Do Appointment Cancellations and Rescheduling Drive You Crazy?

One of my clients was sharing his frustration with me that when it snows, people cancel (and snow is not uncommon where he lives).

Do you get frustrated with it too, because you could’ve taken someone else on during that time instead?  (Not to mention your time wasted, and lost income).  One practitioner estimates no-shows and same-day cancellations account for up to 15% of all appointments scheduled by his practice, accounting for $25,000 a year in lost revenue.  That’s a lot of money. Not to mention the people who may not have gotten the care they needed because they canceled.

Even if you’re not losing that much money, it can be a money leak for you and a waste of your valuable time.

Read on for the simplest way to prevent this, so your time is not wasted.

Your clients will secretly respect you for it too…

What is it?  Request a no-show deposit or request payment upfront (my holistic dentist’s office doesn’t schedule anyone in unless your next appointment’s estimated fee for the visit is received in full when you schedule).  You might be thinking to yourself, but “I’m a professional and other acupuncturists, chiropractors, naturopaths, health coaches, etc don’t do that”, or “but unexpected things can happen preventing someone from making an appointment, so I don’t want to be so strict.”

The truth is that when you ask for a no-show deposit, it shows to your patient/client that you take your time seriously.

It reminds them of the importance of integrity with their commitment & your commitment of time with them.  Sharing your policy with them upfront actually leads to them respecting you more.


You can say to them: “There is a no-show deposit of $XX.  If you need to reschedule, call us at least 48 hrs ahead of time to avoid being charged the no show.  What card would you like to use?”  Take their credit card up front.They will think twice before they call you to reschedule.

What if it snows or an emergency happens, you may ask?  If you live in a place that often snows, and it snows to the point where roads are not driveable (or a true emergency comes up), you can always make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

If you don’t want to request a no-show deposit, put some kind of reschedule/cancellation policy in place. It reminds them upfront that if they reschedule, it affects people other than themselves. For example, “if something unexpected comes up and you wish to reschedule, please call us at least 48 hrs before, to prevent it from taking up a spot from someone who really needs the appointment)”.

The key is being & coming across confident that this policy the best thing for both of you.  Your matter-of-factedness will allow them to respect you and your time.

If you’re concerned about doing this, let me guess…you feel like it’s not being nice or considerate to other people’s last-minute things that may come up, preventing them from seeing you.  I get it, because I’m a recovering people pleaser.  It was a hard thing for me to put a cancellation & reschedule policy in place at first, because I also felt bad about “what ifs?” for emergencies.

But when I started setting clear boundaries like this, I quickly realized that people respected me more for setting clear boundaries.  Also, I quickly found out those who were serious and those who weren’t.

For example, holistic practitioners who are ready to double their practice without doubling their work apply for a “Double My Practice” Strategy Session with me.  I don’t usually have trouble with people not showing up, because not every applicant is selected for one–we screen the application for a level of seriousness.

However, the odd number of people who don’t show up at all or request rescheduling last minute….my team asks for a no-show deposit from them.

We are upfront with it when someone books the first time.  We share with them that if they need to reschedule, they will be required to provide a no-show deposit, and it’s charged if they don’t show up. The people who have been serious have paid it when they needed to reschedule without giving us 24 hrs notice. The ones who have not are not the right match for us anyway.

Be upfront.  Let them know your policy and stick to it.  They will secretly respect you for it.

Comment below to share your opinion –what do you think?  Are no-show deposits good?  Or are they a bad policy, and why?

And don’t hesitate to apply for a “Double My Practice” Strategy session, if you are serious about doubling your practice (and income) this year, without double the work!


  1. Irene Diamond, RT on March 12, 2014 at 6:26 am

    You are spot on, Chen.

    I also teach practitioners the importance of collecting a card. The words we suggest are:
    “We take a credit card number to confirm the appointment for you. Please be aware we have a 24 hour window if you need to reschedule.”

    I agree it’s important to also waive your policy when a client does it for the first time, but the key is to let them know you are waiving it. “As a goodwill gesture, we will waive your no-show fee, but please be aware that I will need to charge you if it happens again.”

    (also, some online booking services let you take cc #s encrypted over their system.

    Positive, confident and easy! keep up the good work!

    • Chen Yen on March 20, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      Hi Irene,
      Thanks for sharing the languaging you use. It is a nice way of approaching it.

      Regarding waiving a policy when a someone does it for the first time, it’s not something we do actually. We are clear from the beginning when someone books that a no-show deposit will be required if they don’t show up for their appointment, or don’t let us know by 24 hrs before to reschedule. They will not be charged if they DO show up for that 2nd appointment.

  2. Garrett on March 1, 2014 at 12:25 am

    There are lots of rules and regs about keeping a CC number on file, as I understand it this could cause lots of problems if the numbers were stolen. It’s a great idea, but I don’t need the pain of the fines with something I’m not sure about. Thoughts?

    • Chen Yen on March 20, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Check with your merchant account processor and a lawyer if you are concerned about the security of what you keep on file.

  3. Miro on February 12, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    Hi Chen.

    I have put up a cancellation policy a few years ago when I was going through a patch of cancellations and no shows. I did loose clients because of it and had some angry call from people who read it. The message I got from them was that this was just a cheap money grab by me…. I felt insulted that they would think it after all the times I have treated them.

    The thoughts at the time and again on reading your message is … how does this work in an industry where the next therapist some 10 minutes down the road does not have such a policy. I am basically going to lose clients to them because there is less risk there for them should something crop up. A colleague of mine actually charged a few of her “no shows” for the missed sessions… I will check wih her to see if any of them continued as her clients… I suspect not.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Chen Yen on February 12, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      Hi Miro, one thing that can make a difference between someone respecting a cancellation policy and getting angry is the way it is presented to them. How was it presented to them? (ie, what did you say, in what context, etc) And what specifically was your cancellation policy?

      Beyond that, there will be some people who could get angry regardless, and we just need to remember that people react based on projections of themselves and we are unable to control that (nor be responsible for it). Maybe they are not a good client match for you. Look at how you can attract more clients who are a better match for you. You’re invited to a webinar I’m doing on this topic:

  4. Helen chin Lui on February 9, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    I register all new clients. Along w their assessment form, personal contact information, a cc is kept on file. All clients are informed of my cancellation policy.

    You will quickly know who is serious and who is not. People will not think twice about wasting your time. By setting up procedures before hand I can assure you that they will show up.

    • Chen Yen on February 9, 2014 at 11:33 pm

      Helen, sounds like you have a cancellation policy and people respect it. That’s great!

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