How to Deal with Cancellations from Massage Clients

Apr 26, 2018

Every massage therapist knows it’s a great position to be in when you have so many clients, you have to turn away new customers who are looking to book.

But this makes it all the more frustrating when one of your clients cancels at the last minute – or worse, doesn’t even show up.

This is one of the most difficult things to deal with as a massage therapist, but having a strong and clear policy in place can really help.

Here are a few tips for putting a cancellation policy together.

Cancellation policy

If you’re just starting out on your new business journey, you might find that it’s okay for clients to cancel as you’re still building a network and reputation in your local area. Missing an appointment here or there can even mean that you have some time to work on other details at your massage clinic.

But once you’re turning customers away, cancellations and no shows can actually be costing you a lot in lost income. If you charge $60 an hour for an appointment and allow for four cancellations (or no shows) per week, you’re losing around $12,000 a year in income.

With that in mind, preparing (and sticking to) a cancellation policy for your business will create the respect for your time which you deserve. Just as you have taken the time to become educated in massage therapy to assist clients, you should expect the same level of respect in return.

Creating a cancellation policy will set the level of expectation from your clients.

The general rule of thumb is that a cancellation without financial penalty needs to be received 24 hours before the appointment. If this cannot be met, the policy outlines the financial penalty (loss of a deposit or whole booking fee) for the client.

Late arrival policy

Alongside your cancellation policy, a late arrival policy will clearly outline the expectations for your clients when it comes to arriving on time. Your policy can confirm that appointments will conclude at the scheduled time to avoid delays to other waiting clients.

As well as letting customers know what’s required of them, the policy will reinforce your professionalism and commitment to providing high quality service to all your clients throughout the day, by sticking to your appointment schedule.

Should your policy be met with anger and frustration you can offer a reschedule to your late client, or should a client run late often, offer to book appointments at the end of the day so there is less chance of interfering with a whole day’s schedule. This offer is also a demonstration of quality customer service to solve issues on the spot with a potential solution.

No show policy

This is an unpopular policy, as clients who are owing to pay for an appointment they did not attend will not return to your business. Always make sure clients are aware of the policy, then make sure you exert self-confidence as you contact your ‘no show’ clients and explain the policy means there is an outstanding invoice to pay.

You could also request credit card details at the time of booking, both to cover yourself and to make it clear to customers that they’ll need to pay whether they show up or not. This is one of the hardest policies to stick to, and many therapists don’t feel comfortable going through with it. If that’s you, perhaps you could consider a three-strike rule first. GIve your clients three warnings, and if they fail to show up again, then you can move to requiring them to pre-pay to secure any future bookings.

What to do with your policies

Once you have finalised your charter and policies, make sure they are clearly visible in your clinic – perhaps print and frame them near the cash register and booking computer. Add the small print to any booking forms and ensure your clients read and sign them. Add your policy documents and charter online for review by potential clients, and add an ‘I Accept’ radio button or checkbox to any online booking forms.

When accepting appointment bookings over the phone, make sure you mention the existence of the cancellation and late arrival policy to clients. If they query the terms of the policy, openly offer to explain the detail of both further over the phone. You could also send a confirmation text to your clients, which serves the purpose of reminding them of their booking time so that there is no confusion, and also providing them with a link to your cancellation and late arrival policies so that they are well aware.

Other business processes

Small businesses thrive through great customer service, and some ideas to remove awkward barriers and unfavourable cancellation policies is to look at setting up an automatic payment plan or monthly billing for repeat clients.

You could also offer discounts for clients or package deals as an incentive for automatic payments.

Set your practices up now

While unfortunate, cancellations and no shows are a reality for massage therapists. But with these policies in place, you can approach them in a way that will result in a smoother and more enjoyable process for both you and your customers.

Cameron Aubrey

Cameron Aubrey has over 20 years experience in the massage industry, and leads the team as Course Director at Discover Massage Australia. Cameron holds a Diploma in Remedial Massage, and his expertise runs across a large range of massage techniques, particularly sports, Swedish and whole body massage.