If you're in the hospitality, events or indeed any kind of physical service industry that was considered non-essential, it's been a rotten year of doing repeated sums, pivots and false dawns.
And finally as we battle through what can only be described as weather befitting the end of a horrific pandemic, and see The Prime Minister's step three lockdown easing on the horizon, some members of the public have already forgotten how hard it was for businesses like yours.
The number of late cancellations and no-shows is plain to see for anyone taking a cursory glance at social media and seeing an understandably irate General Manager or restaurant owner pulling their hair out. At a time when capacity restrictions from outdoor only hospitality leave the same owners frustrated that they have to close their gates on sunny, inviting days, seeing tables go to waste is equally infuriating.
However the problem extends to small, independent service businesses everywhere, from beauty salons to dog grooming, equipment hire to catering. In each case a late cancellation or no-show results in lost revenue, opportunity cost from making the slot unavailable to other customers and direct cost from staffing and produce for the anticipated demand.
Whilst Covid has increased the need to make late cancellations, it doesn't explain away a problem that existed long before the pandemic. It is often simply a lack of consideration for the people behind the business you are letting down, and a discomfort with picking the phone up and explaining the issue with fulfilling your appointment.
The simplest way to address the problem is to make the customer more accountable for their booking and therefore discourage the ease of a no-show. There are 6 simple steps:
- Introduce online booking and an electronic system to capture appointments to provide a clear record and audit trail of all bookings
- Take deposits and capture card details at the point of bookings with an integrated payment processing tool to mitigate against late cancellations and no-shows
- Provide clear terms and conditions containing cancellation terms and charges, with e-signature or explicit customer opt-in, at the point of booking
- Automate booking confirmations and reminders using email and SMS and include a link to terms and conditions within each communication
- Automate the application of charges and retention of deposits where the customer cancels or fails to turn up
- Automate a confirmation that this has been done, again by email and SMS, politely reminding them that this was in line with terms and conditions (to be included in the communication again) and consider a re-booking incentive to retain goodwill
If you are clear about this process and polite when implementing it in the case of cancellation or no-show your good customers will respect your need to protect your business and the less scrupulous ones will be put off.
You don't need to apologise for looking after the business your have worked hard to maintain and the people whose livelihoods you are responsible for, expecially after such a wretched year!