How to Reduce No-Shows in Your Holistic Health Practice: Part 1/2

How to Reduce No-Shows in Your Holistic Health Practice: Part 1/2

WARNING: Strong Language! Proceed at Your Own Risk!

Earlier this year, a client left me the following angry message: “Are you fu##ing kidding me?! I showed up for my f#c#ing appointment and you’re f##king not here!! You suck! I’m telling my doctor about your f###ing crappy business policies and I will make sure no one in this town ever again gets your f###ing crappy massage!”

I was stunned with disbelief! In 40 years of massage therapy practice, always having heard only praise and positive comments, this was a new and jolting experience for me! Here’s the back story:

This client had shown up on time for his first few appointments. Then, due to a change in his work days, I rearranged my schedule to give him Saturday morning appointments, all locked in for the next 8 weeks – even though I normally work only one Saturday per month. When he missed the first Saturday session, I left him a phone message to please confirm his pre-scheduled appointment for the following week. I light-heartedly told him there was no charge for the 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 doctor-prescribed treatment series, according to the policy agreement he had signed.  I didn’t hear back from him about this.

THIS WEEK’S BONUS TIP: Get our scripts and templates for appointment reminders! Email us at: with APPT REMIND in the subject line and we will send you the exact wording to say and write to avoid no-shows!

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 nasty message!

Don’t let this kind of uncomfortable scenario happen in your practice! You can greatly reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations with the proper policies in place. I think my experience shows that even with policies, some people will still take advantage.

With the clear vision of hindsight, I see I could have done things differently. For example, I should have been firmer with my time boundaries instead of being so quick to accommodate his schedule; and instead of cutting him some slack after his first no-show, I should have cut him loose! But who knew! We do our best to accommodate our clients’ needs, right? In this case, it backfired on me!

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, but you also have an unexpected gap in your schedule that’s difficult to fill at the last minute. You’re left with a block of unprofitable time and possibly no plan in place to use that time productively.

Is it possible to reduce no shows and ultimately increase the profits of your practice? Absolutely! You can start by examining why no-shows occur.

Why Do No-Shows Happen?

Here’s an exercise that will teach you a lot about your practice. Review the charts of clients who don’t show up, and look for patterns or trends. Look for things in common, such as: they were scheduled several weeks or months ahead of time or it’s the same people repeatedly or it’s the same week every month.

If they schedule far in advance of the appointment, maybe they forgot or maybe they lost the appointment card you gave them. (You did give them one, right?) If they are booked far in advance because your schedule was full, perhaps they found someone else who could see them sooner.

Another thing to look for is consistency in no-shows. Are the same people repeatedly not showing up? For repeat offenders, consider booking them just before lunch or the last appointment of the day. Then if they don’t show up, it has less impact on your day.

Also consider ‘firing’ them! They are not your ideal clients if they repeatedly show disrespect for your schedule. It’s better to cut them loose than to cut them some slack! Make room for the ideal clients you want and deserve!

Studies show that self-paid care has more no-shows than patients with insurance coverage or gift certificates. In other words, they’re more likely to show up if someone else is paying for it! If you do not work with insurance clients or sell gift certificates, you may have more no-show clients than practitioners who have these services.

Don’t let your practice and income suffer because of missed appointments! Make sure your policies and your boundaries support clients in taking personal responsibility and getting the care they need, while financially supporting you and your business!

NEXT WEEK’S POST: How to Reduce No-Shows in Your Holistic Health Practice: The Sequel. Learn how to… Proactively Prevent No-Shows!

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