If you’re running an appointment-based business, or offering consultations for your services on your website, you’ve probably been stood up by a client at least once. While schedules are always shifting and people will always be unpredictable, there are three key things you can do to control your time, reduce no-show rates, and better serve your clients. When appointment times are honored, you can improve time management outside of your client schedule, build trust with clients, and more accurately predict your appointment-based income.
Scheduling tools help reduce client no-shows and cancellations and make more time for the work that matters with your clients. Learn more about the benefits of crafting a cancellation policy, automating appointment reminders, and requiring deposits.
1. Create and enforce your cancellation policy
A solid cancellation policy safeguards the time that you and your clients have agreed to invest in together. It’s important to have a cancellation policy in place that protects both of you and is easy to enforce when the time comes.
An effective cancellation policy should set mutual expectations and boundaries around client attendance as well as your own attendance. Keep it concise and practical.
Here are a few ideas for your cancellation policy:
Set a cancellation window
Clarify how close to an appointment clients can cancel or reschedule without penalty. For example, clients could be free to cancel or reschedule up to 24 or 48 hours before the appointment, but there would be repercussions if they cancel outside of the agreed upon time frame.
Set a cancellation fee
State the amount of the cancellation fee you’ll charge if the policy is violated. You could charge a percentage of the original appointment cost or a flat-rate cancellation fee, whichever works best for your business. For example, your cancellation policy could state that, if a client is a no-show or cancels within 24 hours of their appointment, they will be charged 100% of the appointment fee.
Outline repercussions for when you need to cancel
Include the repercussions for when you, the business owner, need to cancel outside of an agreed upon time frame. For example, you could state in the policy that if you cancel an appointment without the minimum amount of notice, you’ll give a 50% discount off their rescheduled appointment price.
Regardless of what you outline in your cancellation policy, you can still treat cancellation policy violations on a case-by-case basis and waive fees occasionally, but having a policy in place will be a useful baseline for you and your clients.
Build your cancellation policy directly in your client intake forms at the point of booking. Being direct about expectations and consequences up front makes it more likely for clients to understand their responsibility and follow the relevant protocol if they need to reschedule or cancel their appointments with you.
For a more in-depth guide, check out How to Create a Cancellation Policy.
2. Capture credit card details and require deposits
One of the most effective ways to hold clients accountable is to accept payment up front. People are much more likely to commit to their scheduled time with you if they’ve already paid for it.
To get started accepting deposits and storing credit card information, integrate your booking platform with a payment processor. You can connect Squarespace Scheduling with Stripe, Square, or Paypal. (If you already use a payment processor in your online store, you’ll still need to connect one to your Scheduling account.)
From there, use two key payment tactics at the point of booking:
Require deposits. Whether full or partial, upfront deposits make it more likely clients will keep their word, and make sure you get paid promptly.
Capture and save payment details. Accepting your clients’ card information up front, even if you don’t require a deposit, makes it simple to enforce your cancellation policy fees for no-shows.
Learn more about how to use contactless payments in your small business.
3. Automate email and text reminders
Email and text reminders are another important tool for protecting your schedule — and helping your clients manage their calendars. By sending reminders days and hours ahead of appointments, you give clients a chance to prioritize the time they scheduled with you.
Reminder emails and texts also create an opportunity for clients to cancel or reschedule within the boundaries of your cancellation policy. For example, if you enforce a 24-hour cancellation policy, it would be best practice to send one of your email reminders no later than 48 hours in advance of the appointment. Giving that opportunity to reschedule helps to reduce no-shows, and opens up appointment slots with enough lead time for someone else to book them. Then, send your text reminder 24 hours before the appointment as a more direct way to keep your appointment top of mind closer to its start time.
With Squarespace Scheduling, you can customize and automate up to three email reminders and one SMS text reminder for each appointment. You can even personalize your automated reminders by appointment type. That way, clients will receive the appropriate reminders at the most effective times for the specific type of service they scheduled with you.
Ready to reduce no-shows and get paid?