Some people just have poor time management, whereas for others it may reflect where their values truly are. It's not much consolation for you tho if someone doesn't show up as agreed because something more important has come up. The nature of services is that they are time sensitive so once that moment has gone there's seldom time for you to recover it. You set aside a time spot and it's here one moment and gone the next.
So, what can you do to eliminate last minute cancellations?
- SET the EXPECTATION: The place to start is BEFORE they arise. When you take on a new client it is imperative you discuss your expectations of what you want to happen AND ITS CONSEQUENCES from the outset. This doesn't have to be messy or even unreasonable. With any form of expectation setting it is far more effective if you make a statement rather than ask a question. Be direct. Be clear. "My expectations are that you attend the appointment as agreed, in the event that you cannot make it I require 48 hours notice."
- STATE the CONSEQUENCES: The next step is to spell out what the remedial action will be, for example, "Late cancellations will be charged at 50% of my hourly rate". If there is no consequence to a transgression then you have no bargaining chip. Sometimes merely the stating of the expectation upfront does the trick and for more serial offenders you need another avenue. It is also critical that you state this upfront.
I understand that when you are signing up a new client the temptation is focus on the harmonious relationship, benefits and value you will deliver. This clearly shouldn't be the centrepiece of your deal but you can talk about how you take a clients time seriously and will do everything to honor them and expect the same professional courtesy in return.
- ACCOUNTABILITY - depending on the service you are providing you may find holding someone accountable for their commitments and keeping their word is part of the value you create. Flakey behavior is indeed behavior and behavior tends to do what behavior tends to do and that is repeat. Behaviors are choice points - the thing you need to determine is whether these choices are conscious or unconscious. There is massive value in that right there.
- INVITE A RESPONSE - this is key! Once you have set the expectations and stated the consequences invite a response. You can script these question - how does that sound? Do I have your commitment? Are you ok with that?
by Dennis Roberts