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How should I deal with a customer who cancels four hours before her appointment?

November 21, 2017

How should I deal with a customer who cancels four hours before her appointment? I have a client who has done this to me on several occasions. Should I require payment up front from now on? Or a deposit? Or get her to book on the day? Or fire her?

Answer

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the habitual canceler. Every client comes with a different set of issues and problems to resolve. My goal is to try to stop cancellations before they happen by making it very clear that I have a cancellation policy that all clients need to follow. I have my policy posted at the counter, on appointment cards, on my website, and I also have a sign at my individual station. Here is what I’d recommend:

First time: Talk to the customer with respect and reaffirm her value to your business. You can take any angle you feel your customer will be receptive to. Always do it face to face, not in a text or email, because people often read into them negatively. I usually say something to the effect of needing the client’s help as my schedule is super busy and I can’t get everyone in. I tell her I would appreciate it if she lets me know a little earlier so someone else can have that appointment.

Second time: If the client cancels with less than 24 hours’ notice within the next two months, then she is now unable to hold standing appointments or book appointments in advance. Appointments will only be accepted the day of the service.

Third time: After a third time, the client can’t make another appointment without paying for the missed appointment.

There will be times when you will need to refuse appointments from unreliable customers. Keep in mind that making the decision to fire a customer will come with some negative repercussions. As you know, clients talk, and when they tell the story of why they are no longer going to you for their nails, they will make you sound unreasonable. They will probably also leave that Yelp review you aren’t able to remove, or attack you on Facebook. So choose who and how you fire someone very carefully.

— Shari Finger, Finger’s Nail Studio, W. Dundee, Ill.

Editor’s note: Check out the Facebook page Confessions of a Nail Tech for more great nail tech questions like this one.

Have a business question? (about marketing, pricing, personnel, etc.) E-mail it to Judy.Lessin@bobit.com and check back here for an expert answer.

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