It’s not just you: Cancellations and no-shows are time-wasting issues at every service company.
Missed appointments cost the healthcare industry alone $150 billion dollars a year. With those stakes, you can’t just accept frequent cancellations and no-shows.
You may not be in charge of your client’s schedules, but there are ways to significantly reduce cancellations without upsetting or alienating customers. Take a look at the following ways to do just that:
1. Check for a common cause.
If you see a spike in cancellations, it doesn’t mean that your customers are careless or inconsiderate. There are plenty of other reasons that could be to blame, such as:
- Customers have issues with your scheduling system that they don’t know how to articulate.
- Your hours of operation have recently changed.
- You aren’t sending out appointment reminders.
- External circumstances, such as the pandemic, are keeping customers away
To get to the root of the issue, reach out to your customers. If they cancel by phone, you can simply ask them. If they cancel on scheduling software, you can provide a portal that lets them check their reason among common ones or provide their own.
Get data from at least a dozen customers before taking any action. You may need to readjust your availability, send stronger reminders, or provide incentives like discounts to get customers in the door.
2. Default to self-service scheduling.
Having a centralized scheduling software for your company can save you time, not to mention the headaches that come with cancellations. Unless clients request otherwise, ask them to book appointments themselves online.
With self-scheduling, customers can:
- Schedule appointments at any time.
- Choose times that work best for them.
- Reschedule appointments.
- Sign up for waitlists.
Customers crave autonomy. Even if something comes up at a time they schedule, they’re much more likely to reschedule if they can handle it themselves.
When that happens, scheduling software helps you shift your own plans. There might be a waitlisted person ready to take their place, for example.
3. Institute a cancellation policy.
A strong policy can deter cancellations. Just the mention of “policy” can get customers to take your time more seriously.
A cancellation policy is an opportunity to let your clients know how cancellations and no-shows affect your business. Done right, it can help them understand their role in your success.
What should your cancellation policy include? Outline a preferred time frame for cancellations as well as a method for notifying your company. Within a certain number of days of the cancelled appointment, a fee may apply.
Once you create a cancellation policy, be sure to let your clients know about it. Revisit it quarterly, and again make sure clients are abreast of any changes you make.
4. Require payments beforehand.
If you’ve already paid for an appointment, you are incentivized to actually make it. That’s why prepayments can be a lifesaver when it comes to reducing cancellations and no-shows.
Clients don’t have to pay the full price for the appointment, either. You can charge a deposit beforehand and bill the remaining balance at the time of service.
What if clients want to pay afterward? Offer that option to reliable customers. Treat it as an additional incentive for them to make their appointments.
5. Enhance your customer experience.
One reason that you might be getting frequent cancellations is that customers simply are not excited about the experience you offer. A stronger experience not only reduces no-shows, but it also attracts more customers in the first place.
Maybe the issue is ho-hum customer service. Perhaps your clients worry that they will wait too long to be seen once they arrive at your office. These are the kinds of mistakes that spur negative conversations about your company, causing others to second-guess their appointments.
It’s critical to create the sort of environment where customers feel welcomed. Instead of dreading their appointment, they ought to be excited for it. Signs that you’ve got it right include positive feedback and early arrivals.
Cancellations happen, but they should not get to a point where they make you sweat. You have more control over cancellations than you think. The key is solving them in ways that put the customer first.