No-show clients can leave you feeling like you want to pull your hair out on your good days, and completely throw in the towel on your bad days. They’re the bane of nearly every salon and spa owner’s life, and to top things off, the problem seems to be getting worse and not better.
In this article, let’s take a look at why no-shows happen and importantly, what you can do about it to lessen the impact on your business’s bottom line.
Research seems to indicate that there are a few stand-out reasons that help to explain client no-shows. Hopefully, once you understand why they’re happening, you’ll be able to create effective strategies to minimise no-shows in your salon or spa as much as possible.
1. Clients simply forget.
Yes, it can be as simple as this. The salon clients of today have a great deal on their minds. When there are other important things going on in their lives, it’s easy to forget an appointment for a brow shape or bikini wax. It’s not that the client doesn’t want to have their service, but it’s just not high on their list of important things to do.
How to handle it: Always set up some form of appointment reminder. Give your clients sufficient notice of their pending appointment so that if they discover they can’t make it, it won’t leave you with a gap in your appointment book that is unlikely to get re-filled.
Ensure your reminders include 2 things:
a. A request to reply to the reminder. If they don’t need to reply, then it gives the client the opportunity to say she simply didn’t receive it.
b. Your salon policy on late cancellations and no-shows. If there’s no penalty for not turning up, where is the incentive to do the right thing? E.g. Failure to arrive will result in a 100% charge for your service. 6 hours’ notice is required for rescheduling. Thank you.
2. Clients think that you don’t care if they don’t turn up.
I believe this is more common than many people realise. Scenario: The first time the client doesn’t show, her therapist says nothing and nicely asks her if she’d like to make another appointment. The client now believes that it was no big deal that she just didn’t turn up, and so keeping her future appointments at your salon or spa becomes even less important to her.
How to handle it: Let me share a quick story with you. One salon owner I spoke with was having real issues with a particular client who regularly missed her appointments. Eventually, the salon owner broached the topic with the client and her response was, “Oh, I thought you would be okay with it because I knew it gave you time to have a cuppa and catch up on some paperwork”.
Clients don’t always understand the impact this behaviour has on your business. It’s up to you to have your no-show and late cancellation policies written and displayed. You must educate your clients about your expectations when it comes to salon policies and etiquette.
3. Clients believe that getting an appointment with your salon is easy-peasy.
If clients believe that getting an appointment with your salon is as simple as picking up the phone and asking for their preferred time and date, then they’re not going to be too concerned about missing an appointment. In their minds, getting another appointment will be no big deal.
How to handle it: Always give the impression to your clients that you’re almost fully booked in advance – even if you’re staring at your appointment screen with only 1 appointment booked in for the week ahead. If the client believes you have tons of free appointment spaces, then she’s not going to be too worried about getting another appointment time and will believe that you need her more than she needs you.
Never tell a client she can ‘pick any day and any time’ because you have ‘loads of empty spots available to choose from’. Instead, use the following technique when taking your appointments to always give the impression that you only have limited free appointment times available.
Client: I’d like to make an appointment, please.
Salon: Terrific. Would either Tuesday or Thursday suit you?
Client: Yes, either day is okay with me.
Salon: Fantastic. I have 2 spots available on Tuesday at 10.30am or 3 pm. Which one is best for you?
Client: I’ll have the 10.30, please.
This approach allows you to stay in control of your appointment schedule, plus gives the strong impression to the client that you have a busy salon and appointments with you are valuable.
Now, I appreciate that it won’t always be this straightforward, however, the strategy is to offer up only a choice of 2 things for the client to choose from. A choice of 2 days and then a choice of 2 times on the preferred day (generally 1 in the morning and another in the afternoon).
If neither day or time suits your client and she requests a different day, say something along the lines of “Let me take a look and see what I can do for you”, pause for a few seconds and then say, “Yes, with a little re-arranging I can fit you in on Wednesday morning at 11”.
This sends the right impression to the client, and that is that she is booking into a busy, sought-after salon and should value her appointment time. She is far less likely to forget about an appointment that will be hard to replace.
4. A better offer popped up at the last minute.
This is something that happens quite often with younger clients; it seems to be a generational phenomenon. Simply not showing up to a prearranged appointment has become the norm in their private lives and has now crept into their dealings with their service providers also.
How to handle it: Make these clients aware of your salon no-show policy. Have it on your website, service menus, salon signage, and reminder messages. Charge for missed appointments to show you mean business.
5. There was a last-minute emergency.
This happens to all of us at some time when something totally unexpected crops up. It’s up to you to decide if the ‘emergency’ was real or simply a convenient excuse to try and wriggle out of paying for the missed appointment.
How to handle it: If you believe the emergency was real and you have a policy of forgiving the first offence, then let the client know that as it was her first no-show you’ll let it go this 1 time, but future no-shows will require a payment.
On the other hand, if you have a client that has repeated ‘emergencies’, then it’s time to get tough. One way to handle this is to ask the client to prepay for her services. Make it non-refundable and let her know that if she doesn’t turn up, she won’t get her money back or a replacement appointment.
If she balks at paying up front, chances are she was most likely not going to show up anyway, and you would have been left without income for that time.
Note: Unless you have a very secure system, I advise against asking for a credit card number to ‘hold’ against her appointment. There is some doubt over the legality of doing this. Best to simply process the payment in full over the phone at the time of making the appointment, and either send an electronic receipt or issue it to her when she arrives for her appointment.
Other strategies to consider:
*All large bookings, such as bridal parties, should be asked to pay a substantial and non-booking fee. A large party no-show will heavily impact on your revenue.
*Always follow up every no-show with a phone call. This lets the client know that her no-show was noticed by the salon. If she hears nothing from you, she’ll assume that it was no big deal and is more likely to repeat the behaviour in the future. The call shouldn’t be nasty or aggressive, but a way to let the client know you noticed her failure to turn up.
*When you introduce a no-show penalty, be aware of the fact that there’s a very good chance you may lose the client if she thinks she may need to pay for her missed service. This is not always a bad thing, especially if the client is actually no-showing regularly.
* Train your team members how to talk to their clients about appointment availability in your salon or spa. People always value what they have to fight to get.
It’s important to always give the impression to clients that you are a much sought after salon or spa with limited appointment times available. When this happens, their appointments with you become more valuable and they’re much less likely to forget to attend.