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How to Make Cancellations Less Common

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How to Make Cancellations Less Common

We’ve all been there: You’ve waited all day for a meeting, only for the client to cancel at the last minute. Last-minute cancellations can throw a wrench in your day, and sometimes your whole week

While cancellations happen, they shouldn’t be frequent occurrences. To help you cut down on frustration and revenue loss, here are some ways to keep cancellations to a minimum:

Understand Why Clients Cancel 

Everyone needs to cancel an appointment on occasion. A pattern of cancellations, however, may indicate a business-wide issue. 

Try to get into the mind of your clients. Understand exactly what’s causing them to cancel. For example, do they have kids and can’t always find childcare? Is their schedule so packed they can only spare a few minutes of their day? Or, are they not able to afford your hourly rate?

Don’t get defensive. Recognize that you, not they, may need to change. 

If you suspect travel time is an issue, for instance, try implementing a teleconferencing tool. Allowing clients to book you at the click of a button can do wonders for retention. 

Create a Cancellation Policy

Implementing a cancellation policy is one of the best ways to ensure your clients show up both prepared and on time. This policy doesn’t have to be complex; in fact, it can be as simple as charging a small fee in case of a missed appointment. 

Imposing a small penalty will motivate your clients to show up to their appointments on time. More importantly, it will reduce the likelihood that they become chronic cancellers.

Encourage each new customer to review your terms and conditions. Ask them to sign a copy when they sign up for their first meeting. This document should include the charges for no-shows, the penalties for repeatedly missing appointments, and details on how far in advance you require rebooking before you levy a fee.

Don’t Schedule Too Far In Advance

You want to stay at the top of your client’s mind. Try to schedule appointments within a week from when you last spoke with a customer. Any further ahead, and your client may lose interest by the time their appointment rolls around.

Use “when,” not “if” questions: When in the next week can they meet? Approach the conversation with a handful of specific dates and times that work for you. Look for alignment in your availability and, if none exists, offer an alternative. 

Send Reminders 

We all have a lot on our mind these days. Reminders can cut through our mental clutter, but only if we use them strategically. 

Consider your customer base. If your clients are primarily Millennials, then go with text reminders. Baby Boomers and Silents may prefer a phone call or a voicemail message.

Regardless, make sure not to send out too many reminders. You want to tread the line of being proactive without being too overbearing. Try sending a reminder as soon as a client signs up for an appointment, and then another 48 hours before the scheduled time. 

Offer Self-Serve Rescheduling

Some clients may not show up to a scheduled appointment simply because they are too nervous to reschedule. They may not want to deal with a lengthy email exchange, much less wait on hold with your receptionist. 

Nip this in the bud with software that makes it easy for a client to reschedule their own appointment. Even if it doesn’t cut down on cancellations, such a system will, at the very least, save you time. 

Use Rewards to Your Advantage 

Reward any client who regularly shows up on time for their appointments. There are plenty of creative rewards you can implement, such as:

  • A modest discount or a service credit for a future appointment
  • A quarterly drawing for a gift card
  • Priority scheduling, especially during busy periods

These little perks come at a very low cost to you, but they can really drive home your commitment to punctuality to your customers. 

Missed appointments can mangle your bottom line and throw your schedule for a loop. The good news is, communication, creativity, and education are all you need to keep most clients from throwing in the towel. What’s not to love about that?

10 Reasons You Should Have a Calendar Cancellation Policy

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Your Appointment System Works for You. Does It Work for Your Clients?

Let me first start by saying, you should have a calendar cancellation policy.

Whether you use your calendar to book appointments with customers or schedule meetings with your team, last minute cancellations aren’t just frustrating. They’re also costly, time-consuming, and can throw your entire schedule out-of-whack. But, that’s just scratching the surface.

Here are the 10 reasons why should have a calendar cancellation policy and how to get started.

1. Protects your valuable time (and income).

Protecting your time is the main reason why you have any cancellation policy. Whenever someone cancels a meeting or appointment at the last minute that’s wasting your time. The actual block of time set aside for the event is essential, but you will also need time to prep and make sure your technology is ready for a virtual meeting. How infuriating is it to find out the meeting was canceled while you’re preparing to meet with them — and you weren’t informed?

Additionally, cancellations eat into your income. You would have spent this time working on work factors, like marketing and networking. That commute, if it was not a virtual meeting, has now eaten into your profit. If you’re in the service industry, you now have an open time slot where you’re not bringing in any money.

While emergencies happen, and they’re often unpredictable, they are rare. Cancellation policies encourage others to follow through with their commitments to you. For example, you could charge a fee for anyone who cancels within 24 hours. While this doesn’t address emergencies, this policy will help drastically reduce no-shows. Even if someone does have to cancel — at least you can recoup some time and it’s not a complete loss.

2. Reduces late arrivals.

Canceling a meeting or appointment is costly. However, so too are late arrivals since they’ve just pushed everything else on your calendar back. For instance, if a customer arrives 30 minutes late, that means all of your other customers are forced to wait. Tardiness will impact you, other clients and all of their schedules.

You could have an option where if the other party is late — let’s say by 10 minutes — then their time slot will be forfeited to someone else. If an employee is running late to a meeting, then they could be charged cash, budgets, or bonuses. Or, you could remove them from the meeting invite and proceed as planned. While you may be able to share the minutes with them, they could be missing out on crucial information and discussions — it also doesn’t give them the appearance of being a team player.

3. Gives you a chance to plug holes in your schedule.

The sooner someone cancels an appointment or meeting, the more opportunities you have to fill that time slot. For instance, you could generate a waiting list so that if a customer cancels the day before an appointment, you have someone that can be booked into that slot. Doing so is another way to protect your time and money.

What if you can’t fill the time slot? You could then rearrange your schedule so that you can finally get around to tasks that you’ve been putting off. Maybe you could use this time to clean out your inbox, organize your workplace, or do a little networking on social media. Even though you no longer have an appointment or meeting, at least your calendar can be filled with productive activities.

4. Holds everyone accountable.

When everyone knows that there are repercussions for missing a session or meeting, then they’re less likely to cancel at the last minute. These consequences could make accountability through cancellation fees. Another option would be a loss of privileges. For example, if a team member has rescheduled a meeting on several different occasions, they could be taken off the calendar invite.

In short, having a calendar cancellation policy keeps you, your employees, and customers on-track.

5. Establishes mutual respect.

In a perfect world, everyone who requests your time would honor that obligation. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world. While not always the norm some people believe that their time is more valuable than yours. As a result, they have no qualms in backing out on a meeting or appointment as they see fit.

Establishing a cancellation policy clearly sets expectations and lets them know that your time is just as precious as theirs. It informs them that you’re a professional whose expertise, knowledge and time should be respected. What’s more, it also lets them know that you will follow through with the commitment and are respectful of their time. As a consequence, this creates mutual respect and builds trust.

6. Allows you to vet others.

Whenever you add events to your calendar, you’re creating a document that you can refer to for future scheduling. For instance, you can generate recurring team meetings or appointments with customers. Even better, smart calendars that harness machine learning can automatically add these repeating events to your schedule.

However, there’s an added benefit. It maintains a record of canceling and rescheduling appointments. If you are aware that you have a client, customer, or employee who has a track record of rescinding appointments, then you can choose to no longer conduct business with them.

7. Lets you incentive regular attendance.

On the flip side, you can reward those who always honor their appointments with you. For example, if you have a customer who has never canceled a meeting then you could thank them with a discount on future services.

Not only will this show your gratitude, and reward them for their excellent behavior, but it will also encourage them to continue supporting your business. You may even notice that they schedule even more appointments than anticipated.

8. Adds flexibility.

We’ve all had one of these days when everything that could go wrong does. Instead of punishing people for something that was entirely out of their hands, you could be more empathetic.

Let’s say that a client got a flat tire while on their way to meet with you. You could have it in your policy that if there if is availability on the same they can book that time slot with you without any consequence. They’ll not only appropriate this courtesy, which builds rapport, but it also ensures that you’re still maintaining cash flow for that day.

9. Controls how others can share calendar information.

Using a shared calendar keeps everyone on the same page, avoids surprises, boosts productivity and manages workload, deadlines, tasks, and milestones. But, what if that shared calendar is no longer relevant?

For instance, your team just completed a project, or a team member is no longer with your organization? You can then remove their access to the shared calendar. It’s a simple way to avoid sharing the wrong information with the wrong people and controlling who has access to the information included in the calendar. Additionally, it eliminates any confusion regarding the shared calendar.

10. Ensures that you keep control of your schedule.

Finally, whenever someone commits to following your specific scheduling rules, you’re able to take full control of your schedule. That may not sound all that important. But, when you permit others to take charge of your time, it prevents you from addressing your priorities.

Setting your calendar cancellation policy.

If you’ve never created such a procedure, here’s what you should keep in mind when establishing your calendar cancellation policy:

Understand why and when most people cancel.

  • If someone cancels because of an emergency at the last minute, a fee will only make them more upset. At the same time, if people are missing a lot of appointments then consider if it’s on your end. A simple resolution could be sending them SMS or email reminders. I would track when people cancel so that you can identify patterns. Maybe a 24-hour reminder isn’t enough of a notice. In this situation, you start issuing reminder 2 or 3 days in advance.

Determine protocols.

  • Figure out if you will charge a cancellation fee and how much. Also, determine how much notice is required for a cancellation and rescheduling time slots.

Clearly state your policy.

  • It should be short, easy to understand, and include relevant information like a timeframe for cancellation and preferred communication methods.

Make sure the policy is visible.

  • Post your cancellation policy in your office and website. Include it in all documents. And, attach the policy to the reminders that you send.

Communicate the policy with your team.

  • You want to make sure that there is consistency. When your team isn’t on the same page, this can create confusion within your organization and customers.

Is your calendar public or private?

  • Regardless if you’re using an online calendar or appointment scheduling software or not — you can determine if you want your calendar to be shared publicly or privately. What’s more, you can control how much information you want to share. For example, there’s probably no need for everyone to know what your schedule is like outside of work. In this case, you would only want to share your work calendar.

Slice Your No-Show Rate With These 5 Tips

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appointment guide

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. 

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