By Kathy Hosler
Is there anything more frustrating than to have your carefully planned schedule screwed up by clients who don’t show or who cancel at the last minute?
It happens to almost every groomer, and for some, it’s an everyday occurrence.
“I’m having a HUGE issue with this right now. I had three people not show up today,” says groomer, Sandy Hartness. “And I don’t know what to do. I can’t charge a fee because I am located in a poor area, and this area is flooded with groomers. The clients will just go elsewhere.”
No shows and last minute cancellations cost groomers time, money and lots of aggravation. Is there any way for Sandy and other groomers to eliminate this problem? Probably not entirely, but there are some things you can do to lessen them and the impact they have on you, and your business.
The first step is to decide what your polices are going to be for no shows and last minute cancellations. Post them in a prominent place in your salon or van, and put it on your website. Explain your policy to people when they make an appointment. When you make reminder calls, texts and emails, also include your cancellation/missed appointment policy.
If you are doing these things, and you are still getting no shows, it may be time to penalize the offenders—other professionals do. Doctors, dentists and hairdressers all charge for missed appointments.
There’s not a single answer for everyone. New groomers trying to build a business often experience no shows, but many are reluctant to charge for them. They don’t want to alienate customers and have them bad mouth their business. That’s understandable, but you also don’t want them walking all over you and just showing up for their appointment if they feel like it.
We all know that some pet owners will call around and book appointments with several groomers. Then they will keep the one that suites them best, and never have the courtesy to cancel the others.
Established groomers like Justine Cosley have found a way to greatly cut down on no shows. “All new clients MUST book online their first time.” says Justine. “If a regular customer misses one appointment, they also MUST book online going forward. When they book online, they agree to a 50% cancellation fee of the base price of the groom. Also, our program sends a reminder to text, email or both. Because the client books online, they enter their own contact information and they cannot blame us for not getting reminders.”
Mary Arnold has also found a way to lessen no shows. “If an owner misses their appointment, I always ask the reason…sometimes it is serious and I don’t penalize,” says Mary. “If not, they prepay $50 on a credit card if they want to rebook. I deduct that from the cost of the groom.”
Missed appointments have been an ongoing problem for Nancy Gross. “In June, I finally posted that, unless it’s an emergency, there is a $25 no call/no show fee,” says Nancy. “That being said, I will give them one “freebie” and then they get charged.”
Mobile groomers are not exempt either. “I clearly state in my signed terms of service that a cancellation fee in full is due without 24 hours’ notice,” says Mary Oquendo. “I usually give one pass. I always waive it for true emergencies. I find one of two things happen when I enforce it. They never do it again—or—they don’t use my services again. Either scenario I am fine with.”
Clients who no call/no show can be more trouble than they are worth. They waste your time and prevent someone else from getting the appointment you gave to them. If you have groomers working for you and their appointments don’t show, you lose money and so do they.
Always document when someone doesn’t show up for their appointment. Then if they call in the future and want to schedule an appointment, you can refuse them—or have them prepay.
“After putting on my appointment cards that there is a $35 fee for missed appointments or cancellations not made at least 48 hours in advance, it is rarely a problem,” says Barb Hoover. “Once I sent a letter to a client that said, due to a missed appointment, I would need their future appointments prepaid, one week in advance…with no refunds if they do not show or cancel. She did not ever come back, which really was the goal of the letter anyway.”
No shows are a real problem throughout the grooming industry. However, the real goal is to get the client to show up, not to penalize them for a no show. So, how do you do that? Rebook and remind.
Start with the clients you already have. Ask every client to book their pet’s next appointment when they pick them up after their groom. You might say something like, “Suzie’s last appointment was seven weeks ago. I know you had to wait a week to get her in after you called for an appointment. Why don’t we schedule her next appointment now? We can make it for six weeks. That way Suzie won’t go too long between hair appointments and you will be able to plan your schedule easier.”
When you get clients on a recurring schedule of 4, 5, or 6 weeks, it becomes a way of life for them. Make sure to give them an appointment card (with your cancellation policy on it).
Encourage them to set a reminder in their phone while you are filling out the appointment card. Then call, text or email reminders one week and then again one day before their next appointment. This may seem like a bother to you, but it’s a lot better for you and your staff than facing a day full of no shows.
Some groomers offer various reward systems. For example, if a pet is on a recurring four week schedule, and they keep the first eleven appointments—the twelfth appointment is free. Other stylists offer a free upgrade, such as a spa treatment or tooth brushing, to owners who keep their preset appointments.
You may feel this is a costly way to keep a customer, but if you can create a client who keeps every appointment, you are way ahead. Rewarding a dependable client (one whom you already know what their pet is like to groom) makes more sense than looking for new ones.
The right solution may be different for every groomer. But whether you decide to charge a fee to clients who miss appointments, or reward the ones who rebook and stay on schedule, or a combination of both—it’s time to do something about no shows.