What Should I Do When A Client Cancels?
So there I was, in my office, waiting for my next client to arive...
But she didn't. Instead, she sent an email telling me that she had a headache and wasn't going to be able to make it.
Cancellations and no-shows are one of the biggest pains in the well, you know, for bodyworkers.
I mean, you're a big-hearted, skilled therapist, so you want to HELP people when they don't feel well. You're compassionate and understanding, but sheesh, it's so frustrating!
The fact is that you can have a simple, clear cancellation policy that actually works. You just need to know what to say.
You can be both firm and kind with this policy. Remember, you’re teaching your clients how to treat you, and you want to be treated with respect, courtesy, and kindness, just like you treat your clients.
Being firm doesn’t mean being a jerk, and being kind doesn’t mean being a doormat. Being firm and kind are not mutually exclusive.
There are two parts to a good cancellation policy:
1. What is considered a cancellation, and
2. What happens when a client cancels.
For the first part, decide how many hours advance notice you need for a client to reschedule.
Most therapists use a window between 24-48 hours. I ask for 24 hours notice because that works for me. If I have 24 hours notice, I can almost always fill the spot with someone from my Wait List. Use a timeframe that works for you.
Then the second part of the equation are the consequences for cancelling without appropriate notice. I give clients one free pass (because hey, life happens…) but after that pass, they are responsible for the full cost of the session.
If the thought of that makes you feel faint, you can have a cancellation fee of 50-75% of the cost of the session.
Do what resonates with your heart.
As you can see in my sample policies in What Should I Say?, I include my Cancellation Policy in my intake form, and every client signs it before our first session. That way, they know the score, and I don’t have to fumble around with what to say about it.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
But what do you actually say when someone cancels?
Here’s what I emailed back to the client with the headache:
Oh I’m so sorry to hear it, XXX. Since this is the second appointment you’ve missed with less than 24 hours notice, you are responsible for the full fee ($135) of the appointment, as per the Cancellation Policy that you signed with your intake forms. You can drop a check in the mail to:
xxxxx Chalmers Drive
Wilmington, NC xxxxx
or you can send me your CC info, and I can charge your card, whichever is best for you.
Thanks XXX, I hope you feel better very soon.
All the best.
Boom. Done. Kind, but firm. The client understands that I’m not mad, angry, or freaking out, and she also knows that I value my time. And now she does, too.
Write a clear, concise cancellation policy and stick to it. You’ll be amazed how quickly your cancellations begin to decrease.
Pop a note in the comments and let me know how it goes for you.
In this case, I received a check in the mail 3 days later.