There are few things more frustrating than a no-show client or the chronic rescheduler. These patterns can really hurt your bottom line in the big picture. Consider these five main reasons clients cancel or put off their session, and a few helpful ways to ensure that it doesn’t happen (too often) to you.
1. They FORGET
Yes. This is the number one reason clients don’t show up or reschedule at the last minute. As photographers, we cater predominantly to mothers (and new mothers at that). Their world, if you haven’t experienced it for yourself, is chaotic. There are plenty of appointments and commitments in any given week, and distractions a-plenty. You can help put the session on their radar with a reminder email two days prior and then a reminder phone call the day before. This helps clients stay committed to, and excited about their session.
2. They CHANGED THEIR MIND
This is the number two reason someone will cancel or reschedule their session. Maybe they found a different photographer they want to work with more. They might just want to put off a session for a few months or even another year, depending on the type. Often clients will decide they would rather cut a corner on their family’s memories and reallocate their funds elsewhere. A standard, 15 minute pre-session consultation is a great way to avoid this half-hearted commitment from clients. You should make this free consultation a mandatory step to getting a session with you. At that time, you should also collect a session fee when a session is scheduled, (every, every, every time) to encourage clients to respect the session and your time. If you present some of your work from similar sessions, this is also a great time to build up your services and evoke a sense of excitement and desire for it in your new clients. In some cases, a session won’t be scheduled, and you shouldn’t try to force those people. They are the ones who would have cancelled anyway. As they say, know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. Business is a game of sorts, and you can win more effectively by accepting your losses quickly and painlessly.
3. They FEEL FINANCIAL PRESSURE
Some clients may cancel the session or put it off because of unexpected financial stressors. By collecting a session fee, you have covered yourself for your time, whether they choose to take advantage of it or not. If a client simply cancels, keep the fee. If they want to reschedule, collect a $25 rescheduling fee before putting them in your calendar yet again. You will quickly weed out clients who are trying to spare your feelings by extending their session. Some might truly intend to honor the new commitment, and if that is the case, they won’t mind the fee. If financial pressure is so high that the fee can’t be met, imagine how terrible the sales experience would be for you both.
4. They DOUBLE BOOKED THEMSELVES
Some of the best clients are also going to be some of the busiest. If they have become returning clients that spend well above your minimum purchase goal, you might be tempted to waive the rescheduling fee. I would advise you to resist that urge and instead, offer them a complimentary gift when they pick up their order. It can be a small product like a timeline graphic for their Facebook profile, or a few extra holiday cards, graduation announcements or baby announcements (whatever they ordered). The reason this is best is once again, to protect your schedule above all, and to maintain a protocol. If you waive the fee for one client, the word could get out and upset other clients. This is easily avoidable, and at the end of the day, if you waive the fee, they are that much more likely to forget the appointment once again.
5. They HAD AN ILLNESS OR FAMILY EMERGENCY
This is the least common reason that a client will legitimately cancel or reschedule a session, though it is commonly the number one excuse given. Life does happen, and sometimes it’s best to reschedule a session. If a client shows up sick, go ahead and send them home, rescheduling free of charge. They made every effort to be there, in spite of it all. With family emergencies, it’s your business and you know your clients. Most people won’t go there as an excuse when being less than genuine. It’s your call on those difficult situations. You will come off badly if you are overly rigid with the fees in certain circumstances. Trust your instincts, but know that in general these protocols will bring you respect and a smoothly functioning business more than anything else.
I hope this has helped you step into your clients shoes a bit and understand how to combat those frustrating no-show appointments in the future. Remember, your clients are the same people who:
- Pay a late fee if they are more than 10 minutes late to a Dr. appointment
- Wait another week or two for an opening at a good hair salon
- Pay a cover charge to get into a nightclub–just to get in the door
- Wait weeks to get a table at a good restaurant
- Pay a no-show charge of $50 for many types of appointments
- Wait in line for the best new products, concerts, movie premiers, etc.
- Order that must-have, top-of-the-line car or truck and wait months for it to be delivered
The point is this: we do live in a world where time is money and supply and demand balance out. So if your services are overly available, you make it impossible for the demand to keep up. Create a bit of scarcity for your product and you’ll be amazed how much more people will WANT it.
Comment below to share your best no-show stories or tell how you combat them in your business!