The answer is…yes.
Do you have problem clients? This client cancels at the last minute on a regular basis and leaves an open time slot that you can’t possibly fill. What does this mean for you? It means you will take a loss on that period of unworked time, and if it becomes a regular occurrence, that could mean losing a significant amount of income.
What should you do?
The first thing you need to do, if you have not done so already, is develop a formal cancellation policy for your business. This can help to reduce the amount of no-shows and last minute cancellations. A standard practice is to have a 24-hour cancellation policy.
You have the option of charging the full amount, 50%, or even a flat fee for a cancelled or missed appointment. Choose an option that will make you feel fairly compensated and is still fair to the client. When communicating the policy to clients, do so in a friendly way, and if clients have questions, gently remind them why you have the policy in place.
After you have established the policy, make sure your clients know about it. When you start working with new clients, have your cancellation policy be a part of the info packet you give them at their first appointment. Also share the information verbally over the phone when they call to schedule their first appointment. It’s also helpful to include a note in your appointment reminder emails/phone calls, and on a sign in your waiting area, to serve as a gentle reminder.
Some other ways to help offset the cost of cancelled appointments is to keep a list of clients that are able to make last minute appointments, or who are waiting to get in to see you. Ask clients if they want to be on your “cancellation list” and contact them when you have a last minute cancellation. This works especially well for people who have jobs with unpredictable schedules and have trouble scheduling an appointment in advance. You may call them at a time when they are able to come right in for a massage!
Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to lose a loyal client over your cancellation policy. There are exceptions to every rule. If a client cancels at the last minute, but they are a good client and do not usually cancel, you may want to make an exception and waive the cancellation fee. A good policy to follow is to forgive the “first offense” and then charge after that first time.
Let the client know that you’ll waive the fee this time, but next time you’ll have to charge them. Keep in mind too that a client may have a special circumstance that you should consider when they cancel, such as a death in the family, and it’s best not to enforce the fee.
If a client is perpetually a no-show, you can require prepayment for booking future appointments. Most clients should have no issue with this compromise and will appreciate it. If a client balks at doing so after they have repeatedly missed appointments, then it may be in your best interest to no longer serve that client at your business.
If you need to “fire” a client, let them know that you’ve appreciated their business, but you’ve just lost too much money from their cancellations and no-shows. It is in the best interest of your business to focus your attention on clients who respect your time and keep appointments.