Whether you’re working in the beauty or fitness industry, every service professional’s been there: you arrive at work and take stock of the day’s schedule. You’re fully booked, and you’re waiting for the day to start, ready to greet your first client. And you keep waiting. Maybe the phone rings, and it’s your client, cancelling 15 minutes after their appointment was scheduled to start. Now, you’re left scrambling. Even with your waitlist enabled, it’s often too late to re-book the newly vacant spot. Now, you’re left in an impossible position: do you enforce your cancellation and no-show policy, and risk losing the client, or do you simply take the hit to your daily income?

Every day, service professionals navigate the delicate balance between the client’s need for flexibility and their business’s need for security. While there’s no cure-all for cancellations and no-shows, there are ways to minimize and manage them professionally. Deposits are a way to help curtail no-shows and last-minute cancellations, secure partial payment for services booked in advance, and avoid uncomfortable client situations.

Know How Much Cancellations and No-Shows Cost Your Business

Most small businesses are aware of how no-shows and cancellations impact their operations. But when was the last time you sat down with the data to quantify the weekly, monthly, or annual effect of suspended appointments? To address no-shows and cancellations and then craft a business policy that benefits your long-term goals, the first step to take is running a cancellation and no-show report. To start, run a separate report to track weekly, monthly, and annual statistics. From there, you can drill down the numbers to identify trends and patterns. Here are some points to consider when reviewing your no-show and cancellation report.

  • What do cancellations and no-shows cost your business every week? Month? Year?

  • Is there a certain day of the week or time of day that’s a “hot spot” for cancellations and no-shows?

  • Is there an employee who gets more cancellations or no-shows than other members of your team?

  • Are less-established, newer, or less-expensive employees getting more no-shows and cancellations than established employees and team members who charge more for services?

  • Are the same clients consistently cancelling or abandoning their appointments?

Establish Clearly-Defined Cancellation Policies

The first step to reducing the number of no-shows and cancellations with your business is to create a clearly-defined business policy. The next step is to make certain your client base is aware of this policy. Post your cancellations policy prominently on your website and your Vagaro booking page. Devote a dedicated page to your policy or include a short version of your policy in the footer script on every page of your website. When booking new clients, include your cancellations policy as part of the text of your automated appointment confirmations. Include the policy again in the text of your automated appointment reminders. When sending marketing emails or business notifications to your established clients, always include your cancellations and no-show policy in the text or footer of the message.

Make Deposits Part of Your Plan

Deposits are a means of ensuring good-faith bookings. After all, a client is less likely to shrug off their appointment without providing the requisite notice if they’ve already made a financial investment. Deposits benefit your individual service professionals, as well as the overall business, in several ways. First, an upfront deposit for bookings demonstrates that you take your business and its longevity seriously—which causes the customer to do the same. Deposits place a monetary value on the time a client reserves for their service or class. This, in turn, gets the client more invested in keeping the appointment. After all, you wouldn’t leave a store without merchandise you’d paid for! Next, having already made a partial payment for an appointment makes the client less likely to simply cancel the appointment. Because their deposit has already been paid upfront, rather than forfeit that payment, clients are more apt to provide adequate notice and re-schedule the appointment. That keeps money in your pocket, and clients on the books! Finally, deposits have another unsung advantage: they have a natural way of filtering out flaky clients. While having fewer clients on the books may seem like a disadvantage, refer to the reports you’ve run. Then consider whether losing a client who consistently cancels appointments is worth keeping—or whether you’d rather keep that spot available for reliable clients.  

Keep clients on the books and money in your pockets with deposits!

Header Image: Mia Montemayor via Vagaro

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