Reducing salon no shows and last minute cancellations

I have an embarrassing confession.

I’ve just cancelled my salon appointment one hour before I was due in the chair. Needless to say I shall be going armed with a bottle of something fizzy on my next visit and, of course, I volunteered to pay any cancellation fee. It was a cut and colour so I felt awful letting them down.

You can’t realistically expect to eliminate salon no shows and last minute cancellations completely. However, there are plenty of marketing tips for reducing them to the real emergencies only. And we all have crisis from time to time – the tail-end of an Atlantic hurricane left me stranded on the wrong side of the English Channel to my hairdresser.

So let’s look at:

  • The cost of no shows
  • 6 marketing ideas to reduce them
  • Dealing with no shows on the day
  • The right cancellation fee
  • Why you’re getting them


Counting the cost of salon no shows and last minute cancellations

Have you worked out how much no shows and late cancellations are costing your hair or beauty business?

Let’s say you have 8 no shows a week in your salon… If your average service invoice is £36 (net of VAT) x 8 no shows = £288 per week

That’s £1,152 a month

Which is a staggering £14,688 net per year.

Umm… you can’t afford to turn a blind eye, can you?


How much do no shows cost your salon business?

Do you know how many no shows and last minute cancellations your hair or beauty business has in the average month? How much profit you’re losing?

The first step to tackling no shows is to monitor and measure how much your salon, spa or clinic is losing from clients missing their appointments. Your salon software will run a missed appointment report for you.

Now look for no show trends and patterns:

  • Do you get more last minute cancellations at certain times/days?
  • Are some team members getting more no shows than others?
  • Then are they the most junior, the cheapest or the most expensive?

Once you find patterns you can start to tackle missed appointments with these six hair and beauty marketing tips:


Six ways to reduce salon no shows and late cancellations

1. Remind hair & beauty clients about appointments

There are 3 main ways to remind your clients:

  • Appointment cards
  • Text messages
  • Phone calls

So which should you choose?

In a perfect world: all of them. Yes, it does take time and money but think how much profit you gain by preventing just one no show.

Let’s look at each method:

Reminder One: Appointment cards

It doesn’t matter if you see clients entering their appointment on their mobile you should still give them a written card. Most clients will pop into their purse where it’s likely to get seen and remind them.

What have you got to lose?

Reminder Two: Text messages

Text reminders are so common these days that they are expected good business practice and customer care. Salon software suppliers offer this facility as standard. It’s easy to set up and can save you a fortune on last minute cancellations and no shows.

Keep the message simple:

Appt reminder Weybridge Skin Clinic @ 10.00am on 16/06/2017.

And if you offer online booking add:

You can now book online at XXXX.

This makes it easy for the client to rearrange their hair or beauty appointment if they need to.

I send the appointment reminder 48 hours in advance. I know some hair and beauty businesses do it 24 hours before the appointment, but I don’t think this gives your client enough time to rearrange if they have accidently double booked.

48 hours gives them time to change their plans, or call you and change their appointment. It also gives you a little more time to fill that last-minute gap (I cover how to do this later in this blog).

Reminder Three: Phone calls

I hear this so often…

‘But if we call it gives them the chance to cancel’.

Yes, it does.

But far better to know 48 hours in advance when you stand a chance of filling that gap, than finding they don’t turn up for their salon appointment.

Best practice for me is:

  • Call the client two days (48 hours) before their appointment date.
  • Leave a voice mail reminder if they don’t answer.
  • Either way, follow up immediately with a reminder text.

If you don’t have the manpower to make calls to every salon client then:

  • Always call first visit clients.
  • Always call known ‘regular no show offenders’. We all have them…


2. Good client relationships reduce no shows

Obvious but often overlooked.

Encouraging your team to build strong relationships with your clients will reduce no shows because they increase a client’s commitment to their beauty therapist or hair stylist. Clients don’t want to ‘let Claire down’.

There is another reason:

One of the major reasons for no shows is that the client was unhappy with their last visit. It’s far easier to just not turn up than to voice their dissatisfaction.

Think about it:

How often has a waiter asked if ‘everything is good’ and you smile and say ‘it’s fine thank you’. Even though you’ve just moaned to your friends that the meat is chewy and the plate cold.

It’s human nature. Very few of us like making a fuss at the time; we just don’t bother going back to that restaurant. A no show is the easy route.

But a strong relationship means your client isn’t afraid to voice their concerns and provided you coach your team on how to handle the situation you’ll find your salon no show rate reduces significantly.


3. Respect clients’ time if you want them to respect yours

Show hair and beauty clients that you value their time by:

  • Ensuring your therapist and stylists run to time.
  • Don’t reschedule appointments unless you really can’t avoid it.
  • Thank clients who arrive in good time and rarely cancel. Reward ‘good’ behaviour.

By showing you respect your clients’ time and busy diaries then they are much more likely to respect your time.


4. Have a clear salon cancellation policy

Why are so many hair and beauty businesses frightened of a displaying (and enforcing) a cancellation policy?

It is not something to be ashamed of – you’re in business.

Write a polite but firm policy and display it on your salon website, treatment menu and appointment cards.

The marketing trick is to remember it’s a two part process:

  • A reminder 48 hours prior to the appointment which gives clients a chance to make their changes.
  • A fee will be incurred if an appointment is missed or substantially altered within 24 hours of the appointment time.

The key point is to leave time between the reminder and the fee being applied i.e. there’s a 24 hour window for clients to call and reschedule or at least let you know.


What should your salon cancellation policy say?

Something as simple as:

We understand clients occasionally need to change or cancel their appointments. Should you need to do so we ask for at least 24 hours notice or 50% of the treatment will be charged. Thank you.

If a client has a genuine reason to cancel (mine was an Atlantic hurricane) then they will feel more comfortable knowing where they stand.

Educate your team, especially reception and anyone manning the phones so they know:

  • What to say.
  • How you expect last-minute cancellations to be handled.

I find a script gives people confidence; even if they don’t use it, it’s there if they need it. You can show them how the right body language can help diffuse an awkward client situation too (you’ll find plenty of practical tips here).

And of course you can exercise your discretion and waive the cancellation fee if you want to for your best salon or clinic clients.


5. Deposits against salon no shows

This is one I’m often asked.

Should you take a deposit?

It depends…

For regular clients who reliably show up for their appointment I think it looks rather impersonal, doesn’t show trust and I don’t think says ‘personal professional relationship’. So I wouldn’t ask for a deposit.

On the other hand I would ask for a deposit where:

  • A new (or fairly new) client books a high price treatment such as cryotherapy, anti-wrinkle injections or a major hair colour change. If the bill is running into 3 figures then it’s worth asking for a deposit, especially if it’s on a popular day such as Saturday.
  • For courses of treatments where you’re booking up a beauty or aesthetic therapist for weeks and months to come.
  • Persistent no show offenders. As I said earlier: you’re running a business.


6. Online booking

A salon owner told me last week they didn’t want to install online booking on their website as it made cancelling too easy. I pointed out it also made booking and re-booking easy too.

A website booking facility means a client can let you know they won’t be coming without having to face a frosty receptionist. It also allows them to easily and instantly reschedule their appointment at the same time.

Plus, if someone isn’t going to show up surely it’s better to know in advance so you have an opportunity to fill the gap.

Is your salon or clinic website letting you down? We’re leading UK hair & beauty website specialists who write and design easy to use attractive sites tailored to your business. Take a peek at some of our work here.


What to do when hair & beauty clients fail to show up?

Even if you follow all these marketing tips you will always get some no shows. So, what should your team do when they realise they have been stood up?


1. Call your client

A phone call diffuses any embarrassment if they have made a genuine mistake or are caught up by events beyond their control.

Remind your team to remain polite, calm and not show their frustration. Their goal is to reschedule if at all possible, so they may need to be persistent; if the client doesn’t answer always leave a pleasant firm voice mail and follow up with another call and/or text.


2. Repeat no show offenders

If you have hair and beauty clients who regularly cancel last-minute or don’t show up in spite of your texts and calls then I’d fire them as clients. Does your salon or clinic really need this type of client?

Remember how much no shows cost your business. Can you afford to be out of pocket? Can you afford to have frustrated and irritated team members? No.

If you can’t bring yourself to lose them as clients then book them in on the quieter days only and avoid late nights, December and weekends. Or insist on taking their credit card details (remember to have that clear cancellation policy well displayed).


3. Stay flexible

On the other hand if a good longstanding client has to cancel late in the day then don’t throw the book at them. We all have emergencies (and memory lapses) so evaluate each no show individually.


4. Stand-by list for late hair & beauty cancellations

Create a list of clients who are able to come in at short notice. This works especially well for your most popular beauty therapists and hairdressers. You can always offer them a reduced price service if it’s very last-minute to show you appreciate their flexibility.


What is a fair salon cancellation charge?

Another question I’m frequently asked…

I’ve seen everything from a 100% cancellation fee to a straight £25 charge regardless of the treatment booked.

I think 100% is a bit too harsh; you’ll probably never see the client again in which case you won’t recover your fee (unless you’ve taken a credit card) and you’ve lost out on future business.

For me the best phrase is…“Please let us know if you can’t make your appointment. We require 24 hours notice for appointment cancellations/amendments otherwise a 50% charge may apply. Thank you.”

I’ve used ‘may apply’ to give flexibility for your loyal clients who have had a genuine emergency such as a hurricane…


Why aren’t they showing up?

I recommended earlier that you analyse your no shows and look for trends for individual team members, treatments or even days of the week.

Can you see a pattern? Most ‘deliberate’ missed appointments are rooted in the customer experience. Ask yourself if the client was happy:

  • with their results last visit?
  • the quality vs value for money?
  • the customer service and care?

Interested in learning more about improving customer service and the client’s journey in your salon, clinic or spa? Try these blogs for practical ideas – we’re hair & beauty marketing specialists:

Powerful tips for a perfect consultation

Delivering a WOW customer journey

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