Do you feel frustrated when your customers cancel at the last minute or just don’t show up at all? You’re not alone. Studies show that average no-show rates can be as high as 30%, depending on your type of business. That’s a lot of missed appointments! The good news is: You can take steps to prevent no-shows and cancellations. We’ll show you how. But first, let’s explore why people don’t make it to their appointments and why that’s bad for business.

Why do People Miss Appointments?

There are a variety of reasons why people fail to show up. Do you recognize at least one of these clients?

  • the crisis maker: always misses appointments due to unforeseen drama
  • the busy bee: too much going on to show up
  • the confused one: got the date wrong – again!
  • the commitment phobic: always cancels at the last minute
  • the dreamer: forgot she had an appointment – oops!
  • the indifferent one: simply doesn’t care if you’re left hanging

To be fair, some no-shows and cancellations can’t be helped. Emergencies and calendar mix ups happen. However, you want to do everything in your power to make sure your customers show up. Let’s explore why it’s so important to prevent broken appointments.

Photo by energepic

Why Missed Appointments are Bad for Business

Image that every week you’ve got about 4 customers who miss their appointments. No big deal, right? Think again! At an average price of $65 per appointment this means you’ll lose $260 per week and $13,520 per year. Ouch! The cost of missed appointments could easily drag your profits down to zero.

That’s why you should create a system that reduces no-shows and cancellations. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Establish a Cancellation and No-show Policy

Train your customers on how they should treat you. The first step to laying down the law consists in putting a cancellation policy down in writing. Have a client agree to the rules BEFORE you start working together!

Here’s how to craft your cancellation policy. Ask yourself:

  • Am I going to establish a penalty for no-shows and late cancellations?
  • Should I charge the full service cost as a penalty or only a portion?
  • What’s a reasonable advance notice for a cancellation?
  • Should I automatically refund pre-paid appointments after someone cancels?

It’s a good idea to give customers at least one opportunity to miss an appointment without penalty. Sometimes, people have a legitimate reason for breaking an appointment. Your goal should be to stop people from consistently showing up late or not at all.

Once you’ve decided on your cancellation policy, set up Vagaro’s Online Appointment Rules, so your system is in sync with your rules.

  1. Educate Staff and Customers about your Cancellation Policy

You’ve decided what the rules are. Now it’s time to display the cancellation policy so that EVERYONE can see it:

  • on your website
  • in your shop
  • in your appointment confirmations

Make sure that you and your staff explain the policy to each customer. This will avoid misunderstandings and complaints such as “But I didn’t know you charged a penalty!”

It also helps to share how no-shows cause you financial and psychological stress. Get customers to see the problem from your perspective so they buy into your rules. Here’s what to say when someone calls in to cancel:

“Oh no, Susan will be soo disappointed! She reserved this time just for you. Is there any way at all you can keep your appointment? She won’t be able to fill your time slot this late…”

“Sally had to turn other clients away today to be able to fit you in. Are you sure you can’t make it in time for your appointment?”

  1. Develop Strong Relationships with your Customers

When customers feel valued they are less likely to miss appointments. Give them great service every time they book you and stay in touch between appointments. Email customers birthday wishes and helpful newsletters. Keep the dialogue alive via social media. There are year-around opportunities to make your clients feel special.

  1. Keep Customer Credit Cards on File

How about asking customers to put a credit card on file in order to book an appointment? This allows you to charge a penalty whenever someone misses their appointment. Be prepared: Some customers will get upset and may dispute a cancellation fee. That’s why preventing no-shows and cancellations is even more important than setting up a solid cancellation policy.

  1. Set up an Appointment Notification System

Appointment reminders are instrumental in preventing a significant amount of missed appointments. With Vagaro you can send out automatic email, text, and push appointment notifications to your customers. They can then choose how they prefer to receive their notifications.

To define your notification process ask yourself:

  • Should I send appointment details to my customers right after they book me?
  • How many days before the appointment should I schedule appointment reminders?
  • Should I ask customers to confirm appointments?

Setting up your notifications  in Vagaro only takes a few minutes. Keep your customer list updated, so you always send your messages to the correct phone number and email address.

  1. Get Prepaid

We’re all more likely to turn up for an appointment if we’ve already spent money on it. Ask your customers to prepay for services and watch them show up every time.

  1. Always have a Plan B

Start putting clients on a waitlist so you can quickly and systematically replace no-shows and last-minute cancellations. Pick waitlisted customers right from your booking calendar to quickly replace lost appointments.

  1. Make Attempts to Reschedule

When customers call to cancel, instead of saying “That’s ok..” suggest rescheduling the appointment. This teaches them that the appointment represents an important commitment.

Photo by freepik

Manage Repeat Offenders

Oh no, your most unreliable customer has just booked another appointment! Now what? Did you know that Vagaro allows you to prevent risky customers from booking time slots? Use your Online Appointment Rules to specify the number of no-shows or cancellations that someone can have before the system automatically requires your approval to make an appointment final.

If you eventually decide to stop working with some of your most unreliable customers, issue a clear warning before doing so. If that fails to work, politely explain that missed appointments cost you time and money, which is why you can no longer see them.

Track No-shows and Cancellations

If you’re not already tracking your no-shows and cancellations, start doing so now:

  • Run reports on no-shows and cancellations to help you spot cancellation trends and identify problem customers.
  • Keep appointment notes about cancellations to discover why specific clients are missing appointments. Detailed notes on problem clients will help you decide if it’s time to let them go.

A Final Word about Protecting your Time

Every day, you have a limited amount of time to provide a valuable service to your customers. You need to protect that limited resource – not just because wasting it affects your bottom line, but because you want to provide loyal customers the best service you can offer.

Focusing on your needs and the needs of those customers who value your services will help you stick to your new cancellation policy and help you reclaim the energy and passion you need to provide a superior customer experience.


Good luck!

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Header image by Guilherme Petri.