In this article, we’ll talk you through how to manage last-minute appointment cancellations.
- Send appointment reminders
- Make it easy to reschedule
- Have a cancellation policy
- Ask for a deposit
- Create a waitlist
- Advertise the cancelled appointment slot
- Build strong rapport with clients
- Offer perks for loyal customers
- Charge for repeat cancellations
- Use a ‘no booking’ list
- Sell appointment packages
- Contact the client
1. Send appointment reminders
Even if you send an appointment confirmation email, this could be well before the actual event. Days, weeks or even months could pass from the date of the booking to the appointment. So it’s no surprise that so many customers miss their booking because they forgot about it.
Give them a nudge 24 hours before with email and SMS notifications. This increases the chances of your message getting seen as people are more likely to check their text messages than their inbox.
Include a link that allows customers to cancel or reschedule in your appointment reminder. Your appointment may have slipped their mind and they have arranged other plans. Whether they confirm their appointment or choose to cancel it, it’s better to be in the loop. Knowing about cancellation will give you some time to promote the slot to another paying customer.
2. Make it easy to reschedule
No shows are arguably more annoying than cancellations. There’s nothing worse than having everything prepared for the appointment and sitting waiting as the clock ticks by. Minute after minute passes until you give up. This time could have been spent on productive tasks.
To overcome this, make it easy to reschedule. With an enterprise online booking system, you can include a link to a rescheduling portal in the appointment confirmation, on your website, and on social media. Wherever customers turn, they won’t need to go through the hassle of ringing the reception desk or writing an email. Longer processes like this create an obstacle to rescheduling - people want convenience!
3. Have a cancellation policy
A cancellation policy is an essential document for any business that takes bookings. This will set some boundaries and limits when, why and how a customer can cancel.
State how close to the appointment they can cancel. Will it be 24 hours' notice? 48? 72? This time frame should be set based on how long you think it would take to find another customer to fill the slot.
To make sure that customers cancel with plenty of notice, set a fine for last-minute cancellations. This could be a fixed fee or a percentage of the service you were going to provide.
In the cancellation policy, explain how a customer can cancel. With BookingLive, this is possible via the online booking system. Customers don’t need to phone or email and the system will update in real-time so you can see the cancellation straight away and take action to fill the appointment.
Your cancellation policy should be clear, concise and visible in all of your communications. From your website and social media to your online booking portal and appointment confirmation email.
4. Ask for a deposit
A method of preventing last-minute appointment cancellations is to ask for a deposit. This can be either partial or full deposits that can work as a cancellation fee. No one wants to part with their cash unnecessarily, so deposits are highly effective.
Even if a customer still fails to show up to their appointment, at least your costs are covered by the deposit. Your finances won’t take a hit and hopefully, the client won’t make the same mistake again.
5. Create a waiting list
If business is booming and your services are in demand, a waiting list is a great solution for last-minute cancellations. When customers make a booking, you could ask them to state any other times and dates that they would prefer. If someone enquires about a specific time slot, you could put them on a waiting list.
If you get a cancellation, your online booking system will automatically update and can send a notification to customers on the waiting list. This is a quick way to fill spare appointments and can happen without you having to lift a finger.
6. Advertise the cancelled appointment slot
It’s likely that you already use social media to promote your business and have a mailing list of loyal customers. With a large following, you can manage last-minute appointment cancellations by simply telling people you have space to accommodate them!
Advertise the cancelled appointment slot on your social channels with a link to the booking portal. If that doesn’t work, send an email to regular customers and clients that haven’t booked your service for a while. If you’ve still not shifted the appointment on the day, post on social media that you’re accepting walk-ins. All of these methods combined and you should fill the slot in no time!
7. Build strong rapport with clients
Building a strong relationship with clients is a more indirect way of dealing with last-minute appointment cancellations. A good rapport means that customers are less likely to cancel in the first place, and if they do, they’ll be sure to give you plenty of notice.
These clients will feel more connected to you and your business and can empathise with the knock-on effect last-minute cancellations have. Things you can do to build rapport include asking for their feedback on how to improve your services and offering them gift cards or exclusive discounts on their birthday or other special occasions you’re aware of. However, having a good old chat and getting to know your clients is the easiest way to build rapport naturally.
8. Offer perks for loyal customers
Leading on from building rapport, you can offer perks to loyal customers to strengthen relationships and keep sales flowing in. For example, once someone has attended five appointments, they could get a discount on their sixth.
With a discounted appointment at stake, people will be less likely to cancel their booking. Depending on your business costs, you could still turn a good profit on these discounted appointments too!
9. Charge for repeat cancellations
Sometimes building strong relationships isn’t enough. Some people are more disorganised than others and may repeatedly cancel their appointment at short notice.
If you find yourself in this situation, begin charging for repeat cancellations. This could be a set fee or percentage of the services missed. To get the message through that your business suffers every time a service is cancelled, you have to take more drastic measures like this.
Customers won’t like being charged, but it should make them change their ways and use your online booking system to reschedule if they know they won’t make it.
10. Use a ‘no booking list’
If charging doesn’t work, create a ‘no booking list’. This will be a list of customers who repeatedly fail to cancel or show up to their appointment. If they try to arrange a booking in future, simply turn them away.
As a business owner, you may be hesitant to action this. You want to look after your client base and welcome people from all backgrounds. But there comes a point when your business shouldn’t have to combat cancellations constantly.
A no booking list means you’ll only service reliable customers and your cash flow won’t suffer. Take the leap and use a no booking list, you won’t regret it!
11. Sell appointment packages
Asking customers to pay upfront for appointment bundles is a great way to deter last-minute cancellations and keep yourself in pocket. People don’t want to miss out on something they’ve already paid for, and a bundle should motivate them to show up consistently and on time.
There needs to be an incentive for taking this option though. Sell the appointments at a discounted rate or add value. For example, a beauty salon could offer nail art designs on top of gel treatments for free. Or an online tutor could throw in a personalised one-to-one session with a student. Get creative and only give away what you can afford.
12. Contact the client
We’ve been through some of the more creative and complex ways of managing last-minute appointment cancellations, but sometimes all you have to do is pick up the phone. Understanding why a customer has cancelled their appointment will help you shape your services and available slots.
For example, there could be a simple explanation of the client feeling unwell. This is something out of your control and you can’t be to blame. Another reason for cancelling could be the cost. A client may not be able to afford your service this month. If this becomes a trend, you may want to revisit your pricing structure - especially if competitors are offering better deals.
How BookingLive can help
BookingLive offers a leading booking solution to help you manage your appointments. This includes automating admin tasks, sending appointment reminders, taking payments, rescheduling and updating cancelled slots in the system and many more.
BookingLive will help you manage last-minute appointment cancellations and fill your available slots to help your business thrive. We offer a solution for small businesses and our enterprise solution for larger organisations taking bookings at scale.
If you have any questions, feel free to call 0800 1310 342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We also offer demos of the system so you can see its full potential.