April 28, 2023

11 tips to reduce no-shows and prevent last-minute cancellations

john travolta confused plumber

Imagine this scenario…

A plumber, electrician or other tradesperson is called by a customer. The customer wants to book a service - perhaps a boiler inspection - so the tradie checks their calendar and sees they have one slot free. They book the customer in.

The appointment time arrives. The tradesperson turns up at the customer's house and knocks on the door.

No answer.

They try calling the customer and it goes to voicemail. The technician waits for 10 minutes and then drives home. In total over an hour of time wasted.

Sound familiar?

No-shows and last-minute cancellations kill your business and cost you money. Luckily there are steps you can take to mitigate against them.

Here are our top ten tips to prevent these no-shows and late cancellations.

1. Reminders

Like it or not, customers forget. They get busy, things come up and they miss their appointments, especially if it’s for something that they don’t feel is essential.

That’s why it’s very important to remind customers that they’ve made a booking - and then to remind them again.

We would recommend a confirmation email or text when the appointment is booked, a follow-up 24 hours ahead of time, and another reminder an hour before you head to the job.

Obviously doing this can take time and unless you’re organised it’s a lot to juggle. That’s why we’d recommend automating the process.

With the right software, you can send automated, pre-prepared reminders to your customers at all the right times.

Payaca’s custom automations handle reminders cleverly and reliably. Event reminders can be configured to go out to your customers on a schedule chosen by you, saving you time and money.

2. Professionalism

If you run a business, whatever your trade, you will take pride in your work and your reputation.

But just because you’re a professional doesn’t mean there’s no room to improve the way you present yourself to your customers.

If your approach is laid back - you’re winning customers by word of mouth; taking payments cash in hand; your business doesn’t have a website or uniform - then your customers will form a certain impression of your business.

This impression is not necessarily bad, but it may suggest that you are not a highly professional outfit.

Compare this to a company that arrives in a branded van, takes bookings online and has a slick website and official uniform. This business means business.

Even if it’s subconscious, customers of the business in the second example know that they’re dealing with a professional organisation.

As such the customer is more likely to interact with the second business in a professional manner.

This means that the customer will be more likely to turn up to their appointment, and are more likely to appreciate that the organisation's time is precious.

How your business presents itself may seem like a minor factor but you’d be surprised by the impact it can have.

3. Clear cancellation policy

A clear cancellation policy helps to set expectations and ensures that your customers take your bookings seriously. If customers understand how to cancel - and when it is acceptable to cancel - they are far less likely to call off an appointment last minute.

If your expectations aren’t made clear, a customer may not realise that they shouldn’t be pulling out last minute. If this information is clearly and publicly displayed then the responsibility is with the customer, as you will have provided every opportunity for them to comply.

Cancellation fees

You may want to include a cancellation or call-out fee as part of your policy. This adds an extra incentive for the customer to stick to their appointment and can help cover the cost of lost work.

However, be aware that a policy like this may risk causing more harm than good. Some customers may respond badly to financial penalties and you may lose future work.

If you’re going to include late cancellation fees, be sure to make this policy clear to your customer from the get-go. We would also recommend waiving this fee in one-off cases.

4. Positive affirmation

If a cancellation fee is the stick, then thanking your customer for being there on time is the carrot (the incentive).

When a customer meets the appointment make sure to thank them for sticking to the timings.

This may seem unnecessary but it lets the customer know how much you value punctuality, helping to reduce the chances of future offences.


If you really want to encourage your customers, you could even offer an additional incentive.

Perhaps you might include a discount for keeping the appointment. For example, you could give money off future appointments once the job is complete.

If you factor this into your pricing structure you won’t be out of pocket. Rewards can have a significant impact on the number of appointments that are kept, saving you money overall.

5. Ease of communication

Communication is key.

If your customers don’t feel they can talk to you, struggle to contact you or they receive inconsistent replies, then this will mean they’re less likely to reach out to you.

You want to make it as easy as possible to get in contact, ensuring there are no barriers to communication.

The more available you are, the more likely customers will be to contact you when their timings change. If they’re running late, think they’re going to be delayed or even need to cancel, they’re far more likely to keep you in the loop and leave you the time to reschedule.

The better your relationships with your customers the easier it is to prevent no-shows and cancellations. If the customer values you as a person and you have a good working relationship then they won’t want to cause you trouble on a personal level.

Using a system like Payaca can help you with this, allowing you to automate many of your communications.

6. Be consistent, be punctual

If you’re expecting your customers to be timely, then you need to make sure you are too. Always ensure that you turn up on time and try to make your arrival window as small as possible. The more specific you can be with your timings the better.

Rather than telling your customers you will arrive between 08:00 and 14:00, try and be more specific, say you’ll be there for 09:30.

Understandably, this can be difficult when you're dealing with multiple customers over a large area, however, if you can manage this it can make a big difference for your customer.

Even if you’re unable to give a super specific time, make sure you keep the customer in the loop. Just sending a text letting the customer know you’re half an hour away makes a difference.

Customers will be far less likely to stand you up if they understand where you are and are kept informed. Remember your customers may be busy too, by keeping them up-to-date it’s easier for them to plan around your arrival, reducing the chance of no-shows.

7. Feedback

Even if you go to every length to prevent missed appointments, you’re still going to get the odd customer who fails to meet their booking.

When this happens, it's important to find out why. Sometimes, there may genuinely be a good reason; they may have been in an accident or got stuck in unexpected traffic. Even when the excuse isn’t a good one, it’s still important to understand why.

Getting this feedback from customers has two benefits.

For one it makes the customer more accountable, if you’re following up with them they have to personally acknowledge their mistake. You don’t need to reprimand them, but even just having to speak to you can be enough to encourage them to honour their appointment next time.

The second benefit is it allows you to build a picture of why customers are missing appointments and gain a clearer understanding of the different types of customers you’re dealing with.

Based on this you can adjust your communication and behaviour to adapt to different customer's tendencies.

Amongst consistent offenders for example you may verbally confirm an appointment at an earlier time than you book them in. If they’re always an hour late, book them an hour later.

8. Booking flexibility

You want to make it as straightforward as possible for your customers to book with you. The more simple and the more flexible you can be the better it will be for preventing cancellations.

With an effective booking system, customers can see what times you’re available and book into a slot that fits them.

A system like this allows the customer to find the best fit time, meaning they will be more likely to keep to it. It also means they can book at a time that is convenient for them.

Rather than having to negotiate over the phone or in a rush, they can take the time to choose a slot that will genuinely fit rather than a less-than-perfect time.

Furthermore, if the customer can see what appointments you have coming up, they may choose to book in later rather than rush to get in early, as they can clearly tell when you’re available.

This may even help you to secure customers you might otherwise have lost just by providing clear information.

The other added benefit is that it helps customers to appreciate how busy you are. If they can see you have a lot of bookings they’re more likely to value your time and be encouraged by how in demand you are.


A CRM like Payaca is a great way to implement a booking system and reduce no-shows.

With Payaca you can integrate lead capture and bookings directly into your website. This means new customers are processed directly into your calendar, allowing you to begin the process of managing their booking.

Furthermore, with Payaca’s automations, it takes the effort out of managing new customers. They are automatically processed and communications are sent out instantly.

If you’re interested in the software then give the free trial a go.

9. Deposits

Taking a deposit might be a good way of discouraging missed appointments.

It’s up to you how much you want to take in your deposit, but it’s important to weigh up the positives and negatives of asking for a large figure, or any deposit at all.

While a large deposit can help cover you if there is a cancellation, it can also put customers off. Some customers may also assume that this payment covers the cost of the service and refuse to pay further even if the job is worth more than the deposit.

On the positive side, deposits can help make customers more accountable and can help put off cowboy customers that you don’t want to waste your time with.

10. Shift your target market

If you find you're experiencing a continued problem with customers not showing up or cancelling last minute, then you might want to consider shifting the type of customer you go after.

It may be that your current customers are simply not profitable enough or that they’re too unreliable. If this is the case, it might be time to think about addressing the route cause.

Take some time to think about how you’re marketing your business, where you are getting your leads and how new customers are discovering you. What is your local reputation like?

Once you’ve established this you can start to work out how to attract a different kind of customer base, one that is more reliable and more profitable.

We give some tips on how to achieve this in our blog on how to grow your plumbing business. The advice uses plumbing businesses as an example but the principles can be applied to any trade.

11. Repeat customers

Building a repeat revenue stream is a great way to reduce no-shows. This is because repeat work is consistent and predictable.

Rather than the customer having to remember one-off appointments, the customers build a habit and can plan their schedule around regular services. This makes it easier for you and the customer to make the appointment.

To help you set up these types of repeat services you can use Payaca, the only CRM that offers dedicated service plan software.

If you want to find out more, we’ve written a blog covering the topic of service plans in detail.

Next steps

Missed appointments are incredibly frustrating, but as we’ve sort to show, there are steps you can take to mitigate against them.

You may not want to implement all of these tips, but even making a few small changes can make a noticeable difference.

There is no magic solution to completely stop the odd missed service appointment, but by putting the right processes in place you can help reduce their occurrence and better protect your business and your precious time.