An appointment-only policy is supposed to benefit everyone. Customers who make appointments are seen sooner, while employees get a smoother workflow.
But what happens when customers won’t follow the policy? Even occasional non-compliance can spoil the system for everyone.
Turning away business isn’t the answer. But there are a few things you can do to encourage every customer to follow your appointment policy:
1. Put your policy front and center.
Before getting upset with customers who aren’t following your appointment policy, make sure people are aware of it. If your appointment policy is unclear or unposted, you can’t expect everyone to follow it.
Add your appointment policy to your website, social media, and the front door of your business. Print it in large, bold lettering that will be difficult to miss.
In case customers have questions about your policy, make sure they know who and how to ask. Include your phone number so customers can reach out to you directly.
2. Understand why violations occur.
So many problems can be solved simply by listening. Remember to take the time to communicate with your customers. Exercising empathy can help you connect with them and cultivate trust.
Through communication, you can discern why certain customers aren’t adhering to your appointment policy. Knowing is half the battle. The rest, of course, is explaining how the policy benefits everyone.
3. Explain the benefits.
One reason customers might not accept your appointment-only policy is because they don’t realize its importance. If you can convey the benefits in a way that resonates with them, they’re more likely to follow it.
An appointment-only policy means customers will experience shorter wait times. They won’t have to show up at your business early hoping for a spot; they just have to arrive in time to check in.
Plus, this policy lifts a burden off your employees. With walk-ins, workloads can be up and down. Trying to squeeze in last-minute requests can be stressful for your staff and cause problems for other customers.
4. Make it easy.
When making an appointment is a challenge, it’s no wonder customers would prefer to just drop in. If you find yourself struggling to get customers to make appointments, this may be your issue.
Making it easier to book appointments can be as easy as updating your website. Make your booking link large and easy to locate. A user-friendly interface with few steps will simplify the process. You can also allow customers to book appointments through a variety of channels, such as through social media sites or over the phone.
5. Walk them through the process.
When a customer walks through your doors without an appointment, you don’t want to turn them away. Rejecting customers doesn’t benefit anyone.
Instead, explain to them that customers with appointments get first priority. You can then walk them through the process of making their own appointment.
Walking them through the process might take some time, but it’s worth it. They’ll appreciate your willingness to help, and they won’t have an excuse for showing up without an appointment next time.
6. Add a waitlist.
Sometimes, customers want an appointment at a time you can’t honor. Instead of rejecting them outright or booting another customer from their slot, add them to a waitlist.
Waitlists provide the best of both worlds: Your customers may get the time they want, if another appointment falls through. And while it may not be at the customer’s ideal time, you’re able to book more work.
Waitlisting is also a way to reward customers who book early and through the proper channels. Next time, waitlisted customers will think ahead.
7. Incorporate walk-in hours.
There are some customers who simply are unable to commit to an appointment. Either their schedule is too hectic, or they don’t know in advance when they’ll need your services,
To avoid alienating these customers, add some walk-in hours. Consider restricting walk-ins to only the afternoon or morning to avoid throwing a wrench in your appointments.
The answer to customers ignoring your appointment policy shouldn’t be to throw in the towel. But accepting walk-ins on a limited basis could help you accommodate customers in tough situations.
8. Implement no-show consequences.
To effectively enforce an appointment-only policy, you need to be prepared to address cancellations and no-shows. If customers don’t keep their end of the commitment, the whole process can fall apart.
Make sure your no-show policy is strict enough to get customers to keep their appointments, but not too harsh as to turn them away. Something simple such as pre-payment or a deposit can encourage customers to fulfill their commitment because of the financial implications.
9. Make it worth their while.
Got some repeat offenders? Implementing incentives for booking appointments not only adds to your customer experience, but can also tempt new customers to give your business a try.
Consider offering a discount to customers who book in advance, as opposed to walking in. Even a small treat at the office, such as a free coffee or snack, could encourage customers to follow the rules.
Don’t let a couple of rebels discourage you from continuing your appointment policy. Get everyone on board, even if it means having some hard conversations.