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How to Deal with Last Minute Customer Cancellations

Image of Olivia Orme
Olivia Orme
Man reviewing online calendar and taking notes

In the home service industry, there are plenty of customers who call and cancel service each and every day. Between dance recitals, dentist’s appointments, and doctor visits, we all have lives to live so it’s very understandable that customers have to cancel from time to time.

However, there is a difference between a customer canceling service, and a very last-minute cancellation. Typically, a respectful cancellation means providing the business at least a week’s notice, so there is enough time to fill that open maintenance or service slot.

Day of cancellations aren’t easy to handle - your employees now have to sit on the sidelines with idle hands, when they could have been doing something more meaningful with their time.

No one wants to lose business, so in order to prevent this from happening, it’s best to have a cancellation policy in place. That’s why we’ve brainstormed a few strategies that will help eliminate the frustrations of customer cancellations.

Create A Cancellation Policy

If you don’t already have a cancellation policy in place, it’s time to change that. Cancellation policies are the not so fine print you leave on your website, and in customer’s paperwork, regarding proper customer cancellation protocol.

A cancellation policy typically lists a time frame in which case it’s acceptable to cancel your appointment, whether that is a week’s notice or even 24 hours notice out. Many businesses will have clients pay some type of deposit upfront, so that way they are protected in case a customer does cancel last minute. This helps customers from continuously rescheduling, which just ends up wasting your time on unreliable leads.

Any unreliable leads won’t even bother making an appointment because they won’t want to risk losing their deposit, and you won’t waste any time on inconsistent leads. This keeps your customer base full of loyal, repeat clients that wouldn’t dream about canceling at the last minute unless something truly urgent came up.

While some customers don’t love cancellation policies, it’s going to increase your overall retention rate, and create a stronger relationship between you and your clients. Plus, it adjusts homeowner expectations and can promote a positive professional business brand.

Evaluate Your Relationship with the Customer

Not all customers are the same. Certain individuals who are shopping for the best price won’t be reliable clients - however, long term customers that have been around for years are a little different. These are the individuals who keep customer retention rates high and make up a large percentage of your happiest customers.

So, what happens if they were to have a last-minute cancellation? How would a fee or deposit impact their overall customer service experience? Are you going to lose that customer in the end because of a cancellation policy?

Last-minute customer cancellations are a hassle, but it’s important to remember the long term relationship you have with that particular client. A happy customer is the best kind of customer, and rather than lose them over a deposit, consider refunding whatever they’d originally given you if something urgent comes up.

It’s also important to check in with your long-standing customers, in order to improve the overall customer experience and prevent those land minute cancellations from happening. By communicating with your clients, your customer satisfaction rates will soar, and you’re going to see fewer last-minute cancellations.

Just be sure to communicate that your cancellation policy needs to be followed in the future, so they don’t take advantage of your leniency every time something happens.

Communicate, and Give Opportunities

It’s important as a business owner to present your clients with plenty of opportunities to reschedule long in advance - this is how you’ll be able to eliminate last-minute cancellations in the long run.

Since so many customers don’t have time to check their busy schedules, provide opt-in opportunities for text notifications or an online booking calendar so they are reminded of your appointment time. This provides them with plenty of notice, so there are fewer reasons to cancel. This also justifies any deposits or cancellation fees you end up keeping. By offering a variety of communication methods, and making your services more accessible, you’re removing any surprises or friction on the customer if they do end up canceling.

Keep in Touch

Even after a last-minute cancellation, try to keep in touch with that customer to reschedule service if possible. Persistence and high-quality service will keep you at the forefront of their mind, which is great for retaining customers. If this is a recurring problem, it’s probably best to let go of the lead.

Have you been combating more than a few last-minute customer cancellations? Even though it’s frustrating, don’t let customers get the better of you - keep your cool so you can achieve an A+ in customer satisfaction.

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