Have you ever heard a saying like this?
“You get in life what you are willing to put up with”
And to a large degree I think it’s true.
I know that you are getting a lot less cancellations now that you have set up email and text message reminders that go out to clients leading up to their appointment but sometimes you will still get the following:
- A late Cancellation or Reschedule
- Or a Last Minute No Show (yes, I know. It’s the worst)
When you are first starting your service business you are probably going to be afraid to have a strong cancellation policy… let alone enforce it.
It’s kind of like imposter syndrome.
How can I demand people pay me for wasting my time when I haven’t actually done a service for them.
Well, I’m here to tell you that if you want to succeed and have clients that respect you and don’t use you then you are going to need a cancellation policy and YES you are going to need to enforce it!
Now, let me be clear. You have to be human about this. Someone was in a car crash on the way to your clinic. Yes, you’ll let them off.
But they have to have a really good reason and there has to be a limit to how many times you are willing to let people off. I think in most cases that is just once.
When you first start enforcing your cancellation policy it will probably make you nervous so here are some things that make it easier.
Always call your clients as soon as they are 5 minutes late.
If they pick up then that is great as you can discuss it with them directly and explain your cancellation policy clearly.
If it’s their first offense then you can say:
“Look since this is your first time I’m willing to waive that fee for you today but I’d really appreciate it if you give us 24 hours notice in future if you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment”Let them know that it’s serious. Be assertive but not aggressive!
This is a great strategy because you have not been angry or aggressive but have made it very clear to the customer that you will not let them waste your time for free.
If they don’t answer the phone, then this is the message I recommend leaving on their voicemail:
“Hi there, It’s Oak from Fremantle Massage Therapy here. I’m just calling to see if you are still coming in for your 10:00AM appointment that you have booked with us. I’m hoping that you are ok and that you are on your way and just running late but if not please let me know as soon as you can as I am set up and waiting for you to arrive.”Message to leave on their voicemail
In addition to that, I also write basically the same message and send it as a text message to me.
“Hey Alice, it’s Oak from Fremantle Massage Therapy here. I just tried to call your mobile to find out if you are still coming in for your appointment today. If you can’t make it please let me know as soon as possible as I am set up and waiting for you to arrive.”Text message to send them
You could also include a link to the cancellation policy in the text message which they would have agreed to at the time they made the booking.
While I’m on that topic, make sure that you have your cancellation policy as part of the online booking process.
Many booking systems will allow you to make it mandatory for a customer to agree to the policy before finishing the booking process.
Also let people know the policy when you take a booking over the phone.
That is really important so they can’t come back at you later and say that they didn’t know about your cancellation policy.
Some of this may be sounding a little bit ‘Hard Ass’ for you but remember I did say to be human.
If they really do have a good excuse then let them off considering the circumstances.
You can be both too lenient and not lenient enough but I think most small service businesses are probably too lenient and they get burnt as a result.
If you don’t have a cancellation policy at all then I seriously suggest you create one. It’s likely you are letting people waste your time and money.
So What’s Your Policy Oak?
Late (less than 24 hours notice) cancellations or rescheduling will incur a fee of 50% of the original booking value.
Last minute “no show” will incur a fee of 100% of the original booking value.My Cancellation Policy
Late cancellations are annoying but at least they leave you a little bit of time to fill the slot with another client so I just charge 50% of the booking value for that.
Last minute no shows are super annoying. They waste my time and money and so I charge the entire 100% of the booking value.
People have to agree to my policy when they book online or by phone.
You may be thinking at this point that you will never hear from these people again if they don’t show up and you send them an invoice for the entire booking value and you would be correct 😉
But guess what?
That’s great! Because you won’t have to deal with time wasters any more.
Be assertive. It’s healthy.
You may feel empowered and proud of yourself the first time you enforce your cancellation policy on that client that continually fails to show up.
Please, start respecting yourself and do this.
You won’t regret it – Promise.
Come back later and tell me how you did and how your life and business has changed as a result.
I look forward to hearing from you!