How To Stop Appointment No Shows [updated]
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
You have an appointment in 15 minutes. You've taken the time to get ready, set everything up, and you've bought a fresh set of supplies to make a good first impression on the client.
But, there's one problem, 15 minutes rolls around, then 30, then 45, then an hour. Where are they? You've called, texted, and emailed them... no answer. It becomes apparent that they aren't going to show up. Did you do something wrong? You touched base with them a few days ago and all was good.
Regardless, they didn't show up, you wasted your time and money getting ready for nobody. If they had just let you know that something came up, you could've had someone come in during that time or, at the very least, you wouldn't have spent that time preparing.
No shows are extremely frustrating, especially when you've taken the time to set up for them beforehand. But, beyond the frustration, it may not be super clear how no shows can hurt your business down the road and why you need to stop them ASAP.
No Shows May Be Severely Hurting Your Business
At first, one or two no shows may not appear to hurt your business in any significant way, but over a prolonged period of time it begins to take a toll both on your business and customers.
It may not be apparent why no shows have an affect on other customers, but they most definitely do (discussed more below). Along with that, other places within your business can be hurt if people continuously don't show up.
1) Your Productivity Is Damaged
Aside from the frustration of a customer not showing up to an appointment, it comes with many other downsides. When a customer doesn't show up, you then have to take care of rescheduling, cancellation fees (if you enforce those), and potentially a discussion with the customer about consequences of persisting no shows.
But as you're doing that, you are taking time away from the more important tasks within your business. Rescheduling an appointment, that was supposed to take place that day, won't grow your business any faster.
Not to mention, that time you had allocated to the customer was completely wasted because they didn't show up. You could've been working with other customers or growing the business, but rather it was spent waiting around for a customer who, in the end, forgot about the appointment.
2) You Quickly Begin To Lose Precious Revenue
No shows are expensive, though it may not seem like it in the moment, they can quickly add up. Every person that doesn't show up is money not earned.
For example, if you have 5 customers that don't show up that day, and each appointment was worth $100 to your business. You've lost $500 that day alone. Multiply that across 1 month (30 days), that brings you to $15,000 in losses or $14,200 in losses if you don't work weekends!
If that stayed consistent, that could REALLY hurt your business. With that amount of money, you could have grown your business significantly or drastically improved your customer satisfaction. And just think, those losses could grow proportionally to the size of your business. The larger you are, the more you could lose to no shows.
3) The Rest Of Your Customers Are Affected
When it comes to scheduling appointments, everything becomes dependent on one another. If one appointment runs long, the next is pushed later and so on. No shows can do the exact same thing, if you are waiting around for a customer to show up, you may end up shifting your entire schedule for the day.
This can get especially tricky if that customer shows up late. If you offer normal services to a person who was, lets say, 30 minutes late to an appointment, this can affect the rest of your schedule and customers.
When you have a person on the calendar for one time, and they end up waiting an extra 10 - 15 minutes, you can bet they won't be impressed with your service. It is important that you have a plan in place for scenarios like these. In some cases, it may be best that you have a policy in place that deals with customers who are very late.
For example, if someone is 30 minutes late to an appointment that is expected to last 1 hour. It may be in your best interest to reschedule that appointment, versus proceeding with the normal service.
Keeping customer satisfaction high is critical for all types of businesses, but no shows aren't the only thing that can hurt their satisfaction. Sometimes the reason why a customer isn't satisfied isn't 100% apparent at first, so SalesForce wrote a post on how to expose those rough areas in your business.
4) No Shows Ultimately Slow Business Growth
Tying back to the revenue example. On average, a no show is worth $196 to a small business and as discussed above, it can add up quickly. With all that money lost, your business may not have the capital to grow and expand. It can quickly become a struggle to grow your business without pulling from your personal savings, which is not ideal for most people.
Along with the lost revenue, you now have new tasks that need to get done, such as rescheduling the appointment, handling cancellation fees, etc. Which will all take away from the time you can spend strategically growing and expanding your business.
How To Stop Appointment No Shows
Ok, now the question of the day, "How do I stop customers from no showing?" Well, first you have to break down why this is happening. When you schedule an appointment 1 - 2 weeks ahead time, many things can happen during that time period. So, if you look at why people don't show up, more often than not, they've forgotten about the appointment.
If no shows happen because people forget about later commitments, then how do I fix this?
Use Reminders To Curb No Shows
99% of the time, a no show is caused simply because someone forgot about the appointment. Fortunately though, that makes it easy for you to solve the problem. This can easily be fixed by sending your customers a friendly reminder ahead of time.
When sending appointment reminders, you have two options. You can either send them by hand or you could implement a software product that can send reminders automatically. We'll talk about both.
1) Sending reminders by hand
When it comes to sending reminders, doing it by hand isn't the most efficient way of doing things. You have to remember, write, and send every single reminder yourself. But, if you are a small business with only a few active customers, then this should do the trick until you get a bit larger.
One true downfall is having to do it by hand. This means if you forget to send the appointment reminder, your customer never receives one. It is completely dependent on you to do all the heavy lifting.
2) Sending automatic appointment reminders (recommended)
Using a software product to automatically manage, remember, and send your reminders, is by far the easiest and most efficient way of doing things. If your business is continuously growing, implementing an automatic reminders strategy is the best way to eliminate your no show problem.
The best part is, you don't need to worry about sending them. Software products like these send reminders automatically without you having to think about it.
Implement a Pre-payment Policy
When it comes to cutting down on your no show rates, this is definitely near the top for being the most effective.
People hate when they spend money on a service, but aren't able to reap the benefits of that service they paid for. So, when scheduling an appointment, if you were to require an upfront payment, you instantly capture more of their attention. This requires them to put skin in the game, making them much more likely to show up.
A downside to this would be that people don't get too excited about the idea of upfront payments. So, if you were to do this, you would need to be 100% transparent on why you do this.
Many of their rebuttals can easily be solved by answering their questions.
Some questions that might arise:
What is your no show fee?
What happens if I cancel the appointment?
What happens if I reschedule the appointment?
Just be sure that when you do implement a policy like this, you are completely transparent and open to questions.
Put a Maximum On Waiting Room Times
In the event that a customer doesn't show up or shows up late to their appointment, what do you do? You never want to keep other customers waiting, so how should you handle this scenario?
Customers showing up late to an appointment
This can be especially frustrating, because depending on how late they show up, it could affect all your customers coming later (as discussed earlier in the post). Scenarios like this are best solved by putting limits on waiting times.
For example, if your customer is 30 minutes late to a one hour appointment. Now would be a good time to enforce that policy. In cases like this, you have to ask yourself, how late can they be before I have to sacrifice the quality of my work to perform the service within the scheduled time?
Also, as I briefly mentioned, if a customer is late enough that it would affect other customers, then do not take them at that time. Offer to reschedule for a different date, but don't sacrifice the other customer's satisfaction.
What to do when a customer shows up after the maximum late period
Stand your ground, politely. If a customer shows up late, past the point of taking them in, then do not give in. Politely tell them "I'm sorry, but I can't take you right now." After that, offer to reschedule for a later date (preferably as soon as possible).
Customers no showing
If a customer doesn't show up at all, then you can either get ahead of schedule and take the next customer, or you can proceed with the schedule as usual. Typically, you could consider them a no show after being 30 - 45 minutes late (to a one hour appointment). But, once again, that maximum late period will most likely come into play.
After that, if you would like to try and reschedule the no show customer, then you can follow up with them later (more on that in a second).
Reward Customers Who Consistently Show Up On Time
This should be handled as if you were teaching a young kid to behave. You teach good behaviour with rewards, not punishments. With that said, if you notice that a customer is constantly on time, then you could give them a small perk to reward good behaviour.
It sounds childish, but when it comes to making sure you aren't wasting time or money, why should that matter?
Follow Up - "Sorry We Missed You..."
Finally, if a customer doesn't show up and you still want to offer your services, then it's time to follow up with them. The best way to go about this is to be extremely polite and understanding.
If you come off as if you're holding a grudge against the last appointment, then you can say goodbye to their business.
To be completely fair, 99% of the time, a no show is simply caused by someone forgetting about the appointment. If it's happened numerous times, then that may be a different story, it may even be time to let the customer go, but for most part it's accidental.
At the end of the day, the goal of eliminating no shows can be easily achieved with some form of reminder strategy. Whether you use automated reminders or send them by hand, this can easily curb the spawn of new no shows.
When a no show does occur, just remember to be understanding, most of the time it is an accident. But, don't keep all your customers waiting if someone is running late. Put policies in place and stick to them, that way you aren't hurting the satisfaction of your other customers just to make one happy.
It's also important to keep in mind that, if one of your customers is consistently late or doesn't show up. Then it's time to consider letting them go. Is it really worth all the hassle and frustration just to keep them on board? If you don't like working with them, then you don't have to, let them go so new customers can join.