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Scheduling Strategies for the Last-Minute Cancellations, No-Shows, & the Chronically Late

By: Lauren Whitaker, BCN Communications

Category: Professionals, Students

Time management and scheduling are continual “works in progress”, no matter how disciplined you are. It’s an imperfect science, especially given that so much of our time is dependent on the time of another, our guests. However, it's still a worthwhile focus.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting to build your business, you’ll inevitably have them on your appointment book. (Disclaimer: We’ve all had emergencies and occasional scheduling mishaps. Things happen, totally understandable, unavoidable life things. That’s not the issue at hand.)

See if any of these sound familiar:

  • the 4-week color refresh client who is always (always!) 30 minutes late… 
  • the guy who calls at the last minute to hop in your chair for a haircut then calls 5 minutes before he’s scheduled to arrive and cancels…
  • the new guest that you’ve booked out the better part of your afternoon to give life-changing cut and color, but she never makes it into your chair… 

    You’ve strategically mapped out your day for maximum efficiency. Now, you feel like you’re trying to catch up and get back on track or deal with a gigantic hole in the middle of your day. It’s annoying and disruptive, not to mention the financial implications to your paycheck. What’s more, you’re trying to maintain your professionalism when you know that the Triple Mocha Frappuccino in your (always late!) guest’s hand looks suspiciously fresh, practically untouched…(gasp!).

    Though you may not be able to avoid last-minute cancellations and no-shows completely, you can definitely take steps to proactively reduce them. Here are some strategies and areas to get started: 

    Text and Email Confirmations

    Take advantage of the appointment reminder notifications in your booking software - automated texts, emails, or both sent out, typically three days, prior to a scheduled appointment. This gives your guest the opportunity to respond accordingly. If they have forgotten about their booking or mixed up the date, they have plenty of time to change their schedule, and you too have time to fill your chair even if they cancel.

    Phone Calls

    If you’ve not received a definitive “yes” a day prior to the appointment, give your guest an actual phone call as a friendly reminder to confirm. Your front desk team can also be helpful in making calls, leaving voicemails, and ensuring that your future bookings are accurate and solidified. 

    Use Pending Cancellations

    Most salon software has a pending cancellation function/waiting list, but are you using it? Are your appointment coordinators using it consistently? This is a valuable tool to alert you of guests who are trying to get in for an appointment, usually triggered by the cancellation of another guest. Get familiar with the tech options that are available to help take some of the guesswork out of making the most of your time.

    The Chronically Late Guest

    You have those established guests who always run behind. When nothing else seems to work, a quick fix may be as simple as how you book them. For example, book and confirm them for their 1:00 appointment, but schedule them on your book at 1:30.  In your salon booking system, there’s usually an option to create a pop-up note alerting you or your front desk team to book accordingly. Worst-case scenario, they show up a bit early occasionally (which is much easier to accommodate than playing catch up all day).

    Cancellation and No-Show Policies

    Before adopting a blanket policy, it’s worthwhile to consider if you’ve exhausted other options first (proactive, consistent confirmation practices, stellar client communication, your dependability and timeliness behind the chair, etc.). Creating a “one size” policy is tough, so make certain that you aren’t putting something in place that affects your entire clientele when your challenge lies with a few clients.

    When creating a cancellation/no-show policy, you’ll want to consider the following:

    -What’s the penalty for cancellation/no-show? It is a fee or loss of pre-booking privileges? If there’s a charge associated, how are you collecting it? (This would affect how you book, because you or your front desk may require a credit card to reserve an appointment.)

    -What’s the time frame to cancel an appointment without penalty?

    -Who will enforce this policy? What amount of flexibility do you have?

    -How will this policy affect your client relationships?

    -Make sure your policies are communicated clearly to your guests in a variety of ways, verbally, online, and tasteful signage in common areas of the salon. If you use email confirmations, you may want to include your cancellation policy here as well. 

    Your time is your livelihood. Creating proactive approaches to manage your schedule early on will serve you well as you build your business. 

    Tags: Students, Professionals, Salon, Salon Management, salon culture, Business, Time Management

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