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How to Deal with Last Minute Booking Cancellations

Daena Skinner
September 28, 2022
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This post is also available in: French

Is there anything worse than clients cancelling their appointment last minute? Unfortunately, for any business, this is a common situation which can become frustrating for the business owner. It worsens when customers don’t show up without cancelling the appointment.

Such a situation is not only a loss of money due to the customer not showing up but also a loss of valuable time. For small businesses, this can be detrimental to the survival of their business. So, how do you deal with last-minute cancellations and no-shows?

1. Make a Cancellation Policy

A cancellation policy is essential for any business that deals with appointments and bookings for them to be profitable. Without a cancellation policy, your business is vulnerable to customers cancelling at the last minute without penalty. 

When making a cancellation policy, you should set a period in which customers can cancel the appointment or booking within, without facing a charge. This period should be set to how long it would take you to find another customer, but this also depends on the nature of your business. For example, a wedding photographer’s cancellation policy will differ significantly from a nail technician’s. A wedding photographer can take months to find another customer as couples book weddings so much in advance, whereas a nail technician may take only 72 or 48 hours to find a replacement customer.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

2. Deposits

A crucial part of cancellation policies is enforcing it on your clients. This can easily be done by taking non-refundable deposits to confirm the booking. Taking payment beforehand is one of the best ways to ensure your clients show up, as not many people want to lose their money. 

Charging deposits reduces no-shows because customers feel more obligated to turn up. There are a few options for payments; either a deposit which is usually a percentage of the service cost or you can charge a flat rate deposit. Alternatively, you can get the total payment upfront, which may be easier than dealing with it after the service. 

3. Share the Cancellation Policy

Once you have made your cancellation policy, the next step is to share it with your clients. This means displaying it on your booking page and website and adding it as a pinned post to your social media. You should also include the cancellation policy when sending booking confirmations and reminders. If you have a physical store, it’s a good idea to post it at the cash register.

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4. Send Reminders

Reminders play a vital role in your clients showing up to their bookings. Even more so when the appointment was booked in advance. But how you send reminders to your clients also plays a role in them turning up.

Depending on how the customer made the booking through which channel is how you should contact them with a reminder. For example, if the client booked through Instagram direct message, you should send their appointment reminder the same way. The issue with that is that there are so many different ways customers can book with you, making it difficult to keep track of which client booked through which channel.

A solution is to use a booking page where all your bookings are in one straightforward place; you simply put your available slots, and then customers can choose which one they want to book. The admin of the booking website can automatically send reminders through the booking page by email or SMS at the chosen period before the appointment – whether it’s two days before or an hour before.

5. Promote Last-minute Cancellation Spots

In the case that there are last-minute cancellations, there is still the possibility of promoting the cancellation spot on your website and social media sites. It had happened to me before that my nail technician posted a last-minute cancellation for that day on her Instagram page, and I was available, so I switched my appointment.

Promoting it on social media is one way to get the spot filled, especially if your services are busy and there is a high demand for appointments. A waiting list is perfect for those businesses with high demand for appointments. Clients can book appointments but ask to be added to the waiting list if there are any cancellations for a quicker appointment.

Another option if you are less in demand is to offer a discount for that last-minute appointment. If someone has been thinking to book your services, this may tip them to try you out at a discounted rate. It’s worth a try, right?

Obviously, these options depend on the industry and the type of work that you do. As mentioned before, a nail technician is more likely to get a cancellation spot filled last minute than a wedding photographer due to the nature of their work.

Last Words

Although last-minute cancellations can be frustrating, they can still happen occasionally. Luckily there are ways in which you can prevent it from happening as much. 

Implementing a cancellation policy, sending appointment reminders to your clients and taking deposits or upfront payments can incline your clients to follow through with their bookings.

If a last-minute cancellation occurs, promote it on your social media or ask your waiting list to book the slot.

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