What’s in a name?

Many dental practices have adopted the method of SMS messaging to confirm their patients’ appointments. But how many of you include your patient’s first name in that message?

I am currently reading The Small Big by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldtsein and Robert B. Cialdini. The focus of this book is the small changes that we make that can spark a big influence on human behaviour.

For example, the UK tax department sends letters to people who still owe taxes to try and encourage payment. Using their traditional method of warning of the penalties people would incur should they not pay up, the department was achieving a success rate of just 57%. However, when they changed the letters to state how many people actually paid their taxes on time, the success rate jumped to 86%! They identified ‘social proofing’ as the influencing factor. (Discover more about the six big influencers our behaviour with Robert Cialdini’s highly-acclaimed book, ‘Influence’.)

The studies and research for this book also revealed the impact of using a person’s first name.

One of the ways the writers tested the theory that we place high importance on our own name was to conduct an experiment with a team of British physicians. The experiment was to use an SMS message to confirm a group of patients’ health appointments. The first group had messages sent that simply stated the details of the upcoming appointment. The second group had the same message, but the patient’s first name was added. The result was that in the latter case, there was a 57% reduction in no-shows.

Interesting, there was no drop in no-show rate when a more formal salutation, such as Mr Smith was used. The small BIG, in this case, is the power of the first name.

What’s in a name? A BIG deal!