When a customer with an appointment calls to cancel, they can either be met with a friendly response or a passive-aggressive response. It’s not in your business’ best interest to try and “guilt-trip” customers who need to cancel appointments; instead, your appointment policy should reflect the cutoff time for cancellations and note any fees or charges that may apply after that cutoff.

When handling appointment cancellations, following the right protocol is essential. Keeping a positive tone and attitude throughout the call will help you increase the odds of having the customer reschedule rather than cancel altogether. Step by step, here’s how to handle appointment cancellations over the phone with poise.

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Phone Etiquette 101: Appointment Cancellations

Step 1: Acknowledge the request and ask for information. Once a customer lets you know they need to cancel an upcoming appointment, the first step is acknowledging their request and gather additional information. What is the customer’s name? When is the appointment scheduled for? This will help you initially determine if the cancellation is being made in time or if it will incur a fee for the customer.

Step 2: Determine if there’s a cancellation fee. Is the customer calling to cancel an appointment for this afternoon while you have a strict 24 hours’ notice policy? With the customer’s information from step 1, determine if they are subject to a cancellation fee or if they’ve cancelled the appointment with plenty of time to spare. If there is a cancellation fee, notify the customer in a friendly tone.

“Our cancellation policy states that we need at least 24 hours’ notice for cancellations so we have time to book new appointments during that time slot. Since your appointment is less than 24 hours away, there will be a $15 cancellation charge.”

Step 3: Try to reschedule. If the customer is cancelling the appointment within the specified time frame or offers a plausible reason for cancelling last-minute, try to reschedule the appointment while you have the customer on the phone. Let them know the cancellation is not a problem and that you appreciate the advance notice. Name a few dates and times available in the upcoming week and ask which would work best to reschedule.

The wrong way to handle appointment cancellations

Responding to a cancellation positively can turn the situation around, but responding rudely or as though you are personally inconvenienced by the cancellation will only repel customers. The right way to handle cancellations is graciously (unless it’s a repeat offender).

When someone calls to cancel, don’t:

  • Speak in a monotone voice
  • Act inconvenienced or annoyed
  • Automatically impose fees unless policy dictates
  • Hang up without trying to reschedule
  • Fail to note the cancellation in the calendar

Handling an appointment cancellation the right way over the phone increases the odds that you’ll be able to reschedule the appointment and retain the customer. The best appointment cancellation response is understanding and patience while keeping with any company policies regarding cancellation fees or required time of advance notice.