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Posted by Kathryn Kemp, Sep 3 2013 12:39PM

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Short notice cancellations


I feel silly writing but would appreciate some advice: I've got a client with fibromyalgia who keeps booking 90 minute appointments and cancelling one hour beforehand because she doesn't feel up to it. While I appreciate it can be unpredictable I have a business to run. Any suggestions on a diplomatic way to deal with this, please, and remind of her my cancellation policy without losing her? I've written several emails and deleted them because I feel mean...

Nicki Lee
Sep 3 2013 1:17PM
This is always a tricky one!

I think it might be best, although initially awkward, to maybe have a conversation rather than an email. People can misinterpret tone in an email so easily. Before you phone, though, write out some notes.

I would express that you are glad she finds massage helpful for her condition and that you understand that that also makes treatment difficult to schedule.

And this is very true! I have clients with ME, fibro, and related conditions, some which become quite acute, and I urge them to tell me if they don't feel up to a treatment. However, luckily, all of these people are able to come daytimes when I have a lot more flexibility. I also urge them to tell me as soon as they realise they aren't up to it.

You might suggest that you schedule a time and then she can decide on the day if she wants only 30 minutes or longer - maybe up to an hour. It may be 30 minutes would work but 90 would wipe her out. And perhaps not schedule 90 minutes? Or schedule it at the end of the day, or the beginning, or lunch - or sometime when it would be convenient to YOU.

You know your and her schedule and situation best, so before you call I would think of what would be optimum for your business while still being able to work with her illness.

Best of luck! There is no perfect answer, but I hope you find a way that works for you both.
Amanda Clegg
Sep 3 2013 1:17PM
It's difficult to balance getting the message across to clients that you can't afford late cancellations, and losing them altogether. In this case, if she is a fairly regular client, you may just have to take the bull by the horns and ask for full payment where a cancellation is less than 24hrs. I have done this before, and softened it slightly by saying that only half is payable as long as she re-books in the same week (or 2 weeks, depending on your diary and how often she books). If she gets uppity, then I would suggest that she isn't worth the hassle - we are professionals and should be treated as such, and we don't need clients who abuse us in this way.

Explain gently that you are unable to re-book slots at such short notice - perhaps she has a friend who could take her booking? Point out that as a business you are unable to absorb the lost income - to do this you would have to put your rates up across the board, which would in effect mean that all your other reliable clients would be subsidising her, which isn't fair on anybody.

You could also suggest that she can have a very gentle massage, cnocentrating on ares that are not so badly affected by the fybromyalgia, or an aromatherapy facial massage for some of the time, so it would still be worth keeping the appointment.

Good luck - let us know how you handled it and what the outcome is.
Amanda Clegg
Sep 3 2013 1:19PM
Nikky we must have been typing simultaneously - you always have such good advice!
Nicki Lee
Sep 3 2013 1:22PM
As do you, Amanda!

I must be feeling particularly easy today, usually I'm a lot stricter with late cancellations, and agree with what you've said too! :)
Kathryn Kemp
Sep 3 2013 1:30PM
Thanks Ladies, much appreciated.

The terms and conditions are accepted as part of the initial consultation form. However, as a few people would benefit from a reminder, I've decided to issue a 'revised terms and conditions' slip and get all my clients to sign a copy as and when they have their next appointment. I've taken the opportunity to include a piece for those who book 90 minute appointments and change their minds on the day too.

I'll discuss it with her next time she comes in.

Sue Hannaford
Sep 3 2013 1:32PM
Hi Kathryn

Not a silly post at all! Enforcing late cancellations and no shows is a nightmare and there is always the chance that we will lose the client. However.... as well as being a great therapist wanting to help people, you are also running a business trying to earn a living...

I think you need to be brave and be up front with her. How you go about this depends on your relationship with her, how often she books, how often she cancels etc. Does she cancel by phone or email? Hopefully she rings you! You can either have a conversation at this point or wait until the end of the next appointment that she attends. Then when she arranges her next appointment that will be the time to say that, should she need to cancel with less that your 24 hours notice, your cancellation fee will be payable. You could say that you can't afford to reserve the time for her and continue to absorb the loss of earnings (and costs for room rental if you rent).

The way I explain it to people is that it is like your place of work ringing the day before to say "don't come in tomorrow - oh and we aren't going to pay you". I usually see a little light bulb go on when they "get it"! You can explain that it gives you time to give someone else the slot, whereas as short notice doesn't. You can say that if you manage to fill the appointment slot, you don't charge the cancellation fee. Oh and I include late re-arrangement of appointments as well as cancellation in my policy.

Another way would be for her to ring you on the day she wants an appointment to see if you have space - she should know the same day if she will be up to it. Then she is taking pot luck as to whether you can fit her in or not.

If her fibro is having such an effect on her, I am surprised she can tolerate a 90 minute appointment!

Don't know if that helps at all. Some of the others who are likely to post may have some better ideas. If you want some specific help with wording or the like, do contact me direct.

Good luck!


PS I, thankfully, just lost a client who failed to show up and expected me to be psychic and give someone else the appointment AFTER the appointment had gone. She called me "nasty to be so quick off the mark" when I asked how she wanted to pay! In our text conversation she didn't say sorry once! The truth is that there are some people we don't NEED as clients!
Sue Hannaford
Sep 3 2013 1:34PM
Nikki and Amanda - as usual great advice - and you beat me to it!!!


Sue Hannaford
Sep 3 2013 1:37PM
I also include something in my appointment confirmation emails.... Like the idea of offering her an alternative type of treatment - and also getting her to book shorter treatments.
Elizabeth Rabone
Oct 7 2013 8:26PM
Lots of very sensible advice here. Another thought: How possible is it for you to offer her a home visit? She might be less likely to cancel if she doesn't have to travel to you.

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