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How to write a bullet-proof cancellation policy

 

No-shows and last-minute cancellations are a problem for most service businesses, including massage therapists. While the causes of these short-notice or no-notice cancellations vary, each one comes at a cost to your business.

 

When a client doesn’t keep their appointment and doesn’t provide you with enough notice to fill that slot in your schedule, you lose time and money.

 

That’s why it is important that you have a policy in place to reduce client cancellations and no-shows. With a bullet-proof cancellation policy, you’ll have fewer empty spots on your schedule and spend your time more efficiently. You’ll also earn more revenue, and be able to serve more clients.

So what are the key elements of an effective no-show policy?

Use the following steps to develop a cancellation policy for your massage therapy practice or to improve the effectiveness of the one you have:

Step 1: Set your expectations
The first step in creating a bullet-proof cancellation policy is to decide what you need from the policy. For most massage therapy practices, eliminating no-shows will be the number one goal of their policy. However, short-notice cancellations, last-minute requests to shorten a session, and late arrivals can also disrupt your schedule and reduce your revenue. 

 

When developing your policy, consider:

  1. The types of behaviors, such as no-shows or same-day cancellations, that will trigger the policy
  2. The time frame in which clients must provide notice to avoid triggering the policy 
  3. Under what circumstances you will waive a penalty or consequence
  4. How your clients should deliver their notice of cancellation

 

Step 2: Choose your consequences

Your cancellation policy won’t have much effect if there are no consequences for clients who break the rules. But you don’t want to drive your clients away with excessive penalties. Some massage therapists charge no-show clients the full fee for their missed appointment. If you are uncomfortable charging for a full session when the client does not receive treatment, you might decide to charge a flat fee, such as $25 or $50, for no-shows and late cancellations. 

 

Also, choose how to handle the consequences for repeat offenders. Will you require clients who are frequent no-shows to pay for their sessions in advance? Will clients who cancel often only be allowed to reserve less popular appointment slots? 

 

Choose consequences that discourage “bad” behavior and fairly compensate you for the loss a short-notice or no-notice cancellation causes. 

 

Step 3: Communicate your policy and get your clients’ acknowledgment

Before you impose no-show fees on your clients you should obtain their consent. Besides, you can’t change your clients’ behavior with a policy they don’t know exists. So, make sure your policy is communicated every time your client books an appointment. And, communicate across other touchpoints as well.   

 

Ways to communicate your policy:

  1. In-person when a client calls to schedule an appointment
  2. On your website
  3. In confirmation and reminder emails and text
  4. When leaving a phone confirmation
  5. In your office voicemail recording and on-hold messages


Here’s a template you can use to build your notice:

Notice of rescheduling and cancellation policy

Your health and the health of all of our clients matters to us. To ensure that all of our clients are treated fairly and are able to receive treatment in a timely manner, [Name of Your Business] asks that you provide at least 24-hours notice if you need to change, reschedule or cancel your appointment. If you change or reschedule your appointment without providing us with 24-hours advance notice or fail to keep your appointment (if you are a no-show) you will be charged a fee of [Your Fee].

To change or cancel an existing appointment, please contact us at [email] or [phone] or reschedule your appointment online. Thank you for your consideration and understanding. 

 

I acknowledge that I have received and understand [Name of Business]’s cancellation and rescheduling policy and agree that I will be responsible for paying a fee of [Your fee] in the event that I fail to provide [Name of Business] with at least 24-hours notice before changing or canceling my appointment.  

 

Signed ________________ Date __________________

 

Include this acknowledgment in your intake forms and require your clients to acknowledge receipt of the written policy either in writing or through digital acknowledgment and keep this acknowledgment in their file. 

 

To avoid credit card chargebacks, your acknowledgment form must include sufficient information to put your clients on notice that they will be billed or their on-record credit card charged if they don’t adhere to your cancellation policy.

 

Create a no-show and cancellation policy that keeps you and your clients on schedule 

While your policy is designed to prevent you from losing revenue, preventing cancellations also ensures that all of your clients can get an appointment when they need one. Avoiding cancellations ensures that their treatment plan stays on track as well. The more often you communicate your policy, the more likely it is that your clients will get the message that your time and theirs is valuable.

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