A good cancellation policy is critical when it involves appointment-based clinics and businesses. This policy allows the clients to be held accountable in terms of the time spent by you, or wasted on your behalf, by having a no-show on your books.
It is, however, a point of contention and must be handled professionally and appropriately, lest you burn your client base and push clients to other clinics.
So how should you go about creating and applying a cancellation policy? What should you charge? How do you create the agreement? How should it be communicated and enforced?
Cancellation policy explained
The goal of any cancellation policy is to create an agreement between you and your client to place a common goal around attendance.
Agreeing on the cancellation policy together helps ensure you cover costs, free up your calendar for other appointments, and set expectations which value your time. It also helps your clients to become more mindful of their own time and money.
Consider what you want to include in your policy
You need a clear statement about the cancellation procedure to make the cancellation procedure a simple process.
Your content should also include several key components enabling you to maintain a healthy relationship with your customers.
A few questions to ask yourself:
- Is it possible for clients to cancel appointments without penalties? If so, under what circumstances?
- What are the time frames you’d like to enforce? 24 hours is common.
- How much does a cancellation cost if a cancellation can’t be completed during your cancellation window?
- Will you be lenient based on extenuating circumstances or returning?
- How will you make contact over imminent appointments?
- How will you link them to a rescheduling service?
How do I inform clients about my cancellation policy?
Inform clients of their cancellation policy as quickly as possible when gaining an appointment.
The best route is to make sure it’s a part of your booking agreement, requiring a check box or similar to verify that your terms and conditions have been read and met.
Being upfront while also gaining the client’s explicit agreement is the name of the game. Don’t attempt to send a policy after the original booking has been made, or have it hidden somewhere on your website.
Build your cancellation policy into intake forms
It’s important for businesses to follow an efficient cancellation policy. The simple way of doing this would be to create a cancellation policy directly within your client intake form, which requires the customer to accept this policy during their reservation process.
It is critical for clients to know what is expected and what will happen in the eventuation of a cancellation. Adding your cancellation policy in the intake form also keeps your workflow organised.
You should also have a separate landing page on your website – which can be linked to – detailing your full cancellation policy.
Preventing no-shows, cancelled appointments and missed income
The best way of preventing an unexpected cancellation would be to have the company make its own cancellation policy and include this policy within your contract. One of the easiest ways to remind a person of upcoming appointments before they come to you is to contact them via email. It is possible to send reminders automatically using a client notification system – Jobber. Need a free template?
Should You Charge a Cancelation Fee for No-shows?
This is a crucial question. You need to decide:
- Whether you should charge a cancellation fee or not
- How much you should charge as a cancellation fee
- When the charge is applicable and for what reason
- Your timeframe for free/charged cancellation.
On one hand, a high fee or unreasonable time frame may prevent bookings. You also might burn a potential ling term client with cancellation fees. On the other hand, you need to value your time and availability. Once booked, a cancellation fee also adds pressure to show up.
Penalties and when to charge them
To make cancellations carrots or stick you have an effect that is likely to result in cancellation – particularly in lastminute cancellations. When deciding on penalties take into consideration:
- Reasonable percentage of fee
- Not making the fee too high or risk burning clients
- Require credit card on file for cancellation events
Ready-to-use company cancellation policy example
Let’s help you create a company cancellation policies, using the below template for free use. Please add this to your contract.
“Thank you for booking with us. In the event you need to cancel your appointment, we require a notice period of [insert notice period]. Missed appointments, or appointments cancelled inside the notice period [the time frame] will incur a fee of [Amount]. Please contact or reschedule at [insert link or contact details]. See our full cancellation policy here [inset link].”