This blog post is part 2 of 3 in this Stop The Leaks! series for practitioners who have clients who either are:
“Same Day Cancellations”
or clients who call right before their appointment and say,
“Hey, I’m Running Late”.
Here’s The Scenario:
Client calls 10 minutes before their appointment start time, saying they’re stuck in traffic, car won’t start, kid just threw up on their shirt, still in a meeting, or the thousands of other reasons why people get stuck and run late.
Understand the Psychology:
There are a few reasons why they are calling you and I think it’s important to understand the psychology behind it. Here are a few reasons why different people call:
So, Once You Get the Dreaded “I’ll be late” Phone Call, What Do You Do?
“Thank you for calling and letting me know. What time do you think you will get here?” If they answer with a vague “I’m at the park, I’m leaving right now…” Re-ask, “so, about what time do you think you will be here?”
You need to know the time they estimate they’ll be to you, (not what time they are leaving, since you may have no idea if it will be 5 minutes or 25 minutes.)
They might ask, “ Will I be able to get my full session?”
The answer is, “Once you get here I will be able to let you know what we will be able to do.” You don’t want to promise anything, UNLESS you are sure you can do it. If you want to accommodate that client by giving them their full session, by all means do it.
Thank them again for calling so you’re not waiting. Reconfirm they’re still coming with an “ OK, drive carefully, I’ll be waiting for you, see you soon”. By stating you are waiting for them, they will feel more of an obligation to try harder to get to you.
Keep in mind though, if they say they’ll be 30 minutes late, and you promise over the phone or text that you can go over time, what will happen if another client calls at the last minute to get in to see you? You’ve just lost the opportunity to get that last-minute appointment.
To Make It Even Worse…
Imagine after their 1st call to you, they call a little while later, saying, “they’re still stuck and will be even later”.
Now they only have a short time left in their appointment time that you have reserved for them, but you probably still want them to come since even a little bit is better than no bit…
You could say, “It would be a bummer if you missed today’s session. As you know I have a 24 hour window to reschedule… (or what ever your window is but it is the same as your cancellation policy)
Then ask the client, “Do you have any flexibility in your schedule today? I can see what I can possibly do for you later today?”
Scenario # 1: You say “My calendar is completely booked, so please continue to get to me and I will work with you for the remainder of the time, once you get here.”
Scenario # 2: “I can get you in the next opening in my schedule which is at x time today.”
Scenario # 3: If they say something like, “I’m still 50 miles away, I won’t be able to get to you in time….”
You Have Options:
When you have an insurance-billed client, it gets much more tricky and sticky for missed appointments or partially missed session! If you are billing you already know there are codes to bill for 15 minute time increments, so you can only legally bill for the time you spend with the client, not for the time you reserved for them.
Depending on the type of insurance, you may be able to submit a claim with a code for a missed appointment. If it is a work comp case you can not charge the client for the missed session time. (Sorry this is not a billing blog post, so I can’t go in to all the details here.) but you can ask the client to acknowledge (at their first session) their responsibility to cover your fees for missed appointments or missed time, so you can be compensated for the full session.
Many practitioners make the mistake of not charging for the full session they have held for the client. In some instances, your client may call and tell you they’ll be 30 minutes late and tell you they want to ‘just switch the session from an hour to a 30 minutes session. The client usually does not even recognize that by doing this, they just basically cut your income in half! Practitioners forget that their lost time = lost income, so be prepared to know how you wish to handle these awkward, but inevitable situations.
When a client runs late and misses it all together, or receives a partial session, they miss out on all the goodness you can provide. It slows their progress and possibly diminishes their results. If you can and choose to accommodate them by extending the session time, you may feel put out, or taken advantage of. If you can not squeeze their full session into your day, in essence, you are really looking at the same situation as any same day cancellations. (Blog post #3 in this series to come covers Same Day Cancellations)
Although the client did attempt to show up for their session with you, when they can’t get to you, you are left with an open appointment time slot. Unless you have a long waiting list, you are most often unable to give the session time away to another client, therefore you lost the income from the missed session.
Over-all, a “Hey, I’m Running Late” client is an unfortunate situation for everyone. (And, we’ve all been on both sides of it). But, if you have planned out what you will do when it happens, you’ll not be caught off guard, and can remain cool as a cucumber!
I would love to hear what you think. Please share what you do when you’ve had a “Hey, I’m Running Late” client by posting in the comments below. Can you share any more tips for our other readers?
Business mentor, Educator and Inspirer to Clinic Owners & Solo Practitioners. Love to hear from you ~ Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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