Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

Personalising reminders

When building things for many different people, how do you make sure it covers all their requirements? Especially when there might be conflict between different groups.

For instance a lot of services now send out reminders of your forthcoming appointment, so I get a phone call from the hairdressers, a text message from my dentist, doctor and chiropractor and a letter, email and text from the National Blood Service.

Now I know that a lot of people find this useful, especially when appointments were made several weeks or months in advance. But I cannot help being annoyed by them. I feel they are treating me like a child rather than an organised capable adult, who has never missed one of their appointments.

I cannot even turn them off like the annoying notifications on my phone!

So looking at these two conflicting views what can we do to make both sets of customers happy?

Well first we can do research and speak to real people to see what their thoughts are. As humans are lazy by nature I would expect the idea of a reminder to appeal to most people.

"I feel they are treating me like a child rather than an organised capable adult"

We should also look at the business needs. Missed appointments cost a company money. I know my chiropractor charges a fee if you do not turn up. So I imagine a company will be happy to spend a smaller amount reminding people to make sure they do turn up.

I would guess that this is more important than the (probably small) group of people who are annoyed by such reminders, helped by the fact that several of these services do not have an alternative, making it hard for the user to 'shop' elsewhere. And once the company starts to send out reminders I expect there would be a drop in no shows, confirming to the business the value of the messages.

Of course getting the messaging right is also important. I have had reminders which were down right rude, and even if it is hard to change service, that is the sort of motivation which would get me to try.

This is where most companies would stop. The business needs are met and the majority of customers are happy, what else is there to do?

Maybe they could make their service slightly more special by catching the outliers. They could ask their customers if they want a reminder. Using an opt out option allows those who are really annoyed to stop the notifications while everyone else carries on as normal.

Or they could use their records to see who turns up without a reminder and who does not and focus on the no shows.

This tiny bit of extra customer care is the sort of thing people appreciate and helps turn them into loyal customers who keep coming back.

And like so many things that annoy people it is a tiny thing which is easily forgotten, but makes a big difference (see cyclings Team Sky and their marginal gains). If you manage to do this for all your small things you end up with a business where the customer really knows they come first. And when the outliers are people who might need a more accessible service, catching their needs can make the biggest differences of all.

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