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How can you persuade people to keep appointments?

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Chicago restaurateur Gordon Sinclair found he could reduce the number of no-shows in his restaurants by asking staff to make one small change when taking phone reservations. Rather than saying, “Please call us if you need to change or cancel your booking,” staff are instructed to say, “Would you be willing to call us if you have to change or cancel your booking?” before pausing to wait for the customer to answer, “Yes.” Such a small change seems unlikely to yield big results but Sinclair reports a notable drop in no-shows, primarily because of the verbal and active commitment he is requesting from his customers.

…In a series of studies, lead researcher Dr Suraj Bassi of professional services firm BDO and a team from NHS Bedfordshire have been testing some new ideas. One approach requires people to repeat back the time and date of their appointment when they call. In face-to-face settings, staff give patients blank appointment cards and ask them to write the time and date down for themselves.

These two cost-free and simple changes have been yielding impressive results, reducing the number of wasted appointments by 18 per cent. And when a message indicating that the majority of people do attend their appointment on time is added (compared to the usual practice of highlighting the number of those who don't), no-shows fall by 31 per cent.

And it isn't just the NHS that could benefit from asking for small personal commitments. In trying to provide high standards, businesses may sometimes do too much for customers, giving them a passive rather than active role. Minor changes that will involve them more may help to create longer-term loyalty and commitment.

You do want to persuade better, don't you? Then read Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.

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