This article provides a snapshot of statistics, attitudes and policies on the subject of appointment no-shows reported by a sample population of electrologists from around the world. The survey was available to electrology professionals in several social media settings. The problem of no-shows is a universal problem – it does not just happen in the hair removal industry. Most consumers respect their electrologist enough to provide appropriate notification if they cannot come to an appointment. It’s only a small percentage of consumers who seem to be disrespectful and cause financial loss to their hair removal provider. The biggest problem with no-shows is that lost revenue can result in an increase of overhead which contributes to increased prices for all clients to cover that loss.
A NO-SHOW is a person who makes an appointment and neither shows up nor cancels. Appointments are made upon the request of the consumer and it is the consumer’s responsibility to show up or cancel with appropriate notice. Many personal service providers, including electrologists, make a living from appointment driven businesses. These scheduled appointments establish an agreement or contract for purchasing time, which if missed by the client is time that cannot be sold again. As a result, the service provider experiences a loss of income that cannot be made up.
An appointment no-show policy is one of many boundaries a business must establish. These boundaries should be clearly communicated to each client before they receive their first treatment. Electrologists were asked if they had a written policy on no-shows and how their clients learned about these policies. Nearly 30% of respondents reported they did not have a written policy for no-shows. However, those respondents were not lenient when clients failed to show up for appointments – the client paid for the missed appointment or they were not given future appointments. More than 70% of respondents reporting having a written policy for no-shows. Half of all respondents utilize several methods of communicating their no-show policy. 59.9% provide consumers a written copy at the first appointment; 31.82% display it on their website; 27.27% have it on their business card; 18.18% explain it during a phone consultation; 13.64% include a link to their policy in each email confirming the appointment; and 4.55% provide a written copy at each appointment. Generally, clients are considered a no-show after 10 to 15 minutes. Most electrologists (77.27%) will try calling the client within this time. Here are some of the messages electrologists reported to send a client upon a missed appointment:
“I tell them I was sorry that they missed their appointment…”
“Want to make sure you are ok since you missed your appt.”
“We were expecting you in for an appointment at … time. We would like to remind you of our cancellation policy. Please contact us when you get this message in order that we can reschedule your appointment.”
“Hi… , I have u booked with us today at… and it is now…. I was wondering if you are on your way, or are experiencing difficulty attending your appointment. Pls call me back on… to let me know.”
“I wanted to make sure we had an appointment today. I had you down for 11am, but perhaps there was a misunderstanding. Just wanted to make sure you were not thinking of coming another day, as I may have a client already scheduled. Please let me know that you are okay.”
There is a difference between the client who misses one appointment out of many and the client who has repeated difficulties getting to their appointment. We all make mistakes, but the client who repeatedly fails to show up causes a financial burden to the business. The frequent no-show client should probably reconsider their priorities when it comes to making that appointment. A few respondents take a hard-line when clients fail to show from the beginning. Nearly 5% require that after one no-show clients are expected to pre-pay for all future appointments. One electrologist wrote, “They are warned about my lost income and told they will pay for any missed appointments in the future.” Nearly 15% require that clients will pay for every missed appointment from the beginning; over 18% warn the client about the lost income and expect to be paid for any missed appointments in the future; nearly 14% allow a certain number of no-shows before firing the client; over 27% allow a certain number of no-shows before charging the client; and under 5% do not consider no shows a problem, so the client is not penalized or fired.
ADVICE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL
Here are some tips gathered from your colleagues:
- Consider letting the first missed appointment go without charging the client. Make it clear in your written policy that “events can occur unexpectedly and, therefore, a one-time missed appointment will not be charged.”
- Consider implementing a “three strikes you’re out,” rule and terminate clients who are chronic no-shows.
- Excuse missed appointments if the client has a true emergency.
- State that future visits may not be scheduled until the missed appointment fee is paid.
- Make sure your clients know your office policy on no-shows and late cancellations.
- Confirm, confirm, confirm. Give clients the chance to give you notice. Confirmation can be in the form of a reminder call, an email, or text message.
- Reward the good client. They get priority over the “bad” client.
- Train your clients into behaving better. Ask that client who is always late or is habitually standing you up, “Are you making me a promise you’ll show up at that time?” You’d be surprised how that stops people in their tracks.
- Gift your clients with a calendar.
DEALING WITH THE NO-SHOW CLIENT
One respondent shared her message to clients who become habitual no-shows: “As an electrologist my livelihood is made by making and keeping appointments for my clients. When a client repeatedly fails to keep their appointment then the time and income are lost forever unless they agree to pay for each missed appointment. For that reason, some clients will be declined future appointments.”
- Have the client call on the day they wish to come to see if there is an opening. (No pre-booking.)
- Make this client the last appointment of the day. If they fail to show, the evening starts sooner.
- Fire them. Be firm and polite in letting them know their needs might be better met by a different electrologist. This client isn’t just wasting time – they are costing money.
ADVICE FOR THE CONSUMER
Remember that most electrology practices are owned by women who help support their family. These businesses require a significant amount of training and the maintenance of expensive equipment. The relationship between client and electrologist must be one of trust. The client trusts that the electrologist will use their best skills to provide permanent results in the shortest time possible and the electrologist trusts that the client will follow the recommendations for treatment, which includes showing up for every scheduled appointment. The “rules” for clients are simple:
- Know the office policy on no shows and late cancellations. If you can’t live with the stated policy, select another provider.
- If you aren’t sure, confirm or decline the appointment. Permanent hair removal takes a commitment on your part, but remember that postponing treatments will postpone completion of your treatments.
- Keep it or cancel it.
During the time I’ve taken to put this blog together I have had some very significant no-show losses, which almost made it seem like my focus on the subject made it happen! (I know, I know…it was simply a coincidence.) Then a colleague wrote she was so embarrassed – she’d slept late and missed an appointment with her eye doctor. She was thinking she wouldn’t call and could never go see them again. For me, this was the moment of clarity, as the day before I had two no-shows. My clients receive an email reminder 48 hours in advance of each appointment so they have no reason to give me less than 24 hours’ notice to cancel. One client had two four-hour appointments a week apart and 36 hours before the first appointment she responded to my email reminder, “I have to cancel. I am very sorry.” My response was, “See you next time,” but a week later she did not show, so I called to ask, “Are you on your way?” as she still had time to come. No response. I then emailed “missed you,” (which sets the appointment as a no-show in my scheduling system). No response. The other client received the “missed you” email and she immediately texted back, “I’m so sorry!” The clarity came to me when I realized that an apology for missing an appointment goes a long way in my feeling charitable towards the client who misses. Did the first client mean to say she was cancelling both week’s appointments? It certainly wasn’t clear to me, and because of her failure to communicate I don’t want this client to return, as she does not respect me or my business. The amount of time lost doesn’t help me forgive this client, but an apology would have gone a long way.