How to Reduce No-Shows for Scheduled AppointmentsCharlie Bedell
Client no-shows can be frustrating. You work hard to get new clients, help them book an appointment, and then they don’t show when their appointment arrives. Meanwhile, your business loses money from an unfilled appointment time. In fact, with an average no-show rate of 25% in the United States, many organizations end up losing thousands of dollars every month from appointment no-shows.
Thankfully, there are many solutions for no-shows. Read this article to find out the best ways to reduce no-shows for scheduled appointments.
Have a written no-show policy
Clients must be made aware of your organization’s expectations regarding appointment no-shows. The best way to do this is by writing a no-show policy and asking clients to read and sign it along with their new client paperwork. In addition, many organizations post their no-show policy at the front desk. This way, clients cannot claim they don’t know the consequences of arriving late or not at all for an appointment. This is also good for transparency. Customers who fail to show up for an appointment will have a clear expectation of the results.
A few provisions to consider in your no-show policy:
- Allow one missed appointment free of any charges or penalties. This offers some flexibility and allows you to reiterate your no-show policy when the first one occurs.
- After the first missed appointment, charge for missed appointments. Many organizations charge a nominal fee of $25 or $30. If no-shows are a major problem for your organization, consider charging the full cost of the appointment as a strong incentive to clients.
- Make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for situations out of clients’ control such as a sickness or emergency.
- Delineate between a cancellation and a last-minute no-show for an appointment. Is there a different business impact between someone who cancels 48 hours in advance versus 30 minutes before the appointment, or not at all? Then build the cancellation policy into the no-show policy.
A no-show policy can encourage your clients not to miss their appointments by clearly defining expectations and consequences.
Let clients schedule their own appointments
Many organizations still schedule all appointments by phone. This antiquated way of managing appointment scheduling can cause long hold times, frustrating back-and-forth with clients, and confusion about availability. Instead, consider allowing clients to self-schedule appointments anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
When clients self-schedule appointments online, they can see your organization’s full availability in comparison to their personal calendars, letting them pick the best time. Many online schedulers also allow clients to remove or reschedule their appointment themselves. This allows clients to manage their appointments themselves rather than waiting for a phone call or office visit to do it.
Require clients to prepay for their appointment
A small financial investment upfront for an appointment can be a significant incentive for clients to keep their appointment time. When clients know they have committed money to an appointment, they are much more likely to show. No one wants to lose money from something as simple as arriving at an appointment!
Beyond encouraging clients to show for their appointment, prepayment can also reduce the payment clients must make after their appointment. This gives clients the perception of a lower cost for your service and, thus, a better bargain. You can even offer a discount for those who prepay for their next visit, further incentivizing clients to keep their appointment time.
Appointment prepayment doesn’t have to be a headache for your organization. Many online appointment platforms allow you to collect payments when clients book an appointment with you, keeping the process simple for you and your clients.
Send multiple reminder notifications
If you want clients to remember their appointment times, remind them! One study found that no-shows can be reduced by nearly 30% simply by sending clients appointment reminders.
Ask clients their preferred contact method when they book an appointment, including:
- Text message
- Phone call
Then, use that information to provide reminders. If your client base is growing, you may want to consider automating the reminder process to save you and your staff time for other tasks. Many online platforms offer automated email and text message reminders that allow you to set and forget your reminder message preferences. See ways that TimeTap can help automate your scheduling.
Develop an appointment waitlist
Life happens – some no shows are inevitable, but they don’t have to cost your organization money! Combat lost revenue from no shows by keeping a waitlist. This gives you the option to fill in appointment gaps with clients who have the flexibility to take an appointment on short notice.
Make sure to gather all the information you need from clients who want to join the waitlist so you can book them as quickly as possible when an appointment opens. Ask clients for their:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Preferred days and times
- Preferred service or staff member
While you can certainly create a handmade waitlist, many organizations find using software purpose-built to keep waitlists is more time and cost-efficient. Some scheduling platforms even offer automated waitlists that clients can join and will automatically alert clients when an appointment opens.
Avoid overbooking appointments
Nearly half of clients view long appointment wait times as a sign of disrespect which, in turn, causes clients to skip appointments when they’re short on time. To solve this, avoid overbooking your appointments and keep wait times to a minimum. A good scheduling tool should allow you to build buffer times between appointments as one way to help.
Oftentimes, overbooking happens by accident – a busy office juggling multiple staff and services can accidentally fill an appointment time in one calendar that doesn’t show in another. The best way to overcome this challenge is to use a robust scheduling software that allows you to combine all of your calendars into one, consolidated schedule. This ensures there’s always a single source of truth for your organization’s schedule, avoiding overbooking and keeping your clients from waiting.
Offer digital check-in for upcoming appointments
Another way to reduce wait times and their resulting no-shows is by offering a digital check-in process. Allow clients to pre-register and complete any screenings or paperwork online before their appointment. If clients have committed time before their appointment to completing paperwork, they are much more likely to show up for their appointment.
The benefits of digital check-in include:
- Reducing the wait that clients experience when they need to fill out paperwork by hand before their appointment.
- Saving your staff from paperwork and manual data entry.
- Staying compliant by using safer data privacy practices online.
Find a scheduling software that offers a digital check-in process automatically synced with your appointment schedule to make it easy on your staff. You’ll be surprised by the benefits of digital check-in - it will reduce no-shows, update your office workflows, and keep clients coming back on time.
Develop strong patient relationships
When clients feel like they know you and your staff personally, they are more likely to be considerate about appointment times. Relationship building can go beyond your office walls. In fact, you have year-round opportunities to build relationships with your clients.
Consider sending your clients birthday notes, holiday wishes, informative newsletters, or links to your website or blog right to their email inbox. You can even create email campaigns in some scheduling platforms to send these types of mailings automatically on set dates and times.
When clients feel appreciated and cared for by your organization, they are considerably less likely to become a no-show. Finding ways to communicate with clients and patients is a good way to strengthen relationships.
Getting new clients is hard enough; there’s no need to overcomplicate the process to ensure they also make it to their appointment. Take one of these simple no-show solutions at a time, trying it out with your client base and seeing what reduces your patient and client no-shows. Once you’ve mastered a few that work best, you’ll conquer client no-shows. Then, you and your staff will be free to focus on other important aspects of running your business.