No-shows are a small business curse! Our time is precious, and we put our personal needs on the back burner when we prioritise our clients’ appointments. When clients ‘no-show’ we feel disrespected, annoyed and let down, so how do we deal with this problem?
I hear some of you shouting, “take a deposit from them, make them pay upfront!” My view is that we’re dealing with two different groups of clients; regular clients and new clients. I personally don’t subscribe to the charge up front philosophy simply because for me, as a client, being asked for money before my appointment sends the message that you have no faith in my ability to hold up my end of the bargain and turn up. I don’t think that gets the relationship off to an excellent start.
Firstly, let’s accept the reality that we will always have no-shows in our businesses, and there’s no magic bullet in addressing the problem but, regular clients are easy to manage, and I’ll tell you how. New clients are more problematic simply because we don’t have a relationship with them so with this group, charge up front or don’t charge up front. It’s your call but making your dealings with both groups personally gives you the best chance of reducing the problem.
I started lashing in 2006, and at the peak of my salon work life I was doing 8-10 client appointments a day, 6 days a week and training on a Sunday so, I was busy. I had a “wait list” for clients, so no-shows were stealing another client’s opportunity and that’s what disappointed and frustrated me.
In 2014, my salon had 15 Technicians, each one of them had an opinion on how best to manage our downtime including charging a cancellation fee, firing repeat offenders and just not taking some clients bookings without a prepayment.
Reducing your no-show rate with your regular clients is all about client education it’s that simple. You’ll find that most of your clients have never worked in a scheduled business like a salon so, they either legitimately don’t understand the impact their no-show has on your business, or they simply don’t give a damn about you or your business. We want to encourage and nurture the first group of clients and lose the second group because we don’t need those people in business or our lives.
I think we’d all agree that the work we do as Lash Technicians places us in a position to build very close relationships with our clients. We’re with them for hours on end, so this is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the realities of your world and establish boundaries around acceptable client behaviour without using a stick.
I held regular monthly “check-ins” with each of my Technicians where we looked at a number of achievement criteria, one of them being their “regular client no-show” rate. Some of you will be thinking “What? How can you hold a technician responsible for a client who decides not to show up?”
My personal “regular client no-show” average was 6%, and that came from legitimate “life happens” situations, but one of my new girls had a no-show rate of 28%, the highest in the team. Why was that? This technician, let’s call her Miss E, had a very gentle nature. I watched her over the course of a month and here’s what she did that was different from me. When a client would arrive late saying “sorry about that”, Miss E would always say “that’s OK” with the sweetest smile, and when the no-show client showed up for her next scheduled appointment prancing in saying “sorry about last week”, Miss E would say, (you guessed it) “that’s ok, that happens” Well let me tell you… That is NOT ok! And your clients need to know it.
Now I’m not saying you should be reprimanding them or tell them off, but you should identify that event as an opportunity to ramp what we referred to as your “Client Education Program.”
Your Client Education Program starts with you building your ‘catalogue of bad client stories’ and establishing a personal connection with the client as you get to know one another.
You may be surprised to hear that most no-shows come about because your clients simply don’t understand the impact they have on you or your business, they’re not thinking about you at all, they’re just getting on with this thing called life. Now as their technician, it's our responsibility to let them know.
Start sharing your bad client stories with them, ask their advice on how they would deal with a client situation, by doing that you’re getting them to think about your situation and that’s a good thing!
Make sure your bad client stories include the story and the personal impact such as, “I’m pretty upset because my last client no-showed and I have clients on my wait list that would have loved to take that time slot” or, “I have a client who shows up late for every appointment, and it puts so much pressure on me, I’ve asked her to please be on time but she’s always 30 minutes late, I’m not sure what to do, how would you handle that with her?”
By engaging your clients in these stories, you will be establishing boundaries for acceptable client behaviour. If your client has a no-show opportunity, you can at least expect that they’ll think about your story.
This education strategy worked for most of our clients and our no-show rate improved. With that being said, you’ll always have those serial offenders, and in those cases, it’s a matter of direct confrontation where I would say “I’d like to keep you as a client, but I simply can’t afford to keep to you” it’s as simple as that!