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Encourage Timely Cancellations And Avoid Appointment No-Shows

We all know how frusterating no-shows can be; as well as making you want to tear your hair out, they are also unexpected and can be costly for your business. Due to recent events around the world, we have seen no-shows increase by 6% worldwide which can significantly slow down service-based businesses that are trying to get back on their feet.

So, what can you do to get your no-show rates back under control? Well, you can tell customers about how much missed appointments are costing you, educate them on the harmful impacts of no-shows, and ask them to let you know on time if they need to cancel.

 

 

Why are cancellations better than appointment no-shows?

Appointment no-shows hurt service-based businesses in several ways, but many of the damages can be avoided if you encourage customers to cancel instead of simply not showing up.

It’s better to be prepared for a bad situation, like an appointment cancellation, than face the cost of an unexpected no-show. But let’s look at this in a bit more detail.

Timely cancellations mean less wasted time

An appointment no-show often means wasted time, especially if preparation time is needed for the appointment. If you run back-to-back appointments (like a consultant), it also means that you won’t have the time to start working on something else.

In-advance cancellations can be acted on

When a client cancels or reschedules an appointment and gives enough notice, the business at least has a chance to act on it and try to refill the freed up time slot with another customer.

Cancellations can help avoid loss of business

With an appointment no-show, you lose out on not just the business you could have had from that client, but also miss out on another client who could have booked that specific time slot.

 

 

How to avoid unpredictable appointment no-shows

What can you do to prevent no-shows and encourage your customers to let you know when they won’t be turning up for their appointments? This list will help you put actions in place that will likely help get your non-attendance rate under control.

 

1. Make it shame-free for customers to make changes

Many customers are embarrassed to call a business and ask to cancel or reschedule which can mean that they just don’t show up. If customers can manage their appointments online and easily change their bookings, they will be more likely to give you a heads-up. You can also explain to customers how to cancel or change their appointments – here’s a video that we recorded with this exact purpose:

 

 

2. Keep an eye out for potential appointment no-shows

10to8 can help you spot likely missed bookings by letting you know when clients have not opened their reminders, which is often an indicator of a future no-show.

3. Timely reminders = timely changes

We’ve found that sending out 2 reminders before a booking is the most effective for both reducing no-shows and giving enough notice to make a change. Send out the first reminder 24-12 hours before the appointment to give customers the chance to cancel with enough notice. Then send the second reminder 1-3 hours prior to the appointment which will help clients show up right on time.

 

4. Be transparent with your communications

Customers quite often don’t realize how much no-shows and last-minute cancellations can cost. Why not educate them a bit through your reminders? In the UK, for example, the NHS sends out reminders that tell patient how much a missed appointment costs and they have seen some great results from this campaign. Try this template:

“Dear {customer name], this is an appointment reminder from [your business name]. Please don’t forget your booking; no-shows cost our business [cost of no-shows per time period]. If you need to change your booking, follow the link below”

 

5. Reduce the notice period for changes

Consider reducing the notice period your clients need to give when changing an appointment. In crisis situations such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, plans can change in the blink of an eye. It might be worth letting your customers cancel or change their appointment on short notice. This not only helps you avoid any much more damaging no-shows but will also portray you as a positive business that understands its customers and tries to help them.

appointment no shows and cancellations

You can edit your notice period under “Set Up” > “Services”:

 

6. Non-refundable deposits – are they useful?

With customers potentially having to self-isolate or having to look after or help family members during these difficult times, it might be worthwhile rethinking your policy about non-refundable deposits. Non-refundable deposits can put customers off booking your services in the first place, as well as damage your business’s good reputation. Here are some alternatives you could try:

  • Make deposits refundable if the client cancels in a timely fashion. If you rely on deposits as a business, you could always offer a 50% or 25% refund.
  • If you use the deposit to purchase resources for the booking that will not be reusable for other clients, perhaps you could offer a gift voucher for your business so your customers can use it when they are able to return to you.

No matter what your policies might be, make sure you communicate them with your clients. You can link to these policies from your online booking page and put together a specific crisis communication plan that you, and your clients, can turn to on occasions such as the current COVID-19 outbreak.

 

7. Offer to switch to virtual appointments

Running virtual appointments is, of course, not an option for every business, however, there are so many services you can provide online. If the customer can’t make it to the in-person appointment because they are self-isolating, on child-care duty, or for any other reason, offer to provide the service as a video appointment.

10to8 has native integrations with Zoom Video Conferencing, Microsoft Teams, and Google Classrooms (if you are a teacher) so jumping on video calls should be a breeze.

 

8. Automatically act on cancellations

Now that you have achieved timely cancellations, you need to act on them so the freed-up slots fill up again ASAP. Instead of desperately trying to get empty slots booked again manually, set up a Zapier integration with the ‘New Cancellations’  trigger within 10to8. You can automatically share social media posts, email your customers on the waiting list, or send text messages to loyal customers whenever a cancellation happens.

appointment no show reducing Twitter Zapier integration

 

We have put together a vast resource library with visuals, infographics, editable templates that you can utilize to eliminate appointment no-shows in your business. Visit the #NoMoreNoShows resource page.

 

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Marcel is the Customer Service Manager here at 10to8. He joined in 2016 and is working on a day to day basis to resolve customer questions/issues.

Marcel is currently also studying for a degree in management so he can help with growing the support team at 10to8.

Marcel Wundrich

Head of Customer Service, 10to8 Scheduling Software

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