Any small business owner knows that time equals money. Even with a no-show late cancellation policy, sometimes clients are just plain late. What many clients don’t realize is that their tardiness throws off your entire schedule. When one client runs late, all of your following appointments are affected — making you look disorganized. You’re either forced to make up the time or push back your remaining appointments. Bottom line, late clients cost you money. So what can you do about it? Here’s how you can hold clients accountable in a calm and professional way.

Set Limits with Clients

When it comes to appointment buffers, the unwritten industry standard is typically five-minutes. However, if you have a loyal client who shows up 15 minutes late to their appointment once, there’s no cause for alarm. It costs money to acquire a loyal client, you can afford for them to be late once (or twice). Once they show up late for a third time, you’ve got yourself a chronically late client. It’s time to utilize a late policy. 

Have a Game Plan

The best way to enforce a late policy is by making it well known. Include your policy on your website, your social channels, and your appointment confirmation email — anywhere clients look to book your services. To help get the point across, StyleSeat automatically displays your policy on your profile for all of your clients to see. If the client cancels within 24 hours of the appointment, they will be charged your late cancellation fee. If the client no-shows, you have the option to charge a no show fee.

How to Handle The “Running Late” Call

When a client calls 10 minutes before their appointment to tell you they’re running late, have your game plan prepared. Ask them what time they will be at the salon. If their answer is vague, ask them where they are. Let them know you have back to back appointments and you need to be mindful of your other clients. Any client worthy of your time will understand.

If they ask, “Will I be able to get my full session?” don’t make promises. Answer, “Once you get here, we can see how much time we have to work with.” End the conversation with, “Drive carefully, I’ll be waiting for you, see you soon!” so they understand your schedule is on hold until they get there.

Draw the Line 

If a client constantly shows up late, it’s time to enforce a late policy. If you’re afraid of losing that client, don’t be. Loyal clients don’t leave because they messed up. If the client is worth it, they will stick around and respect your time. By charging a late fee, you can train clients to honor your schedule.

Start with a Warning

If you’re nervous about coming on too strong with a late fee, start with a warning, tell your clients, “I can waive your late cancellation fee this time, but I won’t be able to do it again in the future.” If your client is so late you can no longer accommodate them say, “my calendar is fully booked and unfortunately, I will not be able to finish your service in this short of time” and offer to reschedule their appointment.

Charging your client a late cancellation fee for the first time? Reschedule their appointment and offer to tack the cancellation fee onto the price of the new service at a reduced rate. This makes them feel like you’re giving them a break and you can lock in that next appointment.

Knowing When to Drop a Client

If you charge your client the late fee and they continue to show up late, it’s time to block them. Luckily StyleSeat makes it easy to cut ties with bad clients. By blocking a bad client, you can make more space in your life for clients who respect your time.

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