It’s frustrating. Your client appointment schedule is finally booked for the week. Your office is ready and you’re mentally prepared for whatever the next patient brings to your table. So you wait…and wait. After 15 minutes you wonder if they’re even coming. After 30 you know they’re probably not. No phone call or email to give you a head’s up why they’re a no show. You feel disrepected and frustrated, for good reason.
What to do next? First, give your client the benefit of the doubt. Call and find out why they missed the appointment. If their mother/ spouse/ family member was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, that is a valid and understandable explanation. However, they should’ve contacted you and let you know they were not going to make the appointment. In such cases, it is reasonable to waive your no-show fee, if you charge one.
If your client “forgot” or had something else they “had to take care of,” but didn’t contact you to cancel, that’s not ok. It’s just plain disrespectful of your time. I once had a client who no-showed and when I called her 30 minutes into the appointment time, she told me, “I had to take my son shopping for school clothes. Sorry.” That was simply rude. She was a regular client and knew that we had an appointment scheduled that day. She just didn’t care enough to show up. I charged her my no-show fee and she paid it at her next appointment.
If you’re tired of clients not showing up when you’ve reserved time for them, here are 3 things you can to do minimize no-shows:
1. Create a No-Show Policy
Plain and simple, a no-show equates to loss of income for you, so you must have a cancellation and no-show policy in place for your business. I know, serving and caring for others is the heart of your business, but that doesn’t mean you need to let clients walk all over you. This is about others not respecting your boundaries. If you continually bend over backwards for clients and they repeatedly don’t show up, you won’t have a practice because you won’t be able to pay the rent.
So what does a no-show policy look like, and how do you communicate it to clients?
A good cancellation and no-show policy is straightforward and brief. Here’s an example (from a fellow practitioner’s website):
“24-hour advanced notice is required (via phone or email) for appointment cancellations, or client will be charged full session price. Exceptions may be made for illness or true emergencies on a case by case basis. We are all human, so one ‘oops’ is extended to each client at no charge.”
This statement, or a similar one, should be included on every new client intake form or client policies sheet that is signed and acknowledged by the client at their first appointment with you. The one-time ‘oops’ waiver is optional. If you allow it, only extend this courtesty once then charge the client the second time it happens.
Additionally, I used to include my cancellation and no-show policy on the back of my business cards, next to where I scribbled the date and time of the client’s next appointment (so they couldn’t miss it). see photo
2. Send out appointment reminders
Part of an effective no-show policy is providing your clients with appointment reminders a day or more in advance. This is optional, but if you do it, your client will have no excuse for not showing up or contacting you if they can’t make their scheduled time.
If you use an online scheduler, appointment reminders are easy because they’re automated. You can customize settings in the scheduler to send out appointment reminders for you via text or email to your clients a day or more in advance. This saves you time and many clients appreciate receiving the reminder.
Another approach (if you don’t use an online scheduler) is to call, email or text clients a reminder a day or two in advance of their appointments. This was my initial approach when I started my practice, but after several years I switched to an online scheduler because it saved me time.
Whichever method you choose, please note that appointment reminders are optional and something you may offer clients as a courtesy to them, and to minimize no-shows for you. You are in no way obligated to do this. Your client bears the burden of responsibility for showing up because they requested the appointment with you.
3. Enforce your No-Show Policy
Yes, I understand. It’s uncomfortable to stand up for yourself and hold your clients accountable. But enforcing your no-show policy is about more than that. It’s about setting healthy boundaries, and your response shows clients how you will or will not allow them to treat you. If you let them get away with disrespect, chances are they’ll do it again.
You can respectfully and clearly enforce your no-show policy. During or after the no-show appointment, call the offending client and restate your policy, “I require at least 24 hours notice to cancel or reschedule an appointment. This allows me enough time to offer the appointment to another client on my waiting list. Since you missed your appointment time and didn’t contact me in advance, I will have to charge you the $$ fee. Would you like to pay that now or at your next appointment? Great, when would you like to come in next?”
If your client is a decent human being, they will pay the fee. If they protest and don’t rebook, then they’re probably not the type of client you want anyway. If they do reschedule then no-show again, seriously consider if you want to continue working with them. It’s perfectly ok to fire clients who don’t respect you or your policies. If they call back to reschedule again, tell them you’re booked solid and can’t fit them in. Sorry. Their disrespect has cost you time and income, and they haven’t paid you a dime.
Part of running a successful practice (= running a business) is setting clear policies and holding fast to them. Don’t be afraid to establish a clear cancellation and no-show policy that works for you. Send appointment reminders as a courtesy and as insurance that clients will honor their scheduled appointment times.
Last but not least, summon the courage to enforce your no-show policy so that the clients you serve are the kind of people who respect you for the time and care you provide. Over time, establishing good boundaries will get easier and will be healthier for both you and your bottom line.
Images from pixabay.com
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