As a business owner, managing last minute appointment cancellations can be frustrating and time-consuming.
It can also have a negative impact on your business, as it can lead to empty slots in your schedule, which lead to lost revenue or reduced sales pipeline.
However, there are several techniques that you can use to effectively manage last-minute cancellations and minimise their impact on your business.
Let’s walk through eight strategies to manage last minute cancellations.
1. Cancellation policy for last minute cancellations
One of the first steps in managing last minute appointment cancellations is to establish a clear cancellation policy. This should outline the notice period required for cancellations and any fees that may be charged for last-minute cancellations. Accompanied by the earliest time the customer has the ability to reschedule, it can be best practise to create a minimum time frame, to incentivise to make sure they attend.
Clearly communicating a cancellation policy to your clients can help to reduce the number of last minute cancellations, as clients will be aware of the consequences of cancelling at short notice and the importance of not cancelling.
2. Use waiting lists
If you have a high demand for appointments, consider using a waiting list to fill any last minute cancellations. This can help to ensure that you are able to fill any empty slots and minimise the impact of cancellations on your business.
Although it’s not always easy, the advantages of having a contact list that would fill in for a last minute cancellation are too significant to ignore.
Not only is this great PR, it shows that the company cares about its customers. If a potential customer sees a successful business but they can’t book their desired services when they need them, then having access to a waiting list further conveys how seriously you should take the company and its offerings. By showing flexibility in accommodating last minute appointments as much as possible, this creates an ideal combination of success and excellent customer service.
3. Offer incentives for keeping appointments
You can also try offering incentives to encourage clients to keep their appointments. For example, you could offer a discount on future appointments or a free service for clients who attend a certain amount of scheduled appointments.
Implementing this strategy by rewarding an amount of points per an appointment or after a certain number of appointments, you receive the next one at a discount. What you’ll find is once customers are close to receiving that discounted appointed appointment, the last minute cancellations leading up to that appointment will reduce quite significantly.
However, after that appointment has passed, the last last minute cancellations can definitely rise up to previous levels. The key to executing a successful customer loyalty program is to have the right tools in place to automate the fulfilment and tracking of these digital gift cards, a great tool for this is Giftbit.
People often miss or cancel appointments for a variety of reasons.
We get it – life is busy! Try to attempt to minimise last minute cancellations and show that you understand your clients’ workloads, is by sending out a courtesy reminder. Not only does this provide an extra layer of convenience for them but also indicates how thoughtful and considerate you are as a service provider.
On the contrary, what this can also do is boost last minute appointments by giving people the opportunity to cancel before, creating a window of opportunity for the business to reach out to people on their waiting list and fill that appointment.
While opinions differ on the best approach to contact clients, many agree that selecting one method and sticking with it is ideal. For example, some may prefer email while others favor SMS communication; however, too much messaging can be overwhelming for recipients so you should opt for an appropriate medium when acquiring customer information in the first place.
It is essential that the reminder includes the time and date, as well as your contact information and the cancellation policy, ensuring last minute cancellations are aware of the repercussions. Fortunately, you don’t have to manually send reminders to each customer. Instead, you can use scheduling automation tools to streamline the process, there are many tools available to help you automate the reminder process.
By requiring payment or a percentage of payment at the time of booking, you will provide your customers with greater assurance that they are making an investment in quality services. You may have reservations about this policy change, but consider how it would benefit them and their experience as clients.
By expressing the importance of this partnership from the outset, you are sending a clear message to your customer that they should take it seriously. This enhances their likelihood of engaging fully with the agreement, minimizing any unnecessary changes and ensuring greater attentiveness throughout its duration.
This small investment has shown to reduce last minute cancellations as the client don’t want to waste their money, there is an existing incentive to attend.
An alternate approach is to offer a package of several appointments for customers to purchase beforehand. If the client cancels the last minute appointment close to when they were expected to come, your revenue won’t take a hit as its already paid for, so rescheduling this appointment is absolutely fine.
6. Cancellation fee
Whilst having a cancellation policy can act as a deterrent for enforcing that customers don’t cancel their appointments, sometimes this is not enough. Having a fee charged for last minute appointment cancellations, can create a strong incentive for people to attend as they have made an initial payment with the intention to attend (theoretically speaking).
This is usually calculated as a percentage of the purchase price of the appointment, that usually ranges from 25 to 50 percent. If your business has a positive reputation that is displayed online, that can come in the form of reviews or testimonials, customers aren’t really that hesitant to pay this at all.
As the service they are prepared to incur a cost for if they cancel is a service they usually place a lot of personal value on and is part of their personal or professional life.
7. Remove repeat last minute cancellation offenders
There’s no harm in being selective, after all, your appointments are your revenue and business growth. If a customer frequently cancels appointments or doesn’t show up on time, then it may be best to politely decline any more bookings with them. Explain the circumstances, provide an opportunity for improvement over some period of time and you’ll see one of two outcomes.
One, although it is not a preferred outcome, be aware that sometimes the only way to avoid the worst disasters is by having problematic customers disappear from your life.
This is a positive outcome as you will not have to accommodate those last minute appointments or put up with costly last minute cancellations.
Two, they will be made aware of the effect their actions have had on you and your business. Oftentimes, consequences must be visible to see a positive change in behaviour. Nevertheless, it is essential that you are tactful when making use of this approach.
8. Focus on customer experience
Investing in the customer experience is one of the best decisions you can make for your business, as it pays dividends when it comes to how your customers will end up treating and spreading the word about your business.
Generating birthday emails with discounts to target customers from your database as well as ensuring a prompt and respectful response to customer inquiries – such as those for last minute appointments – are just two of the many ways you can show excellent customer service.
The right scheduling tools can remove the costly back and forth to facilitate the speed to lead required to successfully reschedule an appointment, remember customers won’t hang out for your service forever! Timing is everything!
Life has a tendency to be unpredictable and unforeseen complications can arise. Nevertheless, by introducing the right approaches you have the opportunity to lessen the ongoing risks of last minute cancellations and turn these into rescheduled last minute appointments, where your business does not lose any revenue.
Just remember, a bit of strategy and processes, and this is easier than you think to reduce!