How to Easily Create an Appointment Cancellation Policy for Your Business
In this post-COVID world where things in general are very uncertain, the term “business as usual” might not be the same as it used to be.
And if you own a service-based business, you know the importance of clients keeping their appointments and arriving on time. But when your client turns out to be a “no-show”, the lost time and profit can be daunting for your business.
So how do you make sure you don’t lose appointments due to no-shows in 2022?
You can do it by creating a well-drafted appointment cancellation policy.
In this blog, we will give you a step-by-step approach to how you can create a cancellation policy for your business. What’s more, we have curated some handy appointment cancellation policy templates for you!
So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive right in!
What are the potential reasons for a no-show?
There can be numerous reasons why a client might not turn up for their scheduled appointment.
They might not have prioritized the appointment due to some prior commitments or sudden change of plans. It is also possible that they may not have reliable transportation.
If a client had a bad experience in the past, like a long wait time or dissatisfaction with the service they received, they’re more likely to not show up for their next appointment as well.
Sometimes, if a client feels like they’re not making progress, they can quickly become frustrated and stop showing up. Few examples include:
- A life coach therapy session isn’t helping someone achieve better results mentally.
- The skin-care treatment isn’t helping in getting rid of wrinkles the way they hoped it would.
- The commitment to their personalized fitness plan keeps dropping on their priority list.
But what’s worse is if they simply forgot about their appointment. This can badly affect your business. One solution to this issue can be sending well-timed reminders to your clients!
Reminders do help, but you know what’s better? Setting appointment cancellation policies, so that your clients are aware of the repercussions of canceling during the booking process itself!
Before you draft an appointment cancellation policy, ask yourself these questions:
- Will a booking fee be charged before the service?
- Are you willing to refund the full/partial amount?
- How long before the appointment must customers inform you of their incapability of showing up?
- Do you want to charge a cancellation fee if the appointment is not canceled within the set time period?
How to draft and communicate your appointment cancellation policy?
1. Set a time frame for cancellation
How long do you want your clients to have to cancel an appointment without penalty? 24 hours? 12 hours?
Well, it’s always better to let them know when they can cancel at a specific time of the day before the appointment to avoid the fee.
Or, using a scheduling software can help you set how much in advance clients can reschedule or cancel their appointments. This can protect your small business from last-minute cancellations or no-shows.
Let’s say you own a consulting firm and one of your clients has an appointment on Monday. It’s better to give that client a cut-off time till, let’s say, 5 pm on Friday. This gives enough time for your staff to either reschedule the appointment or offer it to someone else from the waiting list.
2. Charge a fee for cancellation
Clients generally don’t cancel if they paid for it during the booking of their appointment. Enabling prepayments for all your bookings is a surefire way of laying out an incentive for your clients to show up!
But if you don’t accept pre-payments, then it is viable for you to set an appointment cancellation fee notice. This can be useful in case they cancel at the last minute.
This makes clients consider rescheduling or better, showing up for the appointment. Formulate the late cancellation fees based on how much you think an appointment costs you and set a fee to cover that loss.
3. Decide when to waive off the fee
There might be some unprecedented situations that you or the client can’t help. Keeping this in mind, you can structure your policy in such a way that it takes few exceptions into account. This way, it will also be easier for your staff to make decisions on whether to waive the fee or not.
For example, let’s say you own a clinic and one of your clients has some sort of emergency. In these cases, it would be better to make a judgment call.
But being more lenient with your clients and encouraging these exceptions more than once might cost you. So, make sure you are easygoing only when it is absolutely necessary (but, try not to encourage it way too much either!)
4. Draft a cancellation policy and communicate it with your clients
Inform your clients about your cancellation policy as early as possible in your working relationship.
Answer all their queries patiently and in a professional manner. Make sure your clients understand the policy during the booking process itself. You can easily communicate it through emails or texts.
Here’s a cancellation policy example for you!
If you are wondering how to write a cancellation policy, start by making sure you include the following:
- Timeframe of cancellation
- Timeframe of reschedule
- Penalty if the appointment is missed (specify fee)
To save you the time spent on drafting these, we’ve framed the perfect appointment cancellation policy templates for various B2C businesses like salons, clinics, consultancies, etc.! Drop in your email address and get access to it right away!
5. Effectively communicate your policy to the staff as well
Familiarising your staff about the no-show or booking cancellation policy is just as important.
Explain to your staff how they can effectively communicate the clauses and penalties to the clients.
Have a brainstorming session where they can suggest alternatives like updating the appointment by rescheduling it to a later date, preponing the appointment if it’s not too close to the appointment date, etc. at first.
You also need to make sure that they are open to exceptions and are being understanding of the client’s issues.
6. Lastly, help clients remember their appointments
Target the problem at its source. Most no-shows are because the clients forget that they have an appointment in the first place.
It is always recommended to send appointment reminders to your clients 20-30 minutes prior to their appointment. It would be more efficient if you send them a text message or an email reminder.
An online appointment scheduler can help in this care as it automates the whole process of sending confirmation emails and reminders, which also saves your time.
Make sure that canceling appointments isn’t the first alternative that’s provided in case they can’t make it.
Stop sending text reminders like “press 1 to cancel your appointment”. Clients might get impulsive and cancel their appointments with ease.
A better alternative would be to send scripts like “Call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX to get in touch with us regarding any queries with respect to your appointment”.
Try to hear out your clients and try to push them to reschedule rather than canceling.
Having an appointment cancellation policy might seem like a harsh approach to maintaining client relationships. But at the end of the day, it is your business objective to save time and money. And, you are saving the client’s time as well!
Scheduling software like Appointy can help in reducing no-shows significantly by automating processes like sending reminders, confirmation emails, etc.
Appointy also lets you set appointment cancellation policies, business terms, TnCs, and add additional information that you want your clients to know prior to making a booking with you. It also lets you set the minimum and maximum advance time notice required for clients to book, reschedule, and cancel an appointment with you.
Don’t believe us? Try it free for 14 days and find out yourself!
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, and resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day.
If you have any thoughts on this blog or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below.
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