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Hi James, and welcome to the forum
When I’m not hanging out here on Flying Solo, I work with lots of natural health practitioners who offer nutritional and similar services.
My instinct is that it might be beneficial for you to think about this from several different angles: your sales process, your booking process and your consultation process:
1. Sales process:
While it’s to be expected that you’ll experience some cancellations, the proportion you’re talking does seem exceptionally high – but then, regularly having 10-12 appointments a week after just 10 months in business seems quite high too.
That makes me wonder whether it’s possible that some people are not fully committed when they sign up?
Please don’t take this the wrong way, but is it possible that you’re pushing them to book in before they’ve had time to think about it and make the decision for themselves, and that they’re then backing off when the time gets closer?
If that’s not it, what else might be going on to make them take the step of booking in with you if they’re not prepared to follow through?
If I were in your shoes, I’d ask gently ask some questions around this every time someone cancels. Use the answers to adjust your approach to selling them the initial appointment and continue to do so as you learn more and more about what’s going on. (Implementing these kinds of incremental tweaks is a great way to make your processes stronger throughout the life of your business).
2. Booking process:
With regards to the deposit and cancellation fee, in my experience it is now becoming common to advise people at the time of booking that there is a cancellation fee when appointments are changed with less than 24-48 hours notice. (For example, my coaching clients all know that I have a 50% cancellation fee when appointments are changed at the last minute, and I make sure they understand that it’s because it costs me money if they don’t show up for an appointment and I don’t have time to fill their spot).
In some instances, my clients take a credit card number at the time a booking is made, and explain that it will only be charged if an appointment is cancelled at short notice. (Again, this needs a gentle approach in order to work. For example, you might want to let them off the first time with a warning, but charge them the second time).
3. Consultation process:
I think it will take the sting out of this experience if you stop preparing the diet plans prior to the initial consultation and only put your energy into that work after you’ve met your clients and taken their case history – which I’d have thought would be essential to creating the right plan for them in any case.
Instead, I’d use the initial consultation as an opportunity to really get to know what’s going on for them, and then create their eating plan either on the spot (ideal option as you can talk them through it) or send it to them via email afterwards.
In many instances, the initial consultation is more expensive than subsequent ones to ensure that allowance is made for the time involved in this.
Hope that helps, and I’m happy to discuss further if you’d like to brainstorm a bit more.
In the meantime, thanks again for joining the forum,