We Asked: What is your policy regarding clients who miss appointments or are chronically late?
Here is what you told us...
I have my clients sign initial paperwork that states, "I am aware that there is a cancellation policy in effect. Scheduled appointments must be cancelled by client 24 hours in advance or client will be billed for appointment." As for those that are chronically late, I state clearly the first time that I can't hold to a tardy schedule. If it happens again, I either cancel the appointment once they arrive, or work with them for the limited time that remains for their appointment at full price.
If it is my last client of the day I wait a reasonable amount of time (20 to 30 minutes) before I start to pack up and go home.
Christine Van Roy
I make note of those who are constantly late and make a habit of missing [appointments] by putting them on my waiting list or preparing a back-up client.
Joy Bernstein, L.M.T.
Having an outcall-only massage practice in Las Vegas, I'll give hotel clients no later than four hours in advance in which to cancel an appointment. For regular local clients, I will call them 24 hours in advance to reconfirm.
My policy is this: late once, shame on you; late twice, a $25 charge is applied; no-show once, a $50 charge is applied; no-show twice, the full price is charged; and no-show thrice, I can no longer schedule that client. It may seem a bit harsh, but I respect their time and I expect the same of mine.
Simple accommodation of lateness again and again does not help the person who is late, infringes on my time with the next client, and allows the late client to treat me with disrespect. However, as often as I need kindness and understanding from other people, instead of misguided hard-line responses and judgments, it feels good to me to be gracious in handling occasional lateness and appointment cancellation.
When clients do miss an appointment (and have rescheduled another one), I base my decision whether to charge them on a couple of parameters: If they're a regular client, I allow them to miss one appointment without charging. If they're not regular, I will charge $20 extra to the next session.
I make a point of always confirming appointments the day before. If I do not confirm the appointment by phone, e-mail or voicemail, I usually do not bill the client.
clients that are always late or don't show, if it's their personality—type A—or clients that have very stressful jobs, I'll give them a lecture about how unhealthy that rushed lifestyle is, and I'll keep trying to schedule them. If it's someone who treats me condescendingly, like I'm not important, then I do not put them in my schedule anymore, and I refer them to someone else.
I usually give them one free one and gently remind them that the appointment was to begin at such and such a time.
William A. McKinnon, L.M.T.
The chronically late or repeat no-show client is the bane of my professional existence. With some of these characters, I massage the family, so cannot really be too hard on a single member and jeopardize the rest of my income there. Others provide services I pay for (advertising, music lessons for my child), so I have to keep the peace there. With one really chronic offender, I now have him call when he has time to come and see if I am available, but only at the last minute, when he wants to get in the car and come right away.
Barbara Davies, C.M.T.
If a client is late, we will not get her into a robe, we bring her right to the treatment room and we cut service time as to not impede on the service time of the client following her.
I allow one no-call/no-show and explain the policy to the client. If it happens again, they can find someone else for their massage therapy. It is disrespectful to the massage therapist as well as the other clients who could have had that appointment time. I feel the same way about clients that are chronically late. I understand sometimes things happen, but if it's just a bad habit, again, the client is asked to go elsewhere.
P.J. Jewelle, C.M.T.
Late policy: up to 10 minutes late and I will try to provide the client with their full session slot, over 10 minutes late and I will only provide the client with the remaining time of their session—and they are responsible for the full session fee.
Perry L. Evans, R.N., C.M.T.
To avoid missed appointments, and because everyone's lives are busy these days, I always confirm a day ahead to remind clients of their appointments. I do this either by e-mail (and ask for a reply) or by phone.
Late clients get less time, that's just how math works. No-shows are not an option: Never book with the client again, and when they call, don't make up an excuse, just simply tell them that you reserved time for them because they agreed to show up, and you can't trust that they will show up now.
Missed appointments are billed at 50 percent of the cost of the kept appointment. Chronically late clients shouldn't be a problem for anyone—the massage should be completed at the scheduled end time, whether they get a 40-minute rub or a 25-minute rub.
We allow our clients two free passes: They are allowed to miss two appointments or cancel with less than 24 hours two times within a 12-month period. After that they are charged full price for any missed appointments.
If this is a regular customer who has good attendance, we may send them a letter reminding them of our policy and an explanation of why we need to enforce it. If it is a new customer, we send the same letter along with an invoice for services rendered.
Eugene Wood, L.M.T.
Clients that are chronically late, depending on how late, that time is deducted from their treatment session. If it is over 15 minutes, they must re-schedule and are billed for that session.
Not all my clients book in advance, but those who do and are new to me, I hold on a credit card. If a repeat client is chronically late, the time comes off of their hour and I inform them that I have another client booked right behind them. Loss of time and having to pay full charge generally gets them back on track or I don't see them for a while and they are subject to my reactivation calls.
Jill Mullins, L.M.T.
I have a policy with clients that show up late. We can do one of two things: go ahead with the massage and still end at the time the session would have ended anyway, or pay for the session even if they miss it.
My policy for missed appointments is to charge the normal fee to a credit card.
If you miss or cancel your appointment with less than 48 hours notice you will be charged. I believe people forget you are in business to make money as well as provide a service to your community.
Amy E. Stearns
My clinic requires 24 hours notice of cancellation or the client is charged, in full, for services booked. Emergency cases are considered and fees may be waived on occasion.
Amilyn Kearney, R.M.T.
Lateness happens, but if it is chronic, they get only the portion of their time that is left. That takes care of it.
Everyone deserves a break. The first time they miss an appointment they are reminded of the policy and are told there will be no charge this time but each additional occurrence will require a service charge of a predetermined fee. The first time they are late, they are reminded of the policy and, if possible, they are given the full session.
Jack Ogden, L.M.T.
Ioffer rescheduling if the appointment was missed. I shorten appointments if they are late by 10 minutes. If they are later than 10 minutes they need to reschedule.
I work in the office of an osteopath, as his medical massage therapist. The doctor has a strict policy for folks who are chronically late: We refuse them service of any kind.
My business is totally outcall. My first response is to call the house I am sitting in front of then call their cell phone. Usually the client has gotten stuck in traffic and is on their way. If it is an actual emergency, I will forgive the first one.
No-shows and last-minute cancels are given one missed appointment without payment, and are given notice that they will have to pay for the next no-show or late cancel.
Nicole Weldon, L.M.T.
If a client is chronically late they receive only the remaining time of their appointment. And they pay for the full session. I have never had a client refuse to pay. They know this is a business and they respect my time as I do theirs. That is why I am on time, never keep a client waiting and book accordingly.
A window of 15 minutes is allowed for lateness; during that time if another client comes in they may get the massage hour and the late client may need to reschedule.
Missed appointments are as such: I miss an appointment, and the client gets a free one. The client misses, and they are told of my policy: You miss another, you must pay for the next appointment up front. You miss three times, find a new therapist.
Ken Hatcher, L.M.T.
If they miss an appointment and do not give a 24-hour notice they will be billed $15 for having missed the appointment, unless it was due to an unavoidable emergency.
Melissa Akers, L.M.T.
Our policy for clients who miss appointments is to charge them for the full appointment time after the third missed appointment.
Just like at a doctor's office, you miss out and have to wait until there is an opening or make another appointment. I don't think they understand that [they are] our bread and water that we bank on.
Penni Larson C.M.T.
I used to take it personally when a client was late, or cancelled at the last minute. Then I wised up—some people are just chronically late. For those clients, very gently I ask which areas they would like to focus on with their remaining time. I even have some clients that I schedule 15 minutes early because I know they will always be 10 minutes late.
Dawn M. Roberts, C.M.T.
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