It’s difficult to do business with a ghost.
If you deal with appointments, certainly you’ve had a few clients like this. These types regularly show with no issue, until one day...poof! They just stop showing. Sometimes, they had a bad experience that you’re unaware of, but how can you know if you don’t see them? Other times, they simply get too busy or forget to cancel an appointment.
Unless they choose to answer the phone, respond to your messages, or leave you a review, you may never know why they didn’t show up. You’re just left to wonder if it’s something you said?
All you can do in this instance is entice them to respond. If you can solve their problem or get them rescheduled, you may even be able to return them to your regular customer rotation.
Before we start talking about ways to reach out to these customers, it’s important to take a moment to think about your tone. When a customer doesn’t show up to their appointment, this hurts your business. It’s easy to get frustrated with the cost they’ve inflicted. Not only that but in small business, time is money. Someone not respecting your schedule and your business can cause hostility or defensiveness.
The important thing to remember is you don’t know why they didn’t show up. It could be a negative perception of your business, but it’s more likely to be completely unrelated. They could have forgotten, or they could have had an emergency come up. No matter the situation, you must handle it with kindness.
This person, most likely, did not miss their appointment on purpose. Your goal is to get them in the door again. Approach them with professionalism and understanding.
It’s important to understand why a customer doesn’t show up. If you’re a dentist, for example, maybe they lost their insurance and could no longer pay. Perhaps in this instance, they’re unaware of your payment or credit options that you could present. Most likely, if they made the appointment, it’s not that they’re not interested—so let’s do some digging.
If you can get them on the phone, ask kindly if they’d like to reschedule. If they say no, gently inquire their reasoning and see if you can help them. If your staff struggles with what to say to no-show clients, create a list of common reasons that people cancel appointments and your set up a few canned responses.
An email is a nice way of contacting your customers a bit more passively. If it is a financial or emergency situation, the chances are good that the missing client won’t answer the phone. The follow-up email should be friendly and simply ask if they’d like to reschedule and if there is anything you can do to help them.
If you have a feeling that the customer was frustrated with your services before they ever came in the door (or if they’ve been a long-time client that disappeared), try sending them a survey. This allows them to express their frustration in a way that feels safer and a bit more anonymous.
When you do find out a reason for why a customer didn’t show up, write it down. Keep an active log of cancellations, preferably in a sortable spreadsheet. Once you have gathered a decent amount of data, you can look for trends in your no-show records. This can help you forecast when no-shows are more likely to happen.
Another trend you may notice is that your appointments are simply too far out. If you notice appointments that are booked three or four weeks in advance aren’t kept, you may consider closing off your calendar from such early bookings. It’s hard for customers to know what their schedule will be like so far in advance, and their urgency tends to wane over time. They may have been motivated to buy your product or get a checkup a month ago, but new, more pressing matters have come up or they’ve found another solution to their problem. Your service has lost its priority in their mind.
It’s also a good idea to note that customer’s file when they no-show. One random cancellation is understandable in the grand scheme of things, but someone who cancels often may need to pre-pay or risk incurring a cancellation fee.
The absolute best way to communicate with no-show customers is not to have no-show customers at all. While that’s virtually impossible, you can seriously cut down on the number of ghost customers you get by making sure they’re actively reminded of their appointments.
If you use a calendar for managing bookings, it’s easy to set up reminders to go out to your customers. An SMS text confirmation can ask your client several days before the appointment if they intend to come. This not only reminds them; it lets you know if they’re at risk of no-showing.
The majority of no-shows don’t have some nefarious cause. Honestly, people are just busy, and they forget. They either don’t put the appointment in their calendar, accidentally double book themselves, or life just plain gets in the way. So, the best way to keep them coming in the door is to regularly remind them when the appointment is happening. A little refresher goes a long way.
If you automate your reminders, your customers can receive text messages, phone calls, and emails with their appointment information automatically. You don’t have to lift a finger.
Ghosting can be a huge problem that seriously cuts into your bottom line. For the no-show customers that aren’t remedied with automation, the best thing you can do is to notate their missed appointment, track their reasons, and try to rebook with positivity and compassion. After all, at the end of the day, you still want them to come through the door.