Irene Diamond
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My Exact Words To Say To “No-Show” Peeps (Part 1)

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empty chair- no show appointment

Stop The Leaks!

If you’ve been in practice for any length of time, you’ve probably had a client scheduled in your calendar, and … they never come in. These people who do this are what we lovingly refer to as a ‘No-Show’.

You’re all ready, and waiting on them, you’re maybe wondering if it was a mistake and you wrote it down wrong, or did they just forget… you wonder if you should call them, or wait longer…

Or maybe you’ve had clients who are running late, so they call and tell you they won’t be to you for (10, 15, 30 minutes…), and then they proceed to ask if you’ll be able to give them their full session time…. YIKES!

Third scenario – They simply call to announce they can’t come in for their appointment that is scheduled for later that day. (Lovingly referred to as “Same Day Cancellations”.)

What’s a girl (or boy) to do?

This post is the first in my new 3-part series to help you manage the common occurrences we all struggle with when we work in a service business and have appointments with clients.

Part 1- “No Shows”
Part 2- “I’m running late, can I still get my full session?”
Part 3-“Same Day Cancellations” 

Over these three posts, I’ll be sharing my exact words (scripts) that we use in our wellness center. My experience with coaching, is often practitioners get stuck on what to say and how to say it, for fear of coming across rude, or pushy, and not wanting to possibly lose the client, for good.

My hope by modeling our approach, is it will help you know what to say, and more importantly how to handle the situation as gracefully as possible, where you stay in integrity, honor the client, and create and keep boundaries where you stay in control of your business. (I refer to this concept as “Who’s Running Your Biz?”.)

I did a brief FaceBook survey:
Many of you know you have lost money from these missed appointments. In fact, Laura Allen, educator and clinic owner told me she figured her clinic lost around $8000 in the first year she was operating her business just from the visits that never happened!

When you set an appointment in your calendar, there are many things you can (and should do) in advance to avoid missed appointments in the first place.

But if it does happen, let’s get on to My Exact Words To Say To “No-Show” Peeps & How to Handle The Situation:

Once you’ve realized they are late for their appointment, here are the steps to take. (This is the scenario for an hour session):
You’re going to make 3 Calls to the client:
(You still don’t know if they will be a ‘no show’ or if they are just running late, so we assume they are running late, and we also assume there is no emergency on their part, like being in an accident or something…)
Call #1. 5-8 minutes after start time:

Call them and Say something like this:
“Hi X, it’s Irene from Diamond Wellness Center. I have you scheduled today to see me now, your appointment was set for 3 and now it’s about 10 after 3 … I’m calling to see if you’re on your way. Please call me as soon as you get this message so I can know where you’re at and when you’ll get here. My number is 415-921-1290. Hopefully you’re just parking, and you’ll be walking in the door in a moment!”

Call #2. About 35 minutes after start time.

Call again and say, “Hi X, I’m still waiting for you, so hoping everything is OK. I’m worried about you, since I know how much you were looking forward to this session. Please call me as soon as you get this message, ok? The number again is 415-921-1290.”

Call #3. After session was supposed to happen, later in the afternoon,  but before the day ends)

“Hi X, Gosh, I’m just calling you one more time. It’s a shame you were not able to come today, I really hope you’re alright. I’ll wait to hear from you about today’s missed session with me. My number again is 415-921-1290.”

Note: You can also text or Email them with the same message #3.

Here is a Sample Email to send:

Subject: Re: missed appointment today with Irene

Hi Kat,

I hope everything is ok with you. I had you scheduled to see me today at 3:00 and I waited for you, hoping you would arrive. I also left you a few voice messages.

Please email me back as soon as you can so I know nothing serious happened to you. (I worry about you. 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you soon,
Irene”

Now, what happens if you never hear from them?
I suggest you wait a day or two, just to be sure they are not in the hospital or something, and it truly was a missed appointment.

3 Actions To Take Once Your Client is a ‘No-Show’:
#1- You can charge their credit card (if you have it on file for this very reason) for the amount you have pre-designated for missed appointments. (Email them a statement showing the charge, so they are not surprised.)

#2- You can waive your missed appointment fee. I actually suggest you do this if it’s their first missed appointment with you. Send them a statement (the bill) , show the charge, and then show that you adjusted off the charge, leaving a zero balance. Write a note on their statement (in handwriting) stating, “as a good-will gesture I’m waiving your missed appointment fee since it is your first time.”

(When you actually speak to them on the phone in the next conversation, kindly, matter-of-factly mention again, that you waived the fee this first time, but in the future they will be responsible for any missed appointment fees.)

Psychology:
By waiving the fee, you show you have compassion for honest mistakes that some time’s happen. Since they are thankful you just ‘saved’ them the fee they were supposed to pay, it tends to create more loyal clients. (Of course if it was a true emergency, I would hope you would waive the fee.)

And, by waiving the fee, it also puts them on notice that you are serious about your biz and will charge them next time it happens.

#3- If they’ve missed appointments with you before (& it was not an emergency), you’ll no-doubt charge them your missed appointment fee.

What to do when you do hear from them:
You can choose from the same three options as above on how you think it’s best to handle the situation.

So, there you have it. You’ll create your own scripts that fit your personality, and the way you speak, but I think you’ll see this is fair to them, yet still established you as a professional business person. When stated kindly, but not wishy-washily, your clients will respect your policies.

One Important Diamond Tip:
You MUST have your policies established in advance AND your clients MUST know what your policy is BEFORE you can enforce them.
(It’s not fair to charge a client for a no-show if they didn’t know they would be responsible for the fee.)

So, now that you’ve read what I suggest in the case of ‘no-shows’, please share your answers to these 2 things in the comments below:
#1- Do you have your policies set up for no shows?
#2- Will you use these scripts and ways to handle the no-shows I shared above, or do you have a better suggestion?
Can’t wait to hear from you below!

 

About the Author Irene Diamond

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26 comments
Ricardo says August 5, 2018

I would just tell them to go waste their time with someone that has the same integrity they do.

Reply
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Reply
Cheri Davis says November 8, 2015

After almost 15 years in the massage industry I have come to realize that reminders can be the most powerful way to help keep clients from a no-show. If I have a new massage client, I always give a text or call reminder. If they are regular clients then I ask them if they want a reminder. I even watch to make sure they are putting their massage appointment in their phone.
My no-show policy is on my business cards and my intake forms which helps maintain a stronger foundation in enforcing my policy.
And people do still sometimes no-show.

It has a been a journey learning to enforce my policy and charging clients. Some are understanding and some clients I have lost.
But I think having the intention of having boundaries and a policy tells the universe more than just going with the flow.
🙂

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Sandi Russ says July 13, 2014

Dear Irene – Thanks for a wonderful article. This is something that I established early in my practice. My cancellation policy is on my Gift Certificate, my brochure, my health form and on my website and first time callers are advised of our policy. Everyone gets “one free miss” and while my calling techniques are not exactly like yours (and I don’t do texting), they are similar. One thing that I would encourage you to add to what you are telling other therapists is that if they “hear” a bit of anger or confusion on the part of the client to take the opportunity to educate that client. What I say at this point is something like ” While our cancellation policy is a minimum of 24 hours notice ; everyone gets one free “miss” without having to pay for the reservation.” If I sense anger or confusion, I’ll add “Let me explain why we have this policy so that you’ll understand. We respect your time and when you ask for a reservation we are happy to make it for you. Once we’ve reserved that time for you we turn away business for that time frame because we have promised it to you. If you don’t keep your reservation we are unable to schedule someone else in the time that has been reserved for you and because we are self employed, we forfeit any income. Even with 24 hours cancellation notice we are sometimes unable to fill the appointment time. I hope that now that I’ve explained the “why” of it that you will understand our reasons for having such a policy.” I’ll even sometimes go so far as to say “Most people have jobs that pay them whether they work or not, but we self-employed people only earn pay when we work”.

It is true that most people don’t have a clue and “assume” we get paid by someone! It is also true (for me) that using the term “reservation” carries more weight than simply “appointment”.

I work with externship students and talk with many therapists and am always amazed that they value their time so little and are apparently afraid to talk to a client about this matter; therefore they end up with thousands of dollars never collected.

Hope this is helpful feedback!

I have been pleased when people hear that and then say, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you were self employed and never thought about you not earning any pay if I didn’t show up.

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    Denise Williams says August 6, 2014

    >> Once we’ve reserved that time for you we turn away business for that time frame because we have promised it to you. <> promised it to you <<.I I would hope, the phrasing would instill the feeling of reciprocity in the client

    Best regards,
    Denise H. Williams

    Reply
    Irene Diamond says August 24, 2014

    Sandi,
    You may be familiar with my “RW” concept? Stands for Reason Why and it is super important to always include the RW when explaining things to re-inforce the message.

    Thanks for sharing your comments!

    Reply
Jamie LaNeave says July 11, 2014

I drum up business for my 3 therapists with Groupons and Living Social coupons. I found, after succesfully finding and keeping my client base in this way, that in the beginning alot of clients with coupons no show. First step was creating an automatic email reminder through the super easy to use scheduling program fullslate. This helped tremendously. I had sgnificantly less no shows. It seems reminders where a must have! The problem was still there, less frequently but still there. So I added the fee and started collecting credit cards. Now people knew I meant business. The number of no shows are lower still, but still happening, with complaints and angry emails.

When I multiplied the volume to accomodate the 3 available therapists, the number of no shows increased as well. Due to the fact that it is my therapists time and money that is lost in this situation, if I don’t hear anything or if someone shows up an hour late, I do charge the fee. It is hard, I hate it every time, but I need to take care of my therapists. I give them $10 for no shows that I charge. Of course if it is an emergency their is no fee to the client.

I wonder how much money I would lose letting people have one get out of jail free card. I wonder if I would have less disgruntled clients and more repeat business. Given the percentage of repeat business from Groupons and coupons and the given behavior of the client, I believe I am making more money taking care of my therapists than I would be taking care of the client.

Every client must book online at my clinic and create an account. They check a box that states they understand the fee agreement and put a card on file. With all of these precautionar, if the client isn’t understanding to the fee, we probably don’t want them as clients anyway. I have charged fees and have the client completely understand and take responsibility for it gracefully, and still are happy patrons today.

I am going to take these scripts into consideration as they sound truly genuine. But if a policy is in place, I do not feel it is my job to chase the client down with phone calls and emails. Who has time for that anyway? If it is a regular client who has never missed an appointment and has been coming for years, they have always called ahead due to an emergency. Then yes, the emails and phone calls I make will be truly genuine. I will truly be wondering if they are safe and unharmed.

If it is a new client, who has not reached out, I will assume their preoccupations where knowingly made with the $25 fee in their understanding and charge them accordingly. They do recieve a statement and a link to reschedule their missed appointment.

As I care for the wellfair of all my clients, I also understand that the amount of respect given to a business when the client has a coupon is significantly less than if it was, say a referral. I feel empowered charging the fee as I am demanding respect and attention for my business, my profession, my time and my therapists time and money.

Reply
    Irene Diamond says July 15, 2014

    Jamie,
    You have certainly thought it out all the way through — Good for you!
    I agree, there is a fine line of taking care of our therapists so they feel respected and know we’ve got their back, along with setting our clients up to understand our policies so they can comply, right from the start.

    Reply
    carolyn moyer says August 24, 2014

    Brilliant and well said. I agree with not chasing down clients that are not well established. Who has time to call a person 3 times and email and or text. It ultimately is THEIR responsibility and yours to educate them about your business policy. It is interesting because working from home it seems people think they have even more “free rein” over your time. I have one client in particular that is always a few minutes late and who has cancelled last minute several times and then once no showed. I told her that from now on all her future appointments would have to be prepaid in advance with a credit card. I thought this would deter her from seeing me again. I had to take that chance to make them understand I mean business and this is not just something I do for fun on the side like skateboarding ha . I still see her to this day she values me as a therapist and my time even more now. It is just the cost of doing business with the public. Bound to happen sooner or later. But knowing your own boundaries and enforcing them daily is key.

    Reply
      Irene Diamond says August 24, 2014

      Carolyn,
      Love your last line, “But knowing your own boundaries and enforcing them daily is key”!

      so true!

      Reply
Faz says July 10, 2014

Thanks for the advice Irene. I’ve always struggled with charging a cancellation fee but have had to take action the last few months as the volume of no shows has increased dramatically. Our newest attempt has been to charge 50% of the total amount for the appointment missed but most don’t pay and just go to another clinic. I will try out your suggestions for sure!

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    Irene Diamond says July 15, 2014

    Faz,
    Please do create your cx policy and simply state it each and every time you book a new client and a returning client. it can be as simple as you saying right before they hang up, “Remember John, I have a 24 hour cancellation/re-schedule window, are you sure 3:00 on Tuesday works for you?” When they affirm, you finish with, “Perfect! Because it would really be a bummer to be charged for the session if you find you are unable to make it at the last minute.”

    That is a graceful way to put them on notice.

    Reply
Cynthia Aiken says July 8, 2014

(not the Ironbound in Newark, btw)

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Cynthia Aiken says July 8, 2014

I recently rented a room in a local salon along with a new nail tech & esthetician. (It’s in an old ironbound neighborhood not used to having a massage tech.) We hosted an open house to introduce ourselves & made several bookings. (yay!)

We’re having problems with late arrivals & no-shows already. Is a no-show policy an appropriate thing to bring up at an open house, being brand new & all? Is this just something that goes with the territory & we just have to eat it? What’s the best way to inform new clients about policy? Do most people who use professional services come to expect to pay for no-shows & we’re just behind the times here?

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    Irene Diamond says August 24, 2014

    Cynthis,
    You ask, “Is a no-show policy an appropriate thing to bring up at an open house, being brand new & all? ”

    YES!! of course it is appropriate to bring up at open houses, and you can tailor it specifically to the situation with a script like, “Since we are making a lot of bookings today at this open house, I want to be sure you understand our rescheduling policy. If you find you need to change your appointment time please be sure to tell us before 3:00 on Friday to avoid the ‘same-day cancellation fee’. .. It would be a shame to have to charge you the $70 for the missed session…will that work for you?”

    See, no stress, no pressure, easy to say and then once they agree to it, you have the right to charge them if it needs to be charged.

    Reply
Lucy Tomasko says July 2, 2014

I admit that I have been wishy washy in terms of any kinds of fees. However, I have written and have handed the new rules to each client. It has saved me annoyance and my clients uncertainty. Being consistent builds my integrity.

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Kimberly Rogers says July 1, 2014

Thank you for the scripts & ideas on how to handle this! I have been going around and around with the owners/receptionists on how to handle these situations. The owners don’t want to “deal” with no-shows, etc., and ignore or shrug their shoulders and say “oh well, better luck next time.” It falls to us therapists to make these (sometimes uncomfortable) phone calls. I’m going to copy & re-word the script for our office and then NAIL it to the wall in front of the office phone. Thank you for your help! ☺

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Gail Russo says July 1, 2014

Yes, I practice all of your suggestions, and I have an established policy in place. However, there are occasions when you don’t hear from the no show person at all, they don’t call you, they don’t respond to your voicemails or e-mails, that don’t even respond to the first invoice. The second invoice contains language about turning the bill over to a collection agency …… blah blah. This gets action fairly immediately. Have only had to use this last resort method 3 times in 10 years.

PS: These are not long-time customers that are no shows; they are usually people who came once or twice and now they’re testing you.
In all 3 cases, none of these people returned after receiving the second invoice.

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Julie Dew, LMT says July 1, 2014

Hi Irene,

I came upon your question on Facebook regarding no-shows.

I have been in practice for 9 years. The only policy I have is the statement on my website to let me know 24 hours in advance if the client is unable to make his/her scheduled appointment. Fortunately I have never had the need to take someone’s credit card info to charge for a missed appointment. And in my opinion, there is an easier way to avoid no-shows. I call or email my clients the day before their scheduled appointment as a friendly reminder. That way, I am covered, and if they cannot make it or have forgotten, I find out then and reschedule them. It works 99% of the time.

I find that clients appreciate the personal touch of the reminder. Plus, I don’t have to wait around and wonder if they remembered their appointment. People are busy; and it only takes a second out of my day to call or email.

Just my personal experience.

Julie Dew, LMT

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    Cynthia Tackett says July 24, 2014

    Julie, I do the same thing using call or text. It has helped me as well. I ask the client which they would prefer.

    I agree, they actually seem to like it!

    Reply
Rachel says July 1, 2014

Irene, thanks for posting this. I was in your Fresh Start coaching program a few years ago, and remembered you teaching this. Just last week this happened, and I wished I could remember the full protocol… I did the first call, but left it at that. I’m going to have this on hand for the future! And yes, I DO have my policy in place, and it’s on every confirmation email/reminder email a client gets from me, but I need to remember to go back to verbalizing it as well.

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Stephanie THE Massage Therapist says July 1, 2014

I post my no-show and late show policy on the scheduling page of my web site.

I’ll give you 10 mins of grace 5 more mins but your session is cut and after 15 in owe me in full.

If you need to cancel your appointment and it is within 12hours of the appointment thus you are not able to manage your appointment on-line, I ask that you call me.

I am in the Washington DC region and there are many things which make it difficult for folks to be in ‘control’ of their schedule, things happen, and its a massage, call me, text me let me know, its fine.

If you don’t contact me you owe me in full before your next massage.

Serves to thin the client list of ‘difficult’ clients and no more problems exist.

In 8years I have only had a no show issue with 1 client and have only
had a late show issue with another client.

In general people are decent however having a policy to point to makes it easier to approach a client and have this difficult conversation.

My time is valuable, I can be working IN the business or working ON the business, but if I am sitting around waiting for you I can’t do either. If you contact me IN ADVANCE then I can find things to do to work ON the business.

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Jody Hutchinson says June 30, 2014

Irene
Thanks so much for this! I have had a bunch of
No shows and cancellations this month.
I am on track with some, however,
What to do when someone cancels the day
before and then disappears.
People seem to forget the policy and ignore
my e mails.
Thanks
Jody Hutchinson

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Paula Kochanek says June 30, 2014

What about the first time client that does not show? It is not customary to get their address until they actually come in. Can’t sent them a bill.

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Doug Herr Cmt says June 30, 2014

Very good system, i need to get everybody on the same page where I work. I get hit with this from time to time it is very frustrating when it happens. I have a hard time dealing with no call no show’s this is very rude and costly to a self employed fulltime working Therapist.

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