Motivating Consumers to Attend their Scheduled In-Person Assistance Appointments

By Ed Coleman

No one will be surprised by the statement that how we message to consumers matters. At the same time, I am sometimes surprised at how small variations in messaging can have a significant impact on behavior. Take messaging to remind consumers to attend their scheduled appointment for in-person assistance as an example.

As highlighted in our recent issue brief, Making the Connection 2.0: Insights Into In-Person Assistance From the Get Covered Connector, a certain proportion of appointments scheduled ultimately fail to materialize, which is common across many industries — hospitality, health care, etc. And, while appointments scheduled through the Connector have comparatively high attendance rates, minimizing the number of no-shows and cancellations helps ensure that assisters are helping as many consumers as possible.

Heading into the third open enrollment period (OE3) we asked ourselves: Will different reminder messaging impact attendance? Borrowing ideas on motivation from social science research, Enroll America tested four different reminder messages delivered by text during OE3, each appealing to a different element of consumers’ motivation to act:

Control/Standard OE2 (no additional motivational language): “Remember! Your appointment for free, expert help with your health insurance application is coming up.”

Bandwagon: “Hey there, lots of people in your neighborhood are getting free, expert help with their health insurance applications. Don’t miss out!”

Empathy: “Hey there, we know money’s tight. Get all your questions answered at your appointment for free, expert help with your health insurance application.”

Positive identity: “Thanks for taking charge of your health and your wallet! Remember your appointment for free, expert help with your health insurance application.”

All recipients then received a second text message comprising their appointment details: “Your appt is at [time] on [date]. [Location name], [street address], [city], [state]. To change, call [location phone number].”

The results are encouraging.

  • Consumers receiving the bandwagon message had an attendance rate 3 percentage points higher than those who received the standard OE2/control message. In other words, the non-attendance rate dropped by 9.2 percent.
  • Consumers receiving the empathy message had an attendance rate 4 percentage points higher than those receiving the standard OE2/control message. That’s a 13.3 percent decline in non-attendance.
  • Consumers receiving any text message reminder were about 20 percent more likely to attend their Connector appointment compared with those who did not receive a text message reminder.

We also tested personalizing text messages by addressing them to a specific first name, instead of opening with “hey there.” The results were also encouraging.

  • Adding first name personalization to the standard OE2 message resulted in a 24 percent decline in non-attendance.
  • Adding personalization to the bandwagon message resulted in a combined 19.7 percent decline in non-attendance compared to the standard OE2 message.

These findings provide evidence that small adjustments in messaging can likely change consumer behavior. Enroll America plans to utilize the results of this test to inform the reminder messaging used in the Connector during the next open enrollment period.

Whether you are engaging consumers to take action by phone, email, or text message, we recommend trying empathy or bandwagon style motivational language along with personalization. These are small and easy changes that we believe can increase the impact of your follow-up efforts!

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