Tips & Resources

What to Include in Your Appointment Cancellation Policy to Minimize No-Shows

Yauhen Zaremba
By Yauhen Zaremba
18 April, 2023

How to create an effective appointment cancellation policy & reduce business no-shows. Learn what to include and how to communicate it


No-shows can be a frustrating and costly problem for businesses that rely on appointments. 

However, a well-crafted appointment cancellation policy, together with appointment scheduling software, can help minimize the number of no-shows, ensuring smoother operation and increased revenue.

In this article, we’ll explore what to include in an effective appointment cancellation policy, how to communicate it to clients, and how to enforce it. 

By the end of this blog, you’ll have a better understanding of how to create a policy that works for your business and helps keep your appointments running smoothly.

How to create an appointment cancellation Policy

Some of the first questions to ask yourself when you create an appointment cancellation policy are:

  • Will you require clients to pay an upfront booking fee?
  • Are you willing to offer a full or partial refund for cancellations?
  • What’s the minimum cancellation notice period for clients i.e. will you offer a 24-hour cancellation window?

Determine your cancellation policy 

To begin, decide what your policy will be regarding cancellations. This includes how much notice you require, the fees you’ll charge, and any exceptions to this policy.

a woman booking an appointment on her tablet using Timify
Source: timify

Your cancellation fee can be whatever you think is fair regarding the resources you’ve wasted on an appointment that hasn’t happened. For instance, you might charge half of the total booking fee or a set amount for no-show appointments. If you offer a service that requires a significant amount of preparation, you may want to require more notice for cancellations.

Consider whether there are specific times of day when cancellations are more disruptive to your business. For example, if you’re a dentist and a patient cancels a morning appointment at the last minute, it may be difficult to fill that slot with another patient.

Communicate your policy

Make sure your policy is clear and easy to understand for your clients. Communicate it to them through various channels, such as your website, in-person interactions, or a platform like for easy access and reference. In addition, when you send confirmation emails for appointments, be sure to include a brief reminder of your cancellation policy.

Ensure your clients acknowledge and agree to your policy before scheduling appointments.

stock image of a clock
Free-to-use image sourced from Pexels


Train your staff

Make sure all your staff are aware of your policy and how to handle cancellations. Provide them with clear instructions on how to inform clients of the policy. This could include a handbook or training manual that provides guidance on how to manage cancellations and no-shows.

Remind your staff that while it's important to enforce the cancellation policy, it's also important to provide excellent customer service. Encourage them to be empathetic and understanding when clients need to cancel and to work with clients to find a solution that suits both parties.

Review and adjust your policy

Regularly review your policy to ensure it’s effective and relevant. Make adjustments as necessary to address any issues or concerns that arise. To do this, regularly analyze your cancellations to identify any patterns or trends. This will help you determine if your policy is working effectively or if there are changes needed. 

Also, ask clients and staff for feedback on your cancellation policy. Don't be afraid to make changes if it's not working well for your business. 

What Are the Potential Reasons for a No-show?

There are various factors that could contribute to a no-show. 

It's possible a client didn’t give priority to the appointment due to prior engagements or unexpected events. Or perhaps they had issues with transport that stopped them from being able to attend.

It’s also possible that a client had a negative experience during their previous appointment—maybe they experienced extended wait times or dissatisfaction with the service. In these circumstances, they may be more inclined to miss their subsequent appointments.

a graphic showing the reasons people missed appointments
Image sourced from

How to Prevent Cancellations

There are a number of steps you can take to stop clients from missing appointments.

A few effective strategies include:


Confirm appointments 

One of the best methods for preventing cancellations is to confirm appointments in advance. Many appointment scheduling systems enable you to send a reminder email or text message a day or two before. 

This helps ensure that appointments don’t slip clients’ minds and that they have enough time to reschedule if needed. 


Use technology 

Consider using technology to automate appointment reminders and confirmations. This will help reduce the likelihood of cancellations, make it easier for clients to reschedule, and reduce the opportunity for scheduling errors.

If appropriate for your business, offer virtual consultations via video conferencing technology. This will enable clients to attend appointments without necessitating travel.


Offer flexible scheduling 

If your clients have difficulty scheduling appointments due to their busy lifestyles, offering flexible scheduling is a great way to reduce cancellations. For instance, you could offer early morning, evening, or weekend appointments to accommodate clients who work during the day.


Be responsive to client needs

Being responsive can go a long way toward reducing your cancellation rates. For example, if a client requests a change in appointment time or date, try to accommodate their request if possible. This shows you value their time and are willing to work with them to ensure they can keep their appointment.

Some appointment scheduling systems also include the functionality to allow clients to reschedule appointments online, without having to contact your booking team. This gives more control to the client and reduces the strain on your staff, while all participants are automatically notified of the new appointment details.

When to Charge a Cancellation Fee

Charging cancellation fees can be effective in reducing no-shows, and these types of fees are common practice in many industries. 

As a business owner or service provider thinking about charging a cancellation fee, you should consider the following factors:

  • Your industry. Some industries have a higher rate of no-shows and may charge a cancellation fee more frequently, while others are more lenient. Consider what’s common in your industry and what your competitors are doing. Also, ensure you keep an eye on changes in your business or industry that may impact your cancellation policy.
  • Your contract or service agreement. If you have a contract or service agreement with your clients, it's important to include a clause about cancellations and no-shows. Be clear about your cancellation policy, including any additional fees for last-minute cancellations
  • Your cost of doing business. Consider the resources you allocate for each appointment, including staff time, equipment, and supplies. If a client fails to show up, you may have lost revenue and incurred expenses. Charging a cancellation fee can help offset these costs.
  • The frequency of no-shows. If you have a high rate of no-shows, charging a cancellation fee may be necessary to discourage this behavior and ensure your time and resources are used efficiently.

If you decide to charge a cancellation fee for no-shows, be clear and consistent in your policy and communicate it to your clients. For example, a car rental company may create conditions such as:

As part of our appointment cancellation policy, we require clients to notify us of any changes or cancellations in their schedule within 24 hours of their scheduled appointment.

It's also important to be understanding of extenuating circumstances, such as emergencies or illness, and to have a policy in place for rescheduling appointments.

if someone cancels and appointment within 6 hours prior to the appointment will incur in a 50% fee

Final Thoughts

Generating an appointment cancellation policy is an important step in ensuring you’re using your time and resources efficiently. By considering industry norms, the cost of doing business, and the frequency of no-shows, you can develop a policy that works for you and your clients. 

Strategies such as confirming appointments, offering flexible scheduling, communicating clearly, and providing excellent service will help to reduce cancellations and build client loyalty. With a clear and consistent policy in place, you can minimize the impact of no-shows while ensuring that customers receive the best possible service.

Yauhen Zaremba

About the author

Yauhen Zaremba

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.

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