Avoid No-Shows in Your Health Business!
WARNING: Strong Language! Proceed at Your Own Risk!
It’s disappointing and annoying when a client doesn’t show up for an appointment. Not only are you losing money by not treating that patient, it also denies someone else an opportunity to get your help.
To my knowledge, I’ve had only one dissatisfied client in my 40-year career – and he was a doozie!! He left me this angry voice mail: “Are you f#c#ing kidding me?! I showed up for my f#c#ing appointment and you’re f#c#ing not here!! You suck! I’m telling my doctor about your f#c#ing crappy business policies and I will make sure no one in this town ever again gets your f#c#ing crappy massage!”
Always having heard only praise and positive comments, this was a new and jolting experience for me! Here’s the back story:
This injured client had shown up on time for his first few appointments. Then, due to a change in his work schedule, I rearranged my schedule to give him Saturday morning appointments for the next 8 weeks. When he missed the first Saturday session, I left him a phone message to please confirm his next appointment. I lightheartedly told him there was no charge for the first missed appointment, because every client gets ONE “Get Out of Jail Free Card!”
The next week again – no-show, no call! This time I called and texted and emailed him that his remaining appointments were cancelled. I said I would be happy to continue working with him after he paid for the missed appointments and prepaid for the remainder of his treatment series, according to the policy agreement he had signed. I didn’t hear back from him about this.
For his third Saturday appointment – which I had canceled – the client did show up – and I didn’t. That’s when he left me the strongly-worded message! With the clear vision of hindsight, I see I could have done things differently. But who knew! We do our best to accommodate our clients’ needs, right? In this case, it backfired on me!
Proactively Prevent No-Shows
Don’t let such scenarios occur in your wellness practice! Don’t let your business suffer because of missed appointments! Make sure your policies and your boundaries support you and your business, while supporting clients in personal responsibility and getting the care they need!
Use these 6 strategies to avoid no-shows:
1. A reminder call is the most common and most effective tactic to avoid no-shows. Make a reminder phone call and/or email two days before the appointment. If you leave a message, ask the client to call back and confirm. Delegate reminder calls to an assistant, giving you more client or marketing time!
2. Send an email midway between appointments, saying you look forward to seeing them again. Briefly mention the benefit or result they got from their previous session and the possible consequences of missing their next session – to keep the perks of working with you fresh in their mind! Make a special offer for their next appointment, such as an add-on amenity. And be sure to remind them of your 24-hour cancellation policy.
3. Include some evening and weekend hours in your schedule. Look at your schedule to see when your slow hours are; then switch them for a few evening and weekend hours per month, allowing you to grow your business and help more people!
4. Have each client read and sign an agreement to follow your procedures, especially your cancellation policy. Most people sign a contract without reading it, so allow enough time at their first appointment to go over the agreement and have them initial it, item by item.
5. Accept credit cards. When scheduling the first appointment, inform the client of your cancellation policy, ask for their credit card info and let them know they will be charged for a missed appointment. Someone who refuses to give you this info may not be your Ideal Client, if they don’t respect your policies before they even walk into your office. This being said, I have a one-time-only “Get Out of Jail Free” policy. I don’t post or discuss this policy. But if someone calls to apologize and reschedule, I have the option to offer this or not, depending on their attitude and their reason for missing the appointment. Just make sure they understand that this offer is good for only one missed appointment and they will be charged for any other no-shows or late cancellations. We can all forget or make a mistake. Giving people a little break like this helps create goodwill, earn trust, promote repeat visits and encourage referrals.
6. Fire bad clients! They are not your ideal clients if they repeatedly show disrespect for your policy and your time. Just let them go – you don’t need clients like this! Be polite but firm and offer to give them a list of practitioners who may be more lenient than you about no-shows. Make room for the ideal clients you want and deserve!
There’s no reason to let no-shows jeopardize your healthcare business. Simply establish and implement clear policies – set firm boundaries and enforce them!