John, as our busiest season is quickly approaching, time is money. How can I help to eliminate my no-shows and last-minute cancellations, and should I charge for no-shows?
In the beauty and wellness industry, no shows and last-minute cancellations are a frustrating occurrence that affects your time, revenue, and client relationships. As a service provider, your time is your livelihood. It’s important to not only create a culture at your salon or spa where your clients respect your team, but also an efficient process to reduce lost time and profits. Lastly – there’s always the big question: Should you charge for no shows? I’ll touch upon that after discussing important steps to greatly reduce the amount of clients who don’t show up.
Communication is the first step to eliminating no-shows. Clearly communicate your policies with your clients in every avenue possible. While it may seem like overkill, your clients aren’t as in tune with every aspect of your business as you are. There is a good chance they may end up missing the information. Your cancellation and no-show policies should be clearly printed at your front desk, around your salon, on your website, and in the dialogue when booking and confirming and appointments.
The next step to reducing no-shows is actively confirming your appointments. While your appointment book keeps track of every client scheduled to come through your doors that day, your client may not be as organized on their end. Proactively giving each client a courtesy call, text, or email roughly 24 to 48 hours before their appointment will put the appointment back on their radar, without leaving them time to forget again. Additionally, make sure that your appointment confirmations allow enough time for a client to cancel or reschedule without being penalized. This will help strengthen client relationships and increase your client retention.
Your software can also help you optimize your appointment book confirmations when clients can quickly respond to confirm, reschedule, or cancel their appointment. Typically, your software will have a setting where the default confirmation timeframe is, say, 24 hours out but individual clients may want a 2 or 3-day advance notice and that will override the default. Millennium’s automatic two-way SMS communication and personalized confirmation settings ultimately makes your front desk more productive while increasing your bottom line. In regards to last minute cancellation, be sure you are taking advantage of the Pending List inside of Millennium. As soon as the appointment is cancelled, the list will pop up and let you know if a client was waiting for that time slot. If so, your Front Desk can immediately reach out and attempt to fill that time.
Many people in the industry ask the big question, “Should we charge our clients for no-shows?” While there is no perfect answer, my opinion is to keep the policy flexible. There are some reasons a client may not show that is out of their control. Fortunately, Millennium will track no-shows and cancellations for you. Every time a client is booked, Millennium instantly shows their history of no-shows so you can politely re-discuss the importance of your 24-hour notice for cancellation or the no-show charge policy. When salons do have a no-show charge, it’s typically 50% of the booked service. While there is no one-size-fits-all, this is an important aspect of running a service-oriented business; you are selling your time and if a client doesn’t show up for her appointment, your time is wasted. Ultimately, you sell the time in your appointment book. This concept is a good talking point when dealing with an unhappy client who is getting charged for a no-show. Explain that an appointment is a reserved time, and the service is what he or she gets in that time. Even if the client doesn’t show up, you still need to pay your staff and keep the lights on. So, if you decide to charge for no-shows, try to come up with a policy and fee that is fair (you don’t want to lose clients over it unless they are abusive no-showers), be consistent, and make sure your staff understands the policy.
There’s a simple yet valuable lesson in how you respond to your customers who don’t show up. Despite your best efforts, it will still happen. As a business owner, it’s up to you to determine how you will respond when a client goes M.I.A. for their appointment. Learning to adapt your policies to better fit the tendencies in your clients will help ensure that your time and revenue are optimized and your clients are still happy.
Millennium Systems Internationa, Founder and CEO
About: John Harms, Founder & CEO of Millennium Systems International, creator of Millennium Software, has been designing industry leading salon scheduling software and educating the beauty & wellness industry since 1987. Today Millennium is utilized in thousands of businesses in over 38 countries and operating with approximately 150+ employees worldwide. Millennium currently runs its corporate headquarters out of New Jersey and its international office is based in the U.K.