How to Prevent Last Minute Cancellations for Field Service Appointments
Has your business ever suffered from last minute cancellations?
Of course, you have. In fact, no service business owner will answer negatively to that question.
If you are in this field even for a small period, you have definitely encountered that dreadful last-moment turndown, sometimes right before your team arrives at the job site.
Well, you are not alone. Every business dealing with field service management has suffered from this menace from time to time, and in turn, people have put considerable time and effort to find a solution. If you embark on research, the internet will give you various solutions, heavily laden with technical terms and marketing strategies. However, most of them are rather difficult to follow, especially for small service businesses.
Wait, don’t feel defeated just yet! You have a simple yet effective solution for you. Did you know? You can efficiently prevent last-minute cancellations simply by using field service management software. No more rigorous strategy or marketing know-how is required.
Apparently, the last-minute cancellation means a lost business opportunity. But that is not the only thing your business suffers from. There are many facets to the story. Such cancellations lead to increased operational costs, wastage of resources, lost time, and so on. Let’s have a look last minute cancellations can impact your business.
First things first, last-minute cancellations cost you a significant amount of money, and not just in the form of the charges you could earn from the job order. You will still have to pay the assigned technicians for their time and bear the costs for the fuel spent, along with the mileage on your vehicle.
When a client cancels at the last minute, it also means that the time you assigned for the job order could have been spent more productively, ideally by attending to another confirmed work order. But this being last minute, you have no means to assign the technician for another job without losing time.
As expected, you have sent your field team to attend the job with the service vehicle as well as the necessary equipment. That means they are now occupied for the time being for no reason, and you cannot utilize them for another fruitful purpose. Not to forget that your biggest assets, i.e., your technicians are also engaged in the same way.
All in all, you are losing time and resources for last moment appointment cancellation. But you still have to pay for them. So, given the fact that you are not earning any profit from the said appointment, how are you going to pay for the expenses? From your own pocket of course. And that means serious revenue leakage, which could indeed be fatal for any business.
So, this is how last-moment cancellations affect your business. But as we said earlier, you can avoid all these risks by simply using field service software. Don’t believe us? Read on to find out how this clever piece of technology can help you turn around your business.
Table of Contents
1. Flexible Scheduling: Scheduling and Dispatching Software
To avoid last-minute appointment cancellations, the first thing you need to understand is why customers withdraw service requests in the first place. More often than not, it is not because they change their minds, rather the schedule becomes inconvenient for them. You never know when an emergency arises for anyone. In that case, they have no choice but to cancel the appointment, no matter how long ago they scheduled it.
This is how you need to make your scheduling flexible. Once a customer informs you that they are unable to attend the appointment for some reason, you can ask them what other time works for them and reschedule the appointment accordingly. But if you are scheduling using manual methods, it becomes rather burdensome. This is exactly why you need to automate your scheduling process. And the best way to do this is by using scheduling and dispatching software. This digital tool allows you to view all your schedules on a single dashboard, and you can make any modifications with just a single click on your computer. This way, you rearrange the appointment as per your client’s convenience and let them know the changed schedule right then and there. The result? You still have the work order, and the profit you are about to make from it.
2. Send Alerts to Customers and Technicians: SMS and Email Alerts
Let’s say you have changed a particular schedule for a customer. But how do you inform the assigned technician about the changes? If they are not informed, there is no way the appointment will be attended on time and this becomes a no-show, which is even worse than the last-minute cancellation. It affects your reputation as a service provider and is likely to fetch you bad reviews.
Well, there’s nothing to worry about. Whenever there is a change in the schedule, you can instantly notify your technicians through the field service mobile app. This way, you let nothing slip through the cracks.
Moreover, this app is not just for your field technicians. You can also send text or email notifications to your customers about upcoming appointments. In case they have made the appointment long ago and somehow forgot, there is a chance they may not be present at the given time and thus, it results in last-minute cancellations. But if you alert them beforehand, they can be ready and make necessary arrangements to make sure the appointment takes place.
3. Update Technician Status: GPS Monitoring
Field service technicians spend the majority of their time on the road. And you know how bad city traffic could be at times. Therefore, there could be a delay in reaching the job site even if your technicians start at a reasonable time. And there lies a risk.
If the appointment is delayed, in all likelihood your customer will enquire about the expected time of your technician’s arrival. But if you have no clue where they are and how long would it take them to get there, you are offering your customer no solution. If this goes on, the customer will most likely cancel the appointment, costing you time and money. And you never know, your team might be about to reach the job site in the next couple of minutes.
There is a better solution though. With field service mobile apps like Field Promax, you can track your team’s location in real time, thanks to the integrated GPS technology. You can locate them on your computer screen and inform your customer exactly how long it would take them to arrive. Or better yet, you can also suggest a better route to your field team so that they can avoid the traffic and reach faster, courtesy of the same GPS. This not only prevents cancellations. It will also improve your resource optimization as well as customer satisfaction.
4. Communicate with Customers: Customer Management
The success of a field service business practically depends on this aspect. And this is also the key to preventing last minute cancellations, or for that matter, any cancellations at all. There’s nothing better than offering a service that your customers cannot afford to let go of.
Now, how do you ensure unforgettable customer service? Communication plays the most pivotal role here. If you can maintain a seamless, transparent communication channel with your customers, the battle is half done. And if you are using paperless business solutions such as Field Promax, you are halfway there. It gives you a suite of efficient customer management tools. From sending professional estimates to providing on-time information about appointments, from accepting emergency service requests to attending recurrent job orders, from providing proof of work to generating invoices in the field– it gives you every possible feature that ensures a remarkable customer experience. Now, if you are offering that to your customers, there is no way they would cancel your appointment and look for another company.
5. Use Customer Data to Create Future Strategy: Reports and Analytics
Let’s call a spade a spade here– not every client cancels service requests because they have an emergency or cannot be there on time. Some customers cancel their appointments just because they change their minds. And more often than not, there is a pattern. In such cases, you would have no idea how to respond to an appointment cancellation. You just cannot win them over by offering a reschedule or convincing them to carry on by assuring your service quality.
In any case, this is bad for your business. And if this happens several times, you will be losing revenue. So, what can you do in this situation? For starters, you can identify such customers and refuse to provide service if they have cancelled on you multiple times. This way, you are not winning their orders. But at least you are not incurring losses.
With dozens of customers coming in every day, both old and new, it is quite impossible to identify such customers. But if you have field service software, you can leverage the reports and analytics. Field Promax provides you with comprehensive reports of your business processes that help you devise effective strategies for your company. And this includes your customer database as well. Better safe than sorry.
To sum up, Field Promax can help you in various ways so that you can avoid last-minute cancellations and ensure maximum profit for your field service business. Besides, you can also utilize some tried and tested strategies to mitigate the risks. Such as:
- Implement An Appointment Cancellation Policy: This way, you have a systematic framework that informs the customers what to expect in case of last-minute cancellations so that there is no conflict later. You can easily get various types of appointment cancellation policy templates on the internet to customize and use as your own.
- Mandate Advance Deposits: This will force your customers to keep up their part of the deal. And even if they don’t, it is not a total loss of time and money for you.
- Ask for Credit Card Details at the Time of Booking: Even if they cancel the appointment last minute, you can charge for your lost time and resources. But don’t forget to include this in your cancellation policy.
- Offer Deals and Packages: People tend to follow through if they are purchasing the product or service with a good deal, for you never know when you will be able to get a good deal like this again.
No matter what strategies you adopt to avoid any turndowns, the best policy to prevent last-minute cancellations is to provide such customer service that they cannot afford to miss out on. Take your service quality to such a level that your customers will happily be on the waitlist. And the easiest way to achieve that goal is to automate and streamline your service using Field Promax field service software. So, what are you waiting for? Leverage the most advanced technology for your service delivery business and make sure to bring home the maximum profit with Field Promax.
Here are some ideas to prevent last-minute cancellations:
Issue a cancellation policy
Collect deposit upon work order confirmation
Offers deals and discounts
Mandate credit card details at the time of booking
Offer flexible schedules and reschedule appointments
Send appointment alerts to customers
Be communicative with the customers
No matter how frustrating it is, one has to be professional and courteous while talking to a customer that has cancelled last minute. For example, you can say “I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be able to make it tonight. Can we reschedule this appointment for a more convenient time?” You can also ask if is there any particular reason for their cancellation so that you can try and improve on your part. You can also try offering a package or deal so that they find it hard to let go of the offer.
If they are still unable to keep up with their end of the bargain due to some unavoidable circumstances, politely say “Thank you very much for letting me know. Of course, I understand your need to cancel our appointment. I hope we can serve you again soon”
For a service delivery business, last-minute cancellation means when a customer cancels an appointment on very short notice or less than the time stipulated for cancellation. For example, if you are supposed to arrive at your assigned job site at 11 a.m. and your client cancels the service request at 10. 30 a.m., this is considered a last-minute cancellation.
Follow these simple steps to develop and implement a cancellation policy for no-shows and last-minute cancellations:
- Develop a framework for cancellations that includes the cancellation guidelines such as the minimum time requirement for cancellation requests, the charges or penalties for cancellations after the given time, etc.
- Make your cancellation policy clearly visible on your website
- Have a clear outline of your cancellation policy in the work order confirmation receipt (online/offline)
- Explain why there is such a policy in place clearly on your website
- Confirm with the customer verbally or in writing whether they fully understand your cancellation policy and agree with the same before confirming the work order
- Use an online booking software to display your cancellation policy clearly at all times
- Incorporate a check box on your booking page indicating that the client agrees with your cancellation policy before placing a work order.
A standard cancellation policy should allow the business enough time to reschedule the slot for another work order. It should also mention the cancellation fees or penalties in case a customer fails to cancel their booking within the given period.
A cancellation policy ensures security for your business in the event your customer cancels last minute. It will help you avoid wasting time and resources while enabling you to utilize the same for a different work order. Besides, a cancellation policy also makes it clear about the consequences in case your client fail to keep up their commitment. This helps a business to avoid legal hassles and conflicts in future.
It is important for businesses to charge a cancellation fee to cover up the expenses incurred in the process of dispatching technicians and arranging resources for the job order. However, they may only do so if the customer fails to inform the business within the stipulated time. Moreover, a cancellation fee must be reasonable. Also, you must consider waivers and compromises in exceptional cases.