Solution for Lawyers?

My first experience with Intuit’s Demandforce came in the form of a text message from my vet’s office. I received a reminder about an appointment and was prompted to confirm. I remember thinking: this is pretty neat! Veterinary staff later confirmed that clients universally appreciated the appointment reminders generated by this service. (Some did not care for the social campaign piece and opted out.)

This made me wonder: should lawyers use an automated appointment reminder service like Demandforce? Professional services are certainly targeted on the Demandforce site… but what about confidentiality?

  • Demandforce retains log files
  • They may disclose information in response to a subpoena or legal request:
    Demandforce may disclose, access, or report personal information when we believe, in good faith, we’re required to do so by law or to protect our legal rights. We may also do this in connection with an investigation into a suspected violation involving a Terms of Service, fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that may be illegal or expose us to legal liability. For example, we may be required to disclose personal information to cooperate with regulators or law enforcement authorities or to comply with a court order, subpoena, search warrant, or law enforcement request.
  • Encryption and site intrusion detection software is used to protect sensitive information
  • Consumers (your clients) are given an opt-out with each communication
  • Suggestions, ideas, enhancement requests, feedback, recommendations (collectively, Feedback) or other information provided by the Customer or any other party relating to the Service belong to Demandforce.
  • The customer (lawyer using the service) retains all right, title and interest to any and all patient or customer data including consumer review data captured by the … system … subject to Demandforce’s right to use such Customer Data to provide the Service to Customer. (Paragraph 3, Terms & Conditions)
  • Demandforce does not own any Customer Data, information or material that you submit to the Service in the course of using the Service. (Paragraph 5, Terms & Conditions)
  • For medical professionals – Demandforce is HIPAA compliant
  • Personal customer information (information belonging to the lawyers using the service) may be sold by Demandforce. Customers will be asked if they would “like to stop receiving promotional information following any change of control.”

Evaluating Third Party/Cloud-Based Services

Can a lawyer in Oregon use a cloud-based service? Yes – provided the lawyer follows the parameters of Opinion 188. How do you know if a cloud service is appropriate for your confidential client information?

  1. Review the Terms of Service, Terms of Use, or Terms & Conditions
  2. Review the Privacy Policy
  3. Review the Security Policy
  4. Fully investigate the vendor following the guidelines suggested by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center
  5. Ask questions: Who is my vendor? How will my data be stored and where? Who can access my data? Who owns the data I upload? What happens if the cloud provider goes out of business? For a great discussion, see Evaluating Cloud-Computing Providers.
  6. Get client permission. Add a provision to your fee agreement/engagement letter allowing you to send cloud-generated appointment reminders. This is also an opportunity to address communication by unencrypted e-mail, storing client data in the cloud, or use of a client portal.

All Rights Reserved (2013) Beverly Michaelis