Picture this: you have booked an Uber ride and are waiting for the driver to come to pick you up. You track the driver’s location on the app. He texts you and asks you to wait for 3 minutes as he’s dropping off another customer. You wait. 3 minutes. 1 minute. And your phone rings.
“Ma’am, what’s the destination you want to be dropped at?”
As you spit out the destination, you hear:
“Sorry, I can’t go”—ride canceled flashes on the app.
You feel irritated, angry, and frustrated as you wasted enough time waiting for this ride.
The same happens when a prospective client cancels an online meeting at the last minute.
It’s a terrible feeling, isn’t it?
But why does it happen in the first place?
Because you haven’t created a solid action plan to streamline your processes and protect your online consulting business.
The good news: we have curated the steps you need to take to avoid these last-minute cancellations.
Table of contents
- Why do prospective clients cancel appointments at the last minute?
- How to avoid last-minute cancellations from prospective clients?
- How do you respond to a client that cancels at the last minute?
- To sum it up
Why do prospective clients cancel appointments at the last minute?
“I’m sorry, there’s an emergency. I won’t be able to make it to the meeting”, says the email.
There are many reasons for prospects to call off an appointment.
Let’s find out what the most common ones are.
They forgot about the meeting
Chances are, the prospect simply forgot about the meeting.
Why? The appointment was either on their to-do list or not their priority at that moment.
They come across an unforeseen situation
Sometimes, the cancellations are genuine.
Maybe they experienced a personal emergency. You never know when an unforeseen situation can occur, forcing them to cancel the meeting.
They found a better partner
Maybe the prospective client found a better fit for the project.
This happens when they aren’t sure about working with you.
They may constantly be talking to other people and if they find the right person before the meeting, they might cancel it at the last minute.
Also read: 21 Meeting Management Software Examples for Remote Team Workers
How to avoid last-minute cancellations from prospective clients?
That one phone call or message just twenty minutes before the scheduled meeting can mess up your day.
But worry not!
You can prevent last-minute cancellations with these simple and tested strategies.
Front-load your lead scoring
Activate your lead scoring system by qualifying the prospect before allowing them to book an appointment with you.
By doing this, you understand their requirements, qualify them and find if they are the right fit for your product or service.
Here are a few qualifying questions to ask:
- What are your business goals, and how are you achieving them?
- What are your daily business struggles?
- Are you willing to invest in a paid solution?
Once you qualify the prospect, take the final step—send them the link to your booking page and schedule an appointment.
Let’s say you are an agency owner offering writing services to clients.
You can create a form with a set of qualifying questions to send to the prospects.
Once they fill out the form and you review it, you can decide whether they are the right fit to work with you or not.
Use the reciprocity principle
The reciprocity principle is nothing but the exchange of things with other people for mutual benefit.
If you look around, everything from a doctor treating their patient to a salesperson offering a freebie is based on the psychology of reciprocity principle.
Let’s apply this principle to business.
To get your prospects on a video call, offer them something to persuade them to schedule a call with you.
Of course, when a prospect schedules a call with you, you need to level up this principle. Here’s how:
- Send them an email to show your excitement
- Show your research process
- Share resources like webinars and podcasts
Take a peek at how Samurai Marketers sent this email to their prospects to keep them engaged before the meeting.
Why this works: They shared the links to resources to educate the prospect more about their company, the results they have produced, and their process of working.
Create an appointment cancellation policy
You have two choices: let prospects waste your time and take you for granted or take charge.
If you choose the latter, you must prepare an appointment cancellation policy.
Surprisingly, people never consider creating strict cancellation policies.
However, we decided to ask business owners about their opinion and 17% of respondents say they would create an appointment cancellation policy if the prospect cancels the meeting at the last minute.
An appointment cancellation policy protects you from situations and conveys your business policies to prospects. It also helps you establish healthy boundaries with the prospects.
So, here comes the next question: what to consider while creating an appointment cancellation policy?
Here’s what you should do:
Give customers a time frame
Set a timeframe to cancel the appointment—24, 48, or 72 hours—completely customizable according to what you want.
But what if they don’t cancel appointments in this timeframe?
Ask for a security deposit
When you consider money as a penalty, ask for a security deposit.
There are multiple ways to implement this.
For example, if they cancel the appointment within 24 hours, 50% is refundable; if they cancel within 48 hours 30% is refundable, and so on.
Make the cancellation policy visible
The prospect won’t know about the appointment cancellation policy unless you communicate it to them.
Make sure you remind them about it from time to time.
Here are some tips on how to do it:
- Highlight it on your business website
- Have a link to the policy in your email signature
- Talk about it in your initial conversation before they book the meeting
Creating an appointment cancellation policy seems an excellent way to tackle your problem, right?
But the manual process can be draining.
How about automating the processes?
Use 3veta’s booking page feature to make your appointments paid.
When prospective clients cancel the meeting, they get a refund after the service provider or salesperson confirms it.
You can refund the partial or total amount based on your cancellation policy guidelines.
Also read: How to Receive Payments for Meetings with 3veta and Stripe
Send appointment reminders
Think about the numerous times you have forgotten about the meeting because it wasn’t on your calendar.
The same goes for your prospects.
Start sending appointment reminders at least a day before the meeting. It gives them ample time to decide if they can make it or would delegate the meeting.
But here’s the catch: prospects will see appointment reminders on the platform they are most active on. So, along with email reminders, send text message appointment reminders too.
There are two ways to send appointment reminders:
1. Assign a virtual assistant or sales manager who would carry out the entire conversation and follow up with the prospect
2. Set up automated appointment reminders
The manual approach is good on a smaller scale. But when the number of prospects and appointments increases, you need to use appointment scheduling tools.
💡 Pro tip
Use 3veta to send automatic reminders—one 24 hours before the meeting and another one 1 hour before the meeting. This saves you at least 5 minutes of your time on each reminder email you send.
With the first reminder email, you remind the prospect about the meeting—raising the attendance rate. With the second one, you remind them it’s time to start preparing for the meeting.
Offer to reschedule
Appointment rescheduling is a great option when a prospective client cancels a meeting.
This allows you to connect with the prospect again, and check if they are serious about the meeting.
To reschedule the appointment, ask the prospect why they called off the appointment and offer to reschedule.
However, be thoughtful while rescheduling the appointment.
Sudden appointment rescheduling can mess up your schedule and may hamper appointments scheduled ahead as you have to tweak your existing planned schedule.
An excellent way to manage your calendar and offer a rescheduling option is to use appointment scheduling software.
Also read: How to Effectively Schedule Appointments: Step-by-Step Guide for Business Owners
How do you respond to a client that cancels at the last minute?
Last-minute cancellations happen even after you use appointment scheduling tools and send multiple appointment reminders.
In such scenarios, what should you email the prospective client?
True and tested templates to take inspiration from
I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be able to make it to the meeting scheduled today at (time, timezone). I understand things come up and hope everything is fine on your end. I’m really looking forward to meeting you. Hope we can reschedule the meeting!
Why this works: Shows you care about them and believe their reason to be genuine for cancellation—helping to nurture and build up a natural conversation.
I’m sorry that you canceled the meeting but grateful that you scheduled the meeting in the first place. If you think this cancellation was a mistake or if you have any questions, please feel free to message me. I’m happy to reschedule the call with you one more time.
Why this works: Makes them feel good about themselves (because you are being grateful to them) and reassures them of the second chance.
I noticed you canceled the call we had today at (time, timezone). No worries!
Did you expect something different from the meeting, or aren’t sure if you’d like to proceed? I understand your concerns. In either case, I’d love to hear from you.
Why it works: It encourages them to state the reason for cancellation and helps you find out any objections (if any!).
Best tips to respond to cancellations emails and messages
- Keep your emails short and to the point
- Use empathy to show you care
- Reassure them of another chance to reschedule
To sum it up
Last-minute cancellations are common in remote work environments as they are in offline meetings. But, whether the count of canceled appointments is 2 or 20 matters.
For the latter, opt for an appointment scheduling platform that offers efficient meeting management, allows you to collect a booking fee, sends timely reminders to your prospects, and comes up with easy rescheduling options.
Ready to buckle up your appointment scheduling? Start a free trial with 3veta.
Nidhi Kala is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS brands in marketing, HR, and eCommerce. When she's not writing, her artistic mind is buried in creating a new journaling spread or exploring calligraphy scripts. Connect with her on LinkedIn.