3 Tactics Small Businesses Can Use to Reduce No-Shows
Are missed appointments eating into your revenues? The good news is that you can use technology and a little creativity to keep your customers engaged -- and present.
In 2016, Uber began allowing drivers to cancel rides for users who were more than five minutes late for pickup and to charge consumers late fees for making those drivers wait. The company argued that drivers waste gas and miss out on serving other clients when they’re stuck waiting and riders don’t show up.
Yes, even the most technologically advanced businesses struggle with no-shows.
The consequences of no-shows go beyond transportation giants like Uber. They’re a huge drain on companies’ bottom lines. One National Center for Biotechnology Information study estimated $16.65 million in revenue lost to no-shows in a single year -- across just 10 organizations in a single industry. When clients skip their appointments, they inconvenience customers who may have wanted those slots and cause significant financial losses for service providers themselves.
Although no company jumps for joy when a client doesn’t show up, those missed appointments hit small businesses particularly hard. Fortunately, several strategies can help companies reduce no-shows and reclaim revenue. In fact, since introducing its no-show policy, Uber has seen its revenue continue to grow. Here’s how other businesses can aim for the same:
1. Get in your customer's head.
If you’re worried about customers forgetting to show up, just remind them (it sounds simple because it is). Today, texts and emails are much more effective than the traditional phone call and voicemail. Texting, for one, has become the preferred method for receiving appointment reminders. Your customers, in fact, are practically asking you to offer them this. An Internet Journal of Healthcare Administration study showed that healthcare providers who text patients ahead of their appointments reported a 35 percent drop in no-shows. That represents a large number of appointments and a lot of revenue.
If you don’t currently send text-message or email reminders, it may make sense to look into this communication choice. Plenty of services will automate these messages for you, including new AI platforms that trigger voice, text and email reminders to customers. And, even if you have to task someone with sending texts and emails manually, that action may be worth it.
If your staff members are too busy, hire a part-time temp to manage your reminders. The income you’ll generate by reducing no-shows will likely outweigh the cost of the temp.
2. Institute the rule of reciprocity.
The rule of reciprocity is one of the governing principles of human motivation. It states that if you give something to someone, he or she feels an obligation to return the favor. This impulse is hardwired into us, even across cultures.
Because you control the content of the text and email reminders, you can institute this rule to reinforce the importance of showing up, provide supplemental information about the appointment and even promote additional products and services.
For the rule of reciprocity to work, include something of value in your reminder emails. It doesn’t have to be costly; plenty of companies reach out to prospects and customers with something as simple as free (and valuable) content. For instance, you might attach an article on “3 Tips for Remembering People’s Names at Your Next Networking Event.” There’s no cost to you to send an article like this to multiple prospects or clients. But you’re giving them something for free, which helps encourage them to show up the next time you’re scheduled to meet.
3. Take your scheduling online.
Online appointment-scheduling is a newer technology that allows your customers to book online. It opens up a whole new way to engage with your customers. People increasingly demand fast, automated services, and online booking can help fulfill that desire. Plus, younger demographics in particular actually prefer online scheduling.
Online scheduling software systems can reduce no-shows by combining the methods noted above in a single platform: Businesses can set up automatic email notifications when customers book a time slot and send them reminders before the appointment, taking the burden off your staff.
And because it’s easier for people to balance their schedules when all their appointments are in one place, an online booking platform that integrates with tools like Google Calendar helps streamline customers’ busy agendas and reminds them to show up.
Finding ways to reduce no-shows is of key importance to many businesses. The lost revenue and impact on other customers due to no-shows can be significant. So, make it easier for your customers to remember their appointments: Send them friendly reminders, share with them something valuable or give them control of their booking right from the start. You’ll likely see an immediate decrease in no-shows. That means more revenue for your business and happier customers — two things we could all use.
Bob La Loggia is the founder and CEO of AppointmentPlus, a fast-growing SaaS business specializing in software for online appointment scheduling across industries. His company has won a number of awards, including CareerBuilder’s Best Places to Work award. La Loggia is a serial entrepreneur who’s passionate about his business and helping Arizona develop a world-class startup ecosystem.