grow your business, small business

How to Deal with Last-Minute Appointment Cancellations

A stopwatch

Imagine this: 

You’ve set up an appointment with one of your customers a while back, and they are supposed to show up in the next 15 minutes. 

You start preparing for the appointment and make sure that everything is in order. 

But in the last 5 minutes, you get a call. It’s your customer! 

Bad news, though. They just told you that they wouldn’t show up anymore. 

What a bummer! 

This situation is as common as it is frustrating. In fact, when it comes to salons, spas, barbershops, pet services, tutor classes, and other businesses in big cities – it’s not unusual when a customer fails to show up for their reservation.

Besides, you’ve not only lost the money your customer would’ve given you, but you also lost valuable time. After all, you’ve got plenty of other tasks on your plate, and the last thing you want is to waste your time by waiting around. 

If most of your customers made it on time, it would make a big difference, right? 

Well, you can make that happen. 

Let’s see how. 

1. Create a Cancellation Policy 

No two customers are the same. 

One might be punctual and turn up on time, while the other may schedule an appointment and then forget about it. 

That’s why you should put a cancellation policy in place. Its purpose is to limit when, why, and how a customer can cancel his appointment without facing any dire consequences. 

First off, give your customers a timeframe to cancel the appointment. It could be 24, 48, 72 hours, etc. In other words, figure out how long it would take you to find another customer to fill in the spot and make that your timeframe. 

Second, find a way to make sure that customers will cancel the appointment within that time frame. You could set a penalty for late cancellations, like charge a percentage of the cost of your services, for example.

Finally, offer contact information for cancellations. Whether you’d like to be notified via text, email, or phone call, specify that within your policy and provide the necessary information.

Speaking of contact information, make sure that it is easy to find outside the cancellation policy.  

Your cancellation policy needs to be short and straight to the point, so customers will easily understand what they’re dealing with. Something that looks like a ‘terms of service agreement’ won’t work. 

Furthermore, your cancellation policy has to be visible. Place it on your website, online booking page, include it in your booking confirmation emails, etc. 

2. Send Appointment Reminders 

Sending out a booking confirmation email is not enough, especially if the customer scheduled the appointment well in advance.

People are busy most of the time, so keeping your appointment on the top of their minds is easier said than done. That’s why you need to remind them of their booking from time to time. 

You could send out reminder emails, or even better, SMSes. People’s inboxes are often flooded with emails. So, text message reminders stand a better chance of getting seen by your customers. 

Besides reminding your customers of their appointment, make sure to include your cancellation policy in the message. You could also include a thank you note, a survey link, or something that will help establish a better connection with the customer. 

What’s more, you don’t even need to spend the time to send out these messages manually. With an online booking system like Appointy, you can automate the entire process!

3. Make Rescheduling Easy 

Although last-minute cancellations are bad, no-shows are even worse. But how can you avoid having customers not show up without notice? 

Make rescheduling seamless! 

Start by making sure that your contact information is easy to find, especially on your website. 

We’ve talked to a few experts from a custom web development company, and they said that if it takes longer than three and a half minutes for customers to find out how to contact you, they’ll likely not notify you that they won’t show up anymore.

But, some people may not bother to make a phone call or send an email to tell you that they won’t make it to the appointment. That said, you’ll need to offer them other options as well. 

It’s best to give customers the ability to reschedule their appointments right on your website. It’s quick, easy, and customers won’t have to hesitate to make a phone call. 

4. Require Deposits 

If appointment cancellations became more of routine for you, requiring customers to make an up-front deposit for your services might be a good idea. 

That’s because, once a customer pays in advance, they’ll feel more responsible for the booking they have made. Thus, he’ll be more likely to show up on time.

You could either ask for a partial or complete deposit. Besides, if a customer still doesn’t show up or cancels the appointment at the last minute, that deposit can act as a cancellation fee. 

In other words, it’s a win-win situation for you in both scenarios. 

5. Use Waitlists

Waitlists are an easy way to fill in canceled spots.

Whenever someone wants to make an appointment in a time slot that’s not available, you could ask them if they’d like to get on your waiting list. If that appointment got canceled by the previous customer, you could notify the one on your waitlist, and they might fill in the gap.

To save some extra time, you could automate this process as well.

6. Promote Last-Minute Spots 

Promoting free spots should also help you handle last-minute cancellations. You can let your customers know that you’re ready to take them in on social media, or via email, for example.

You could also come up with flash sales to add a sense of urgency to your bookings.

Or, if you’ve got a little more extra time on your hands, why not let people know that you’ll accept walk-ins for the day? This should fill up your schedule in no time.

7. Build Relationships with Your Customers 

What does this have to do with avoiding last-minute appointment cancellations? 

Well, the more your customers know about your business, and the friendlier you are with them, the more they will get to empathize with you.

Consequently, they’ll likely realize how a last-minute cancellation or no-show negatively impacts your business. And out of respect, they may avoid giving you trouble.

That said, make sure to treat your customers right and establish a connection with them.

You could do this by asking for their feedback to see how you can improve on your services.

Make gestures that show customers you care about them. For example, you can offer them discounts or gift cards on their birthdays.

Also, try to get each customer to warm up to you. Find out their likes and dislikes and strike a conversation with them based on that.

The list can go on and on.

8. Be Selective

Although refusing to schedule an appointment with a certain customer may seem, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Sure, this doesn’t mean you should avoid booking appointments altogether, but some customers may do you more harm than good, more specifically, the ones that didn’t show up or canceled at the last minute multiple times.

To prevent that from happening again, putting these types of customers on a “no booking list” may be a good idea. After that, let them know that you’re not able to book them in advance anymore, but you’re still willing to take them as walk-ins.

9. Offer Appointment Packages 

With appointment packages, customers will pay in advance for a specific number of meetings.

Once a customer opts for an appointment package, they’ll probably not make any last-minute cancellations for a while. That’s because, once they have made a bulk payment in advance, they’ll be encouraged to make the most out of services.

Thus, they’ll likely try not to avoid any of your appointments.

But, make sure to offer discounts, like 10% off for a package of five appointments, for example. This makes the offer more attractive, and you’ll get more customers on board.

Final Words

All in all, last-minute cancellations and no-shows will happen from time to time.

But you can still prevent the majority of them.

Creating cancellation policies, requiring deposits, and offering bundles will likely help motivate customers to stick to their appointments.

If you happen to have a spot suddenly free up, make sure to promote it on social media or ask someone from your waiting list to fill in the gap.

Finally, keep in mind that creating a solid relationship with your customers is crucial. This will not only make your customers respect you more, but it will also benefit your business as a whole.

About Appointy

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. 

We love a good talk!