Last-Minute Cancellations: How To Handle Them Professionally
Many pet businesses know the ever-dreaded struggle of having to deal with last-minute cancellations.
It’s understandable – life’s busy, and pet parents often have to make last-minute changes to their schedules, or forgetful mistakes leave you in the dark. The unfortunate side effect of this is the way last-minute cancellations leave you, the business owner, with missing funds and unfilled time.
It’s an unfortunate circumstance faced by experienced and first-time pet business owners alike, with cancellations coming from all kinds of clients. It can be nerve-wracking figuring out how to prevent this from happening, and how to protect yourself and respond to clients when it does.
If you’re looking for tips on how you should respond to last-minute cancellations, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to discover our top tips for the different ways you can professionally handle last-minute cancellations from customers.
Tips for Avoiding Last-Minute Cancellations
There are plenty of things you can do as a business to help you get ahead of last-minute appointment cancellations before they happen. Here are a few things you can establish in your business to help the issue:
Build A Clear Cancellation Policy
Establishing a cancellation policy might sound intimidating, but we promise, it’s worth the effort it takes.
A clearly established cancellation policy is the most surefire way to protect yourself as a business, and not lose out on income from missed appointments. There’s a reason why many travel businesses, whether it’s a privately rented vacation rental or a hotel, will have a cancellation fee and cancellation policy for guests.
It’s worth it to protect your time and your business. The details of your cancellation policy can vary depending on your kind of business, and the way you charge your clients. But in general, cancellation policies should establish two things.
First, they should outline a period of time in which a client can cancel or reschedule an appointment without issue. For most businesses, this can be 24-48 hours in advance of a scheduled appointment. Then, they should establish some kind of cancellation fee for clients who do cancel last minute. Usually, this will be in the form of a deposit charged at the time of booking.
Let’s look at an example of what this could look like…
Let’s say you run a dog photography business. You could have a customer policy where your client pays a deposit for their appointment worth 50% of the whole appointment fee. You can pair this with a cancellation policy that says if they cancel an appointment without giving at least 24 hours notice, the deposit will be kept as a cancellation fee.
Policies like these work to encourage customers to take appointment cancellation much more seriously, respecting your time and your business. The deposit works as an investment into their booking with you, making it far less likely that short-notice cancelled appointments will happen. Best of all, being able to keep a cancellation fee will help you recover from your lost time, protecting your profits.
Plus, a 24-hour cancellation notice policy can give you the time needed to replace your cancellation with a last-minute booking, replacing a lost customer with a new potential client. With Book Your Pet’s live calendar updates, it’s easy to fill a late cancellation space at such short notice. You can increase revenue by building a waiting list of customers who want a great deal on a last-minute booking slot for circumstances like this.
Collecting Cancellation Feeds With Book Your Pet
Book Your Pet’s software has these cost-saving measures built-in, making it much easier to establish a cancellation policy and a last-minute cancellation fee.
Currently, our software is able to charge clients 50% or 100% of an appointment fee at the time of booking. This functionality can help you build deposit charges upfront into your booking process, making the handling of deposits in the case of cancellations an easier process!
Communicate Cancellation Policies Clearly With Customers
It’s not enough just to create a cancellation policy: you also have to ensure your clients know it exists.
Having a client call to cancel and hitting them with an unknown cancellation fee can be a recipe for disaster. By communicating policies up front, you can avoid miscommunication from the beginning of the booking process, making things easier if missed appointments do happen.
The key to good customer service is to make sure your prospective customer knows exactly what they’re getting into. Make it a point to bring up cancellation fees and policies during client consultations in person if you can, so they can hear it directly from you. Alternatively, have policies clearly outlined on your website or forms during the booking process before a client agrees to use your business. Once both the pet owner and business owner agree to the terms and are on the same page, booking appointments can begin.
Create A Cancellation Request Process
Another great way to ensure your clients cancel in advance when needed is to make requesting cancellations easy.
Many pet booking softwares can build appointment change features directly into your website, giving your clients an easy way to send you a cancellation while creating that change directly into your calendar. Talk about simple.
Cancellation requests, especially online, can be a great way to encourage cancellations with notice. These days, many clients dread having to make a phone call to make a change. An easy online process, whether through an online tool or sending your business an email, can do wonders to encourage fewer last-minute cancellations.
Send Booking Confirmation And Appointment Reminder Emails
Working to help your customer remember their scheduled appointment can also be helpful to avoid last-minute cancellations.
People’s lives are busy. Pet parents have working jobs, kids, hobbies, and all kinds of life stuff happening in the background while also taking care of their beloved companions. As frustrating as it may be, it’s natural for a person to forget appointments from time to time.
Taking the time as a business to clearly communicate bookings and appointment reminders can do wonders to reduce missed appointments. Plus, it’s greatly appreciated on the customer’s end! Not only are you providing a service to their pets, but you’re offering the added service of keeping client appointments on schedule.
Using pet business software like Book Your Pet can be a great help here. Our software allows you to send automated booking confirmations and upcoming appointment messaging to your clients, helping them remember booking. Something helpful for both them and you!
Handling Last-Minute Cancellations After They Happen
There will be times when a client has to cancel an appointment on short notice for legitimate reasons.
A cancelled meeting or appointment can be tough, especially when your income depends on it. It’s important to remember to keep it professional in these cases, which is why it’s good to develop a plan for how to approach a last-minute meeting cancellation.
Here are our tips for how you should approach clients who have cancelled an appointment last minute.
Sending A Missed Appointment Email
The first thing you need to do is clearly communicate the missed appointment to your client, and the consequences of the last-minute cancellation.
If you have a cancellation policy in place, this is the time to outline your cancellation policy details and any cancellation fee that might be kept or charged on your end. You can also explain any cancellation request process you may have (such as directing them to a cancellation request form, or policies for cancelling 24-48 hours in advance to avoid fees) so they understand better next time.
It might be tempting to express your disappointment when talking about missed appointments, but remember to keep it professional. There is always a chance a client had a valid reason to cancel, and there’s no use causing hurt feelings by making them feel worse. To try to turn things around, you can always redirect the conversation to a positive place, like replacing the cancelled date with an appointment rescheduled.
Redirections like this can be great for your relationship with your customers, turning a negative experience into something good as you build a better relationship.
Handling Repeat Cancellations
Another issue pet businesses can run into is the issue of repeat last-minute cancellations. It’s one thing if a client has a one-off short-notice cancellation for a family emergency. It’s another if you have a client who is bailing multiple times a month, and making it no big deal.
In some cases, it can be worth it to have policies where repeat cancellations lead to a termination of your business-client relationship. As a business owner, you deserve to have your time respected. Plus, every empty appointment is a slot that could have been filled with a much more important thing: taking care of clients, who arrive on time.
Building a base of customers who respects your time is an overall investment in your time and growth. Less missed appointments can mean more consistent income, easier scheduling, and better use of your time. It’s well worth it to replace an inconsistent client with a consistent one if cancellations get out of control.
The key to avoiding last-minute cancellations is taking steps to avoid them before they happen. Developing a cancellation policy with cancellation fees, prioritizing clients who respect your time, and clearly communicating with customers will do wonders to make last-minute cancellations a thing of the past.
If you’re looking for tools to support your pet business, Book Your Pet can do wonders to help – Click here to learn more.