Everyone in the service industry—particularly in beauty and fitness industries—has had to deal with a cancellation or no-show at some point. No-shows and last-minute cancellations are one of the most difficult situations you’ll face in your career as an independent service provider. No-shows and last-minute cancellations literally take money out of your pocket! But it’s important to balance that reality with the ability to show clients empathy—after all, schedule mix-ups and unforeseen emergencies happen. Whether you’re a stylist or trainer just starting your career or you’re already established, it’s important to review and adjust your shop policies regularly. Here’s how to place a value on your time without the risk of losing clients who need to cancel.

Your Time is Valuable

Consider the creation of a no-show and cancellation policy as an investment in your business. Whether you’re the owner of the business, an employee, or you’re a booth renter or other independent service provider, each time slot on your schedule represents part of your income. And because your income is tied to your calendar, that means that your time is valuable. Not just in terms of the services you provide to customers, but to your livelihood. That means that creating a policy for no-shows and late cancellations is critical to your income.

No-Shows and Late Cancellations Hurt Your Income

Anyone who’s ever waited 10… 15… 30… minutes for an appointment to arrive knows well the sinking feeling of each passing minute. Most service professionals leave clients a lateness buffer of 10-15 minutes. That means that by the time you realize a client isn’t showing up for their appointment, sometimes it’s too late to re-book the time slot. For example, if your waitlist feature is enabled and a client doesn’t show up for a 45-minute session, a waitlisted customer still wouldn’t have enough time to arrive in time to take advantage of the opening. For longer appointments, you might still be able to use your waitlist to re-book the slot, but for shorter appointments, the waitlist wouldn’t help you offset the lost revenue. Likewise, for most service professionals, a same-day cancellation simply doesn’t provide you enough lead time to re-book the opening. And for a booth renter, that means not only are you not making money during that empty appointment time—you’re paying for that empty slot, too!

Use Reports to Understand the Impact of Cancellations

Vagaro’s reporting tool allows you to run a report to quantify the economic impact of late cancellations and no-shows. Once you’ve run a report of cancellations and no-shows, you can easily calculate the lost revenue. This number can help you in creating a no-show and late cancellation policy based on measurable data. For instance, if your report shows the same customers cancelling or no-showing, you might adjust your online booking requirements to prevent future occurrences with these clients.

Shop Policies: A Balancing Act

When creating your cancellation/no-show policy, it’s important to be as neutral and professional as possible in your wording and tone. This is particularly true when you interact with customers who have no-showed or cancelled late. Here, it’s important to not be accusatory, and to use terms like “clients,” instead of “you.” While establishing a boundary, a rule, and a consequence for not abiding to the rule, it’s equally important not to alienate your clients.

Sample Script

“Acme Studios values our customers and their busy schedules. As such, we have strict policies for no-shows and cancellations. We require 24 hours advance notice of cancellation, to protect both our service professionals and to provide waitlisted clients the opportunity to book new openings. Except in cases of unavoidable emergencies, late cancellations (cancellations with less than 24 hours notice) and no-shows (cancellations without any notification) will be charged a percentage of the listed service price of the missed appointment. Clients who have had more than one no-show appointment may be required to pay a deposit on future bookings to secure their appointment. We understand that life is hectic, and that mix-ups and emergencies happen. We request that where possible, you show both our service professionals and other clients the same courtesies you’d expect for your appointment. You can notify us of a cancellation or rebook your appointment through our Vagaro booking page or leave a voicemail and we’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you for your business—we can’t wait to see you again!”

Abbreviated Sample Script

“Acme Studios has a strict cancellation and no-show policy. We require a 24 hour advance notice of cancellations and charge a percentage of the listed service price for missed appointments and appointments cancelled with less than 24 hours advance notice. For full details on our shop policy, please visit our CANCELLATION & NO-SHOW policy page or refer to your appointment confirmation.”

Creating Awareness and Enforcing Cancellation and No-Show Policies

Once you’ve settled on your cancellations and no-show policy terms, it’s important to make sure clients are aware of those policies. Here’s how to ensure that clients understand not only that your business has these policies, but the reasons behind them, and how they’ll be administered.

Best Practices

  • Include an abbreviated version of your business no-show and cancellation policy in the footer of your website, so that it’s prominently displayed on every page of your website.

  • When scheduling new clients, send your cancellation policy as a form that requires acknowledgement before booking a service or class. You can also add a form to your website to increase acknowledgement of your policies for customers booking online.

  • For fitness centers, you can include your cancellation and no-show policy along with your onboarding paperwork for new memberships.

  • Incorporate a shortened version of your policy to the automated appointment confirmation notification and appointment reminder notifications.

  • Include an abbreviated version of the business policy in all marketing communications, Daily Deals, marketing campaigns, and promotions.

  • If a client doesn’t show up or cancels without providing the required notice, alert them in writing that per the policy they agreed to when booking the reservation, a cancellation fee will be applied to their account.  

  • Copy and paste all communications with your clients (social media messages, text messages, emails, etc.) to the Customer Notes section of your client profiles, so that you’ll have a date and time-stamped timeline of the missed appointment.

  • Understand that even with a clearly stated, prominently displayed cancellation and no-show policy, some customers who are charged the stated fee may contest it through a chargeback. Having easily accessed, comprehensive documentation of the appointment, confirmations, reminder notifications, and any other customer communications in the client’s Customer Notes file will help you contest a chargeback.

  • For clients who have had multiple late cancellations or no-shows, you can tailor your online booking requirements to minimize the risk of future cancellations by requiring your acceptance or a deposit for future bookings.

As the busy holiday season approaches, make sure that your clients understand how important it is to provide adequate notice of cancellations. It’s never been a better time to review your shop policies, and then send out a holiday pre-booking marketing campaign that reminds customers of your shop policies. Vagaro makes it easier to manage client relationships, so if you’re not already booking with us, get signed up today and try us free for a month!

Header Image: Mia Montemayor via Vagaro

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