What to Do When A Client Cancels The Same Day?

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Same day Appointment Cancellation

This blog post is part 3 of 3 in this Stop The Leaks! series for practitioners who have clients who either are: “No Shows” “Same Day Cancellations” or clients who call right before their appointment and say, “Hey, I’m Running Late”.

You can read the first post here covering “No Shows” and the 2nd post here, focused on the “Running Late-rs”.

So, Today’s post is on:
What to do When A Client Cancels The Same Day? (“Same day”  is usually within 24 hours of their appointment time, however some practices will honor a cancellation any time during the day prior.)

When you are looking over your appointment book and happily see everything booked up, it’s a great feeling!

But what happens when your client calls you the same day as their scheduled session, telling you they won’t be able to make it?

Poof- there goes $50, $60, $100, or more gone in an instant from your income that day.

You might feel it’s no big deal, but it really is, because lost appointments can leak huge amounts of money away from your income.

There are 3 successful strategies to handle these clients:
Recognize the client might think that because they move their appointment to another day, they are not actually cancelling on you. But, in reality, they are! They are causing you to lose out on the total revenue you would have generated for that day, unless you can fill it at the last moment.
(Once the plane has flown, you can’t sell the seats.)
Strategy #1: Politely ask them if there is any way they can switch what-ever it is that they say is getting in the way of them keeping their appointment. (Sometimes when we say this, they stop and think for a moment and realize that they, in fact, can move the other thing instead!)
Script: “Mary, I know how important it is for you to continue on your therapy plan with me, and since we’re within my 24 hour re-schedule window, I am holding the time for you. Do you think it’s possible to change the other activity so you can keep your appointment with me?”

If they say no, go on to

Strategy #2: If your schedule allows, politely ask them if there is any way they can come later in the day. (This allows you to generate the income you planned to bring in that day.) Let them know you are making an exception and not charging them for the cancelled earlier appointment.
Script: “Mary, I do have a window of time later this afternoon that I can squeeze you in to… could you make a later appointment with me?”

If they say no, go on to

Strategy #3: As a last resort, before charging them for the cancellation, see if there is anyone else they know who they can send in their place.
The beauty of this last strategy is that it results in you getting a new client, and an extra appointment, because the original client who is cancelling is hopefully going to see you within the next few days, so you have just DOUBLED your income for that lost session.
Script: “Mary, since I really do not want to charge you for a session you can’t make, … as a last resort, do you have a friend, coworker or family member who you could send in your place to take your appointment? That way, either you could pay for their session or they can, but at least someone will be able to enjoy the time that you held with me”

This third Diamond Strategy has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for my coaching clients who are brave enough to ask it!

One Important Diamond Tip:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here. You MUST have your policies established in advance AND your clients MUST know what your policies are BEFORE you can enforce them. 
(It’s not fair to charge them for something they didn’t know about.)

Now it’s your turn. Please let me know 2 things in the comments below:
#1-Have you ever asked a client who couldn’t make it to send someone else as their replacement?

#2- Do YOU have anything else to share on great ways you’ve found to handle these situations?

Can’t wait to read your comment below!

About the Author Irene Diamond

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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  • Beth says:

    Hi Irene, I have a private practice and rarely get cancellations however occasionally a very good consistent patient will cancel last minute due to staying late at work or something due to work.

    Sometimes it’s a choice of theirs to keep working on a project and it’s not necessarily required by the boss. I have no problem charging the fee to someone fairly new who does cancel last minute but I find it more confusing when it’s a patient who normally comes and I have a lot term relationship with. Then within a short period of time cancels twice due to needing to work late. Work reasons fall close to an emergency or being sick to me. However I do feel like my time isn’t valued when they cancel in that way.

    I am curious what you suggest in this situation. Thank you!

    • Hi Beth,
      Frustrating, yes! Especially when we feel close to our clients and wonder why it seems they don’t respect our time.

      I suggest, two things:
      #1- Make it clear in your policy and when you’re booking or rebooking that you require a 24-hour notice to avoid the missed appointment fee.

      #2-Simply have a heart-to-heart chat with the client as soon as it happens. “Sam, I understand you had a ton of work to do and needed to stay late. I’ll waive today’s missed fees, and in the future, please give me at least 24 hours’ notice if you need to change your appointment time to avoid my same-day cancellation fee.”

      No drama!

      No judgment!

      Just clear boundaries and expectations!

      Good luck with this!
      ~ Irene

  • Mongezi says:

    Hi

    what to do if you have been hired to do a job and the deal is confirmed and get a call on last minute to cancel the event after you have turned down other businesses for that day?

    • Mongezi,
      It’s tough when you turn down other work and make a commitment to be available for a business and then they pull it away from you.

      If you’re a contract worker, the best thing is to have a contract that protects you from that happening, in the case they need to cancel the event.

      (I had that happen due to COVID-19 where we had a corporate event scheduled for 4 therapists to provide on-site services. The corporation called to cancel the event and because we had a signed contract given to them in advance when we negotiated the event, we were paid the full amount.)

      Almost all of the time, these things come down to negotiations, expectations and boundaries.

      Hope you’ll now be more protected in the future!

  • zoe says:

    Hi Edward, my advice is stop being the victim and take control back. I’m a massage therapist and became really sick of no shows and cancellations happening within an hour of their appointment with all manner of excuses. It got to the point where I was losing £280 a week-how on earth am I supposed to make a living like this I thought? Then hang on a minute-I’m allowing this to happen by not having a cancellation policy in place. So I put one in place immediately. Yes you will lose some clients, but would you rather work with those clients who are unreliable and disrespectful of your time or make way for your ideal clients who will keep their appointments and respect your time? I have now gone a step further and ask 1st time clients to pay in advance for their 1st massage because I realised 99% of my no shows after introducing the cancellation policy were new clients-I suspect many were competitors, yes It’s a dirty trick I’ve been told about where they book bogus appointments to make you lose business. Shocking when you are an honest person who would never dream of doing that, but I have no doubt it’s happened to me. Again, some will refuse to pay in advance and go elsewhere, but I suspect they would have been the no shows or unreliable ones anyway. I’ve had others happy to pay in advance and they end up being reliable! So take control and don’t allow yourself to be a door mat.

    • Zoe is correct.

      We NEED to be in control of our practice and structure it so it serves us and not becomes a drain, stress or time-suck.

      To secure appointments with a pre-pay or take a credit card to confirm is one solid way to cut down on no-shows.

      Another super important thing to do is to really pre-screen your new clients before you schedule them. Gather important information like their goal for the session. In other words, why do they want an appointment with you. If they are serious, this alone will be enough to have them keep their appointment with you, so they can have your help in reaching their clinical goal.

      Start by adding this 1 single question:

      “What is the goal you want to achieve from having a session with me?”

      Come back and let us know how that works for you!

  • Edward Tagg says:

    Dear Irene… Im a high level psychic and therapist…and my industry is notorious for cancellations… they haven’t got the courage and look for ways to opt out…
    Its very difficult…
    There are racial differences too which I wont mention… but one racial group I know has a guaranteed 99% cancellation rate same day.. or no show….
    Makes me wonder why Im trying to help the planet sometimes… which I was a selfish person and life would be a breeze….

  • Audrey says:

    My office manager is pro active. He will make known to the client and/or patients that a fee for late cancellation and the reason. He gives example to make them understand. The late cancellation fee is posted on the website as well. He tells them the next time he will have to charge the late fee. He does not hesitate to charge the fee the next time and the client makes sure they call ahead of time the next time around.

  • Rachel says:

    Hi Irene,
    Here’s what I could see being a problem with the 3rd strategy (for me, anyway)… each time a new client comes in, I like to make sure I leave time blocked out for them to fill out paperwork and do a consultation. With some clients, a consultation only takes 2 or 3 minutes, but I’ve also had it take 15-20. How do I get the new client to pay for a full-length session, when there’s not time for them to get a full-length? Does that make sense? I realize their getting a consultation, but in most people’s minds, they’re paying for time on the table.

    • Rachel,
      i think the best way to handle the 3rd strategy, is to modify the new client’s appointment to fit the time you have. So, since you need to conduct an evaluation/consultation, simply shorten the table-time to fit your calendar.

      When you explain to the new client the benefits to THEM for how you work, and how important it is for you to follow the protocol you have established for new clients so you can provide the best service for THEM, most will understand.

      Does that seem like it will work for you?

  • I just had this come up earlier this week…I received a same-day cancellation and was then immediately able to fill the appointment with someone who really needed work that day. Then the client who canceled scheduled for Friday. I forgave my missed appointment fee because it came out better for me by the end of the week that things had worked out that way.

    My question is, should I have made myself an extra $50 today by enforcing my policy. Or is it best just to trust that things worked out that way for a reason…

    • Jennie,
      good for you that everything worked out, but as you know that is not always the case.

      Your question is a good one, and I usually still recommend you charge your cancellation fee because even though the appointment time was filled, you had to juggle additional phone calls, texts or email to make it all happen, right? So the fee charged covers your time (and stress) to re-arrange your calendar.

      Every situation is unique, so set your policies, and then trust your gut (or intuition) when you feel you want to waive the policy.

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