If you’re running a service-based business like a salon, barbershop, or spa, we’re willing to bet that “no show” clients are pretty high up on your list of frustrations. When customers don’t show up for their appointments, you’re not just losing time, you’re also missing out on revenue opportunities. 

Let’s say you’re currently losing $150 a week because of no-shows. That amount adds up $7,800 a year. If you cut your no-show rate even just by half, you would put $3,900 back into your pocket.

The best way to do that is to craft no show policy. Having an official set of guidelines in place keeps you, your staff, and your clients on the same page when it comes to booking appointments. When implemented and communicated properly, your policy can dramatically reduce no shows and ensure that your slots are always filled. 

The meaning of “no show” and why people do it

Before diving into tips and tactics for your no show policy, let’s talk about what no shows are and why the happen. Simply put, a “no show” pertains to a client who misses their scheduled appointment without prior notice. Unlike last minute cancellations, no shows simply don’t turn up for their appointment, leaving the service provider high and dry. 

Why do customers fail to show up for their appointments? According to a survey conducted by Genbook, the top reason is forgetfulness. 

Our research found that 28.4% of consumers fail to show up to their appointments because they simply forgot about their bookings. Meanwhile, 27.6% cited running into last-minute snags, while 10.7% said that they forgot to cancel.

Other less-common reasons include:

  • Being unable to cancel (9%) 
  • They changed their mind (7.5%) 
  • Lack of money (6.9%) 
  • Unable to get to the location (4%)

Calculating your no show rate

The average no show rates across industries are 10% to 15%, so do your best to keep your no shows below that range. If you’re not sure what your no show rate is, use the following formula:

# of No Shows ÷ Number of Scheduled Appointments x 100

Let’s say you’ve had 150 scheduled appointments, but only 133 people showed up. Your number of no shows is 17. Using the above-mentioned formulate, your no show rate is 11%.

17 ÷ 150 = 0.11

x 100 = 11%

Implementing a no show policy: 6 pointers to consider

Now that you have a solid background of what no shows are and why they happen, let’s discuss how you can craft a policy that reduces your number of no-show appointments. Below are a handful of pointers to help you create a no show policy that works for your salon, spa, or any other service-based business. 

1. Determine your cancellation window

The cancellation time frame is one of the key components of any no show policy. It’s important to give your customers a window in which they can move or cancel their appointment without the risk of penalties. 

The “right” window will depend on your specific business. Some service providers require at least 48 hours notice of any appointment changes, while others just need 24 hours. 

To figure out the best time frame for your business, you need to consider your appointment booking rates. If you’re overbooked and you’re confident that you can fill empty slots in no time, then a 24-hour cancellation window would work for you. However, if you need more time to book appointments, then you may want to implement a 48-hour policy. 

The amount of prep time you need should also be a consideration. If you need to prepare ingredients or order products in advance, then you’ll need clients to confirm their appointments much sooner. 

Whatever the case, go through your business’ processes and determine your cancellation window accordingly. 

2. Consider asking for a deposit

Your clients are much more likely to keep their bookings if they have skin in the game. In other words, if there’s a risk of them losing money for not showing up, they’ll be less likely to miss their appointments. 

That’s why you should consider asking for an upfront deposit when clients book their appointments. In doing so, you can increase the likelihood of completed appointments, while at the same time minimizing financial loss in the event of a no show. 

One example of a business doing this is Nicck Townsend Salon. When clients set an appointment at the salon, they are charged a $20 non-refundable deposit before they can finalize their booking. 

3. Charge a no show fee

Alternatively, you can opt to charge a fee if the customer doesn’t show up or if they cancel their booking after your cut-off window. The appropriate amount to charge will vary, depending on the business. 

Some establishments, such as Hair Republic Barber & Salon, charge a 100% cancellation fee if the client is a no show or fails to cancel their appointment 24 hours before their booking. 

On the other hand, some businesses, such as tanning salon Tans By Kait opt to just charge a 50% fee for no shows. 

It may also behoove you to charge cancellation fees on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if a regular client doesn’t show up because of a medical emergency, then you might consider waiving the fee. 

Dog groomer Mary Oquendo tells Groomer to Groomer that she sometimes lets clients off the hook for real emergencies. “I usually give one pass. I always waive it for true emergencies.”

There are no hard and fast rules here, so go with what makes the most sense for your business. 

Pro tip:

Genbook has a secure payment processing feature that allows you to capture credit card information, as well as charge clients for deposits and full payments. If you’re a Genbook user, you can access this capability by going to Settings > Payments.

4. Implement a “no show” limit

If you’re not comfortable charging a no show fee or deposit, then you should at least take note of clients who always miss or cancel their appointments. You should consider implementing a rule that prevents chronic no shows from scheduling services in advance. 

For example, if your no show limit is 3, and a customer doesn’t show up for the 4th time, you should enforce a policy that restricts their booking privileges, so that they can only come on a walk-in basis. 

5. Send reminders

Having a reminder process is more of an internal policy that you and your team should follow. Remember that the top reason clients don’t show up is that they forgot about their appointment. This means that you can prevent a good chunk of your no shows simply by calling your clients or sending a quick reminder. 

To make this process a lot easier, automate your reminders using your appointment scheduling software. Modern appointment solutions often have features that send automated text messages or emails to clients a day or two prior to their booking. 

If you prefer following up over the phone, then set a reminder on your calendar so you or your employees can call your customers at the appropriate time. 

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6. Communicate your no call no show policy

One of the most important steps you should take when implementing your policies is to communicate them to your customers. See to it that everyone who books an appointment is aware of your no show policy. 

Fortunately, there isn’t a shortage of communication channels for doing this. When setting appointments and making reminders, utilize the following methods to ensure that your customers are across your no show policy:

On your online booking portal

If you’re letting your customers book appointments online (and you totally should), make sure your online booking portal contains your no-show policy. You want people to see your guidelines before they book, so they know what they need to do to cancel their appointment and what would happen if they don’t show up. 

We can see this tip in action in Brows by Brooklyn’s booking page. The appointment portal clearly displays their booking and cancellation policies, so there are no surprises if clients cancel at the last minute or fail to keep their appointment. 

Over the phone

If you and your team are taking appointments over the phone, make it a point to verbally remind clients about your policies. You can say something along the lines of…

We look forward to seeing you! Just so you know, if you need to cancel your appointment, please do so 48 hours in advance. Otherwise, we would have to charge you the full amount. 

Appointment cards

Handing out appointment cards? Be sure to list your cancelation and rebooking policy, so your customers are aware of what would happen if they miss their booking or fail to show up. Don’t forget to display your contact details on the card, so clients know how to get in touch.

Via SMS or email

If you send out booking reminders via text messages or email, dedicate a couple of lines to your no show policy. 

The staff at Tomoko Japanese Spa in Beverly Hills does when they remind customers of their upcoming appointment. At the bottom of the message, they say: 

If you have any questions or need to change or cancel this appointment, please call us at [phone number] 48 hours in advance to avoid the 100% change/cancellation fee.

Consider adding similar wording in your SMS and email reminders. 

On your website

For good measure, create a page on your website dedicated to your business policies. This page can be quite handy, as you can easily include the link on your emails, texts, or receipts. 

Consider this example from Liv Salon, which has a section on their website dedicated to their salon policy. The page talks about cancellations, no shows, late guests, and more. 

See if you can do something similar on your website. Create a store policies page or even just an FAQ section that details your cancellation and no show policies. 

The right policy can minimize your no shows

No shows don’t have to be a huge frustration. By crafting, implementing, and communicating the right no show policies, you and your clients will always be on the same page when it comes to managing and keeping their appointments. 

If you don’t have a policy in place yet, now is the best time to create one. Follow the tips above and you’ll be on your way to fewer no shows.

Ready to start managing your appointments online?

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