Building your schedule takes time and effort, and no one knows better than small business owners that time is money! 

Which is why last-minute cancellations and no-shows not only waste valuable time but cost you money. Last minute cancellations and no-shows are certainly rude and annoying, but you might not realize how much they hinder the bottom line. 

No-shows end up costing the U.S. healthcare system alone up to $150 billion a year, and an average of $200 per unused time slot. The average no-show rate stands at about 10-15% which for any business is nothing to ignore. 

So how do you get people to show up? Consistently?

We have compiled a list of tips to help you prevent no-shows and last minute cancellations, so you can get paid off instead of getting blown off.

Top tips to prevent no-shows and last minute cancellations

Develop a cancellation policy and stick to it

Some of you may already have a cancellation policy in place, but do you follow through with it? If not, now is the time to begin. 

It might be tempting to be lenient with customers who cancel last minute because you don’t want to damage your relationship with them. But the truth is that by canceling last minute or not showing up, these customers are proving that they do not value your time.

It is in your best interest to develop a cancellation policy and make it clear to customers that you will follow through with this policy! 

Of course, you can use your discretion. In certain situations, a no-show or late cancellation may be justified, but in most cases, by not enforcing your cancellation policy you are only hurting yourself.

What does a cancellation policy look like? 

Many businesses’ cancellation policies allow customers up to 24 hours before their appointment to either reschedule or cancel. This gives customers plenty of time to notify you that they will not be able to attend their scheduled appointment. 

If customers notify you less than 24 hours before the appointment, part of your last-minute cancellation policy should be charging a fee that will be added to the total amount of the service at their next appointment. The fee doesn’t have to be huge, $10 to $15 should get your message across.

However, if a customer no-shows without informing you, consider raising the fee. Asking no-shows to pay 25% of their previous appointment fee before a new appointment can be booked, is not unheard of. 

Part of your small business cancellation policy might include a point about lateness. For example, if a customer is more than 15 minutes late you might not be able to guarantee that they will be seen for their appointment. 

Make sure customers know about your policy before their appointment, so there is no confusion. 

On your website, have a page with your cancellation policy clearly stated. Upon booking an appointment, customers should also receive an email or notice with your cancellation policy. 

For no-show clients, speaking with them directly about your cancellation policy is a good idea to avoid future missed appointments or misunderstandings about fees.   

Send reminders 

We’re all human and sometimes we forget to manage our calendars and appointments, which is why a great way to reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations is to send customers appointment reminders.

The fact is that most businesses today do send reminders and many customers expect some form of appointment confirmation or reminder before their appointment. Not doing so could inadvertently lead to a higher number of no-shows.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to call up every individual customer to remind them of their appointment. 

You can set up automated appointment reminders to be sent out via email or text directly from your vcita dashboard.

As a general rule, it is best to set up a confirmation message that is sent when a customer first books an appointment. Then, depending on how far in advance the appointment is booked you can set up a reminder to go out a week before the appointment, and one final reminder 24 hours before.

Another tip is to include your cancellation policy, or a link to your cancellation policy, in your reminders.  

Get confirmation

Confirmation is a two way street. Customers want confirmation upon booking, and businesses want confirmation that customers will show up to their appointments.

The vcita platform includes a confirmation workflow when setting up your automated reminders, making the process of implementing them super easy. 

When sending out your reminders you should request confirmation from your customers that they will be able to make the appointment. Getting confirmation makes it clear that they saw your reminder and plan to come to the appointment.

Your confirmation messages should not only include your cancellation policy but a link so that clients can reschedule appointments if necessary. 

You don’t want clients to just cancel and forget about rebooking. This way clients can reschedule while it is on their minds, without you lifting a finger. 

If after confirming, a client still no-shows, you will feel even more validated when enforcing your cancellation policy. 

Take money upfront

Customers that no-show might not care about your business losing money, but you can bet on the fact that they don’t want to waste their own money. Which is why requiring customers to put down a deposit when booking an appointment is a great way to reduce no-shows and last minute cancellations. 

Taking money upfront shows customers that your time is valuable, and makes you look very professional! 

In addition to your cancellation policy, think of a deposit as an insurance policy. In the unfortunate case of a no-show or last minute cancellation, you will at least receive the deposit as compensation. 

If you are concerned that taking money upfront will be confusing to keep track of, you can use vcita’s deposit feature to help. 

Upon booking a service on vcita, customers will be asked to put down a deposit that will be deducted from the final cost later. No extra math required!

Offer a discount for paying upfront

If losing their deposit is a deterrent for customers to cancel last minute, imagine how they will behave if the price of the entire service is on the line. 

Getting customers to pay the entire bill before they even step foot in your establishment is a surefire way to reduce cancellations and no-shows, but how can you get them to do so?

Offering discounted payments, of course! 

This is truly a win-win situation. Customers love a good deal, and you will feel reassured that no matter what, you will get paid. 

Find trends and act accordingly

Pay attention and take action! If you find that there is a specific time of day or month that cancellations spike, try to figure out the reason. 

Ask your customers what the best time is for them to schedule with you. You might need to change your hours to fit your customers’ availability.

If you see something, say something! If you find that one customer is canceling excessively, reach out to them to try and see if there is anything you can do to better accommodate them. 

Make it easy for clients to book

The easier it is for clients to make an appointment, the higher the chances they will. To reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows, give your customers as many options as possible for scheduling.

Not everyone likes to talk on the phone, which is why offering an online scheduling option is a must. Online scheduling also makes it easy for small businesses that don’t want to spend unnecessary time on administrative tasks.

Say goodbye to double-booking and calendar mix-ups with vcita. The online scheduling feature on vcita makes the process seamless for both the client and the business.

Encourage showing up 

Positive encouragement is everything. Make sure your clients know how much you appreciate them showing up by letting them know!

This can be done verbally, but a little gift never hurt nobody. Consider implementing a rewards program or discount for customers who consistently come on time. 

Offer great services

Customers look forward to services that they love. By offering quality services, last minute cancellations and no shows will dwindle on their own.

Form personal relationships with your clients so they won’t want to let you down by canceling or not showing up if they can help it. 

Have a waiting list in case someone cancels

One way to quell the disappointment of a late cancellation or no-show is by filling the appointment with another customer. 

Setting up a waiting list will allow customers to put their names down on a preferred date, even if it is booked, in case something opens up. 

Wait lists are great for individual services, but they can also be used if you offer group events. Often events get filled up quickly when they are first advertised, but as the date approaches, it is not uncommon for some people to drop out.  

To fill these spots easily, vcita offers a waitlist feature for group events. In the case of a cancellation, people on the waitlist will be automatically informed of an opening. 

Eliminate no shows and cancellations

No-shows and cancellations are a part of life. It’s not you, it’s them! 

That being said, there are ways to prevent no-shows and cancellations. 

With platforms like vcita that do most of the heavy lifting, implementing effective scheduling and reminder systems is a sinch. Once you do so, the days of last minute cancellations and no-shows will be those of the past. 

With our tips in mind, you can say goodbye to getting ghosted once and for all!