No One Is Home: Dealing With The No-Show Customer


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No matter what customer service oriented job your business handles, there is one type of problem everyone faces: the no-show customer. This customer can be painfully insistent that his issue is the emergency to end all emergencies. Yet, when your technician arrives at his residence, he’s nowhere to be found.

He doesn’t answer the doorbell, doesn’t answer your knock, and doesn’t answer your phone call. Predictably, as soon as your tech is across town and up to his elbows in someone else’s emergency, Mr. No-Show calls wondering why the tech isn’t at HIS house.

There are few problems more frustrating that the customer who doesn’t keep appointments. This customer will cost you time, money, and, if you’re not careful, your sanity.

Fortunately, there are some practical ways to get control of this difficult customer and the havoc he creates with your scheduling.

Remind the Customer of the Appointment
There are several ways to do this. The least technical approach is to simply call the customer the day before the appointment and confirm his commitment. Some companies find it advantageous to subscribe to a service that will call customers for them. This can free up valuable time for staff whose time is better spent on other tasks.

Larger companies may opt for a scheduling program that includes a phone or email customer reminder feature. The automated calls or emails go out to the customers in a timely fashion, and parameters can be built in, so if at the time of contact the customer needs to cancel or reschedule, she can simply press a phone key (or click on a chat link) to be connected with a scheduling person.

Rick Cronholm from Johansen & Anderson Inc. shares “When we set up the original appointment, we let the customer know that we will call them the day of their appointment, and someone must answer the phone so we know they’re home.”

Johansen & Anderson’s Michelle Siegel explains, “If we don’t get an answer, we’ll try a second call and if there’s still no answer, we leave a message saying we’re sorry we missed you. If we don’t hear from you by a certain time, we’ll cancel your appointment and you’ll have to reschedule.”

Cronholm elaborates, “It’s important to emphasize to the customer at the time he makes an appointment two things. One is that the customer will be required to pay for the service call before the tech leaves, and the second is that someone must be home to answer the phone. We don’t want to lose a customer because of a policy, but our time is valuable too.”

Offer a Financial Incentive
Some customers may take advantage of an offer to pre-pay the flat fee for the service call at a discounted price. Your company not only has the advantage of “money in hand,” but also has a serious commitment from the customer to be home at the designated time. Some companies may choose to make this pre-payment non-refundable, or refundable only in the form of a credit for future work.

Win, Lose, or Break Even
A fairly uncommon solution is to offer your customers a “deal.” If your technician misses a scheduled appointment (within a specified window), your company compensates the customer with a nominal fee, $10 or so. However, if the customer misses a scheduled appointment, she must compensate your company the same fee.

Again, you are really just getting a firm (financial) commitment from your customer who may otherwise think a quick trip to the corner store is more important than waiting for your tech.

Fire the Customer
Every company knows the hassle of a chronic no-show–the customer who can’t ever seem to meet a commitment. When it gets to the point where you’re spinning your wheels, but not going anywhere, it’s time to end the relationship.

Randy Seaman of Seaman’s Mechanical explains, “Fortunately, in a commercial environment, no-shows are fairly rare. We send an email reminder, or make a phone call if the customer prefers, and someone is at the facility to meet us. But once in a while we do get a client that is chronically late, or doesn’t show up, and at that point we have to decide if the account is worth the hassle. Sometimes you just have to fire the client.”

Make a policy that works best for your company. Communicate that policy and your expectations to the customer when he makes the initial appointment.

Decide ahead of time what your threshold is for customers who don’t keep appointments. If most of the check marks end up in the negative column, it’s time to stop scheduling this customer. Instead, keep your focus on the customers who need your help, and are willing to show up to get it.

Melinda Wamsley
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Posted In: Customer Service

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