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 massage cancellation 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.
Use the following steps to develop a cancellation policy for your massage therapy practice or to improve the effectiveness of the one you have:
The first step in creating a 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:
Your massage cancellation policy won’t have much effect if there are no consequences for clients who leave you hanging. 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. Decide on a fee that makes you feel fairly compensated for the time you’ve now lost.
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? You may even decide to not take on any new appointments from clients who have repeatedly no-showed or cancelled.
Choose consequences that discourage “bad” behavior and fairly compensate you for the loss a short-notice or no-notice cancellation causes. Remember - although you’re outlining consequences in the policy, you will always be in a position to be flexible and waive any fees. It’s better to be in the driver’s seat with the option to waive fees than it is to have any uncertainty in your policy.
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:
The key piece here is including the cancellation policy as part of your intake form. You’ll want to have the client sign the policy because (1) making a pledge like this makes people less likely to break it and (2) you may want to refer back to the signed agreement when having to enforce your cancellation policy.
Enforcing a cancellation policy is never easy. But when you do, it’s important to remember that a client pays you to reserve an hour (or more) of your time. If they fail to show up for that time, that is their responsibility.
The easiest way to enforce the policy is if you require clients to have a credit card on file with you when they reserve their appointment. Once you’ve charged their card, you can email the client an invoice for the no-show fee along with an explanation about why the no-show fee is in place. You may even consider including a copy of their signed cancellation policy.
To avoid credit card chargebacks, your cancellation policy should explicitly state that your clients will be billed or their on-record credit card if they don’t adhere to your cancellation policy. This signed agreement is what you’ll need if someone ever does dispute payment with their bank - the bank will ask you for evidence that the charge is valid.
Additional measures you can use in conjunction with your cancellation policy
There are other approaches you can use in concert with your massage cancellation policy to reduce the impact that no shows and cancellations have on your business: