A missed appointment doesn't always have to mean a missed opportunity. Salvage them using missed appointment messages and other useful techniques.
Yauhen Zaremba is the Senior Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc.
Whether you’re working in sales, healthcare, or services, missed appointments can be a real headache. Not only does it feel like your time has been wasted, but also that you’ve missed out on valuable revenue.
Thankfully, a missed appointment doesn’t have to be a complete waste for you and your organization. There are ways to salvage a missed appointment and carry on a meaningful relationship with a client who failed to show up for a meeting.
From illness, transportation issues, and even forgetfulness to a client having second thoughts about your services, it’s important to remain polite and professional when following up on missed appointments, as you never know what circumstances may have led to that situation.
You can draw crucial insights about your products and services from monitoring the reasons for cancellations over a period of time, so it’s important to gather explanations whenever possible and make sure they are recorded.
In other scenarios, a client may have investigated your prices further and determined that they cannot afford the service you’re providing or even the cost of the appointment itself. It may also be that they’ve failed to understand the significance of the appointment.
Missed appointments can have various effects on your organization. The most obvious impact is the time lost that could’ve been spent with other clients. The loss is two-fold - productivity takes a hit, as employees waiting for a no-show still need to be paid for their time, while the other client you could have met could have been an important one.
No-show appointments also lead to a reduction in overall customer engagement. A missed meeting is a missed opportunity to build a relationship with your client and gather valuable feedback from them that you can apply to future relationships.
Finally, a client missing their appointment can even negatively impact other clients. Imagine delaying a meeting with a potentially lucrative client because you’ve already got an appointment booked, and then that client is a no-show. That’s essentially two missed opportunities for the price of one.
The negative impacts of missed appointments highlight the need to minimize the occurrence as much as possible and salvage what you can should the worst happen.
Sometimes, a missed appointment might be a total accident on the client’s part. They may still be desperate to meet with you at another time. In that scenario, it’s better to forget the past and not let one missed meeting ruin a potentially lucrative partnership.
The easier it is for your client to reschedule the appointment, the easier it is for you to get the business relationship back on track. Tools like online booking systems are a great way to achieve this, where clients can easily reschedule online and on the move from a link they received in their confirmation or reminder notifications.
Clients can search your online calendar for an appointment that suits them without you having to spend an age on the phone scouring their diaries together to find a new slot. If you send a missed appointment message (more on those later), you can include a link to an online booking portal to simplify the process even further.
Online booking gives you a chance to increase your sales in other ways too. You can tie the process into your email marketing and even sync it up with your inventory management system.
Just because one client hasn’t turned up for an appointment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that slot has to go to waste. If you’ve got clients on a waiting list, why not reach out to one of them and see if they can squeeze in a quick meeting?
Even if you only have time for a quick chat, it’s still a chance to build your relationship and gently nudge a prospective client further down your sales funnel.
Your clients may not have time to meet face-to-face at the last minute, but there’s nothing to stop you from doing a video call or firing off a few emails instead. As long as you’re building a relationship, then the time hasn’t been totally wasted.
There may be times when a client has to rush out of town unexpectedly and needs to cancel their appointment. Except nowadays, maybe they don’t. With the prevalence of remote meeting technology and its associated benefits, there’s no reason why you can take the meeting online instead.
While you may not get the full benefits of being able to look into your client’s eyes face-to-face, you can get pretty close with a video call. Even if your client is traveling cross-country on a train or waiting for their flight to board, you can still get some face time and avoid missing the meeting altogether.
Having a clear cancellation policy, and making sure your clients are aware of it, will help you to minimize the impact of missed appointments.
You can include a minimum timeframe for cancellations, which should encourage clients to give you plenty of notice should they need to miss an appointment. This will mean you have adequate time to book an alternative meeting in their place, making sure your time isn’t wasted.
It’s common practice to charge an admin fee in the case of late cancellations. This acts as a deterrent for canceling appointments at the last minute and ensures that you recoup some value from the missed meeting should the worst happen.
Obviously, there are some instances where it may not be appropriate to penalize your clients for missing meetings, so it's wise to use your discretion when enacting these policies. In some instances, a debt settlement agreement may be appropriate to settle the debt for less than the normal admin fee. This can be useful for clients who have missed many appointments and may not be able to afford the full fee while showing you take it seriously.
One of the best ways to salvage a missed appointment is with a missed appointment message. This can help you establish why they've missed the meeting and give you a chance to rebook for a later date if they want.
Sending a message to touch base with a client after a missed meeting reassures them that you’re still interested in a business relationship with them and can open a dialogue about their intentions going forward. It shows your clients that you care and helps to provide a better customer experience with deeper engagement.
If your client has missed an appointment and you’re planning on sending a missed appointment message, there are several things you should keep in mind.
Chances are your client missed their appointment due to circumstances out of their control, so make sure to keep that response polite.
An ill-judged message to a customer risks undoing all the hard work you’ve put into the relationship thus far and increases the likelihood that the relationship will simply cease. On top of that, you don’t want the impression getting around that you’re rude to your customers.
Show some understanding, and you’ll make your customers feel more valued. This gives you the best chance of rebooking the appointment later to continue the business relationship.
While you should make every effort to remain polite and professional in your missed appointment messages, there’s no point beating around the bush or pretending that the no-show never happened.
Make it clear that you’re sending a message because they missed an appointment. After all, if the client didn’t turn up simply because they forgot, they may need the reminder!
You should also be straightforward about any repercussions for your client arising from missing the meeting. If there’s a no-show or cancellation fee, explain to your client why it’s being implemented and how it will be charged.
It’s possible that your client missed the meeting because they didn’t think it was a good use of their time. This is where you get to convince them otherwise.
Lay out your plan for the meeting, the topics you would’ve covered, and the value they would’ve drawn from it. Show them what they’re missing by not attending the appointment!
You can back your message up with relevant links, documents, and proposals, highlighting exactly why it’s beneficial for your client to race back to your booking form and reschedule a meeting with you.
As we’ve covered, the ultimate aim of your missed appointment message should be getting your client to rebook the meeting, as that’s the best way to salvage the partnership and secure your sale.
You should make it clear in your message that you’re willing to reschedule the meeting if your client wants to. If you’re using appointment scheduling software, include a link for your client to follow. This should make the rebooking process as easy as possible for them.
A missed appointment doesn’t always have to mean a missed opportunity. Even if you have a client who fails to attend a meeting, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over.
Take steps to minimize no-shows where you can by employing easy-to-use appointment booking software, remote meeting alternatives, and cancellation policies.
If you’re having issues collecting no-show charges, you may wish to consider taking further steps, such as using an indemnification agreement template to protect your business against any losses. This agreement should clearly outline the fee and the conditions under which you will charge it.
If the client has chosen to miss their appointment, take the necessary steps to reach out to your client and win them back around.
A missed appointment message shows your client you’re still invested in your relationship. Be professional, polite, and understanding, and give them every chance to rebook their appointment for a later date.
Yauhen Zaremba is the Senior Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. Yauhen is a growth-focused market leader with more than 14 years of B2B and B2C marketing experience. For the past seven years, he has focused entirely on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets.