Late Cancellations and No Shows

We're in the business of people!

Understanding peoples behaviour is the key.  It's always the key, from staff to clients, any relationship!

There's no point in complaining, bitching or moaning. That's not going to solve it or make us feel any better about no shows or late cancellations! As an industry have an issue with clients' unwanted behaviour, how do we fix it? Can we change it? That's the question that salon owners need to answer.

I believe we have to get clever to reduce the number and it's impact.

So, here are my top tips, "techniques" to assist in *reducing No Shows and Late Cancellations.

*Reducing, we can never get rid of the behaviour entirely. But we can change some people and take control with business policies.


I'm Caroline Turner and I've been training salons and spas across the world since 1999 with a focus on revenue.

It is my aim to share ways to improve revenue or save revenue.

Cancellations at the last minute or clients not showing up can be not just frustrating but dangerous for peoples job security and the businesses long term future.

There is nothing more frustrating than looking at the day with a feeling of "it's gonna be a great day" to getting partway through and feeling gutted as gaps appear or appointments turn red showing a "No Show"

Clients won't respect the appointment if they don't care!

Humans are controlled by their emotions! People ONLY take action (like calling us to cancel) if they feel enough emotions. That's the science of how humans work.

So the question we have to ask is... How do we get clients to FEEL they must call us if they can't make their appointment? How can we get more people to give the salon ENOUGH notice?

We all have six basic emotions, which are;

Fear - Disgust - Happiness - Anger - Sadness and Surprise, which can be Positive or Negative

Make calling a pleasure


The pleasure-pain principle was originally published by Sigmund Freud in modern psychoanalysis but can be traced back to  300 BC.

Put simply, human beings SEEK pleasure but avoid perceived pain.

 If calling us to cancel is "perceived" pain, they won't call!

We need to remove the pain!

All those reasons a client didn't turn up "I didn't get the text" "you must have booked it wrong".

Those clients potentially avoid perceived pain by shifting the blame, which can be very annoying!

My top tip would be to link calling with instant gratification, pleasure.

Two ways to give pleasure 

A thank you bonus loyalty point for themselves or links to local charities, a giving scheme.


Client loyalty point

By giving the client, a bonus point has two interesting effects.

1 – There's a pleasure reason to call, bingo!

2 – Giving bonus loyalty points fits artificial advancement marketing (people return, rebook faster).

Don't have a loyalty scheme? That's OK, think outside the box; what CAN you give to reduce the pain of calling? A complimentary scalp massage when the client comes in for their service, a 5 to 10-minute service that uses no stock and can be offered by both the Hair and Beauty industries. Look for the carrot you can dangle to get more clients giving you more notice.

The Charity Link

Have you ever noticed that if you buy certain products like nappies/diapers at the supermarket, the company will give to a charity? Ever been at the checkout and offered school vouchers or some form of support a local charity?

Why do they give to charity? It’s a technique to decrease the pain of spending because the customer gets pleasure by helping others.

Consider - Setting up a system to support local charities with donations based on positive client behaviour. Every client that gives notice over a specific time frame (48 hours) will earn a point for a local charity. Even if a point was worth £/$1 and you donate a service

Terms and Conditions would be needed, such as a limit to 3 separate appointment points over a set time frame (so they can't keep booking and cancelling to get the reward).

I know in my salon, I was constantly being asked to donate to local charities, and in general, giving a prize rarely got me a "long term" client. So what did I get out of it? Very little, but I could have benefited if I had linked it to something like cancellations. It's worth considering and then making a point of marketing the donation because clients calling to change appointments MIGHT assist in getting more notice.

The key is time; if a salon has enough time, they have a better chance of filling the slot.


Repeat Offenders

Have a policy in place on the website and price list and enforce it.

I would consider the appropriate choice technique. Because I don't want to go into battle with clients, but I ALSO want to be in control.

This technique allows the client to feel they have a choice as adults don't like being told what to do, but I'm still in charge as an owner.

The appropriate choice would kick in if the policy is three repeat last-minute cancellations or no shows within a time frame.

The client can either;

Only make appointments on the day they want, or they will need to pay a non-refundable booking fee for a future appointment.

For example, "Mrs Jones over the last x weeks you gave us less than x hours notice so we have two choices, we can either take a non-refundable fee if you want a specific day and time or you can call us on the day, which would you prefer?

Giving the client a choice reduces conflict; of course, the client may go for one other option and not return, and that's sometimes a good thing.

Repeat offenders are often transaction clients, have little or no loyalty, are often highly demanding, expect everything for nothing and often are late or don't turn up. They don't care, and we can't make them care about the business, the team or you as the owner.

We can all be transaction consumers at some point.