Everyone misses appointments. Maybe you overslept or fell victim to an unexpected nap. Maybe you had the wrong time written down. Maybe you just plain forgot or (especially during the COVID pandemic) didn’t feel like going out when the time came. No-shows happen, and while they’re easy for the consumer to brush aside, they can add up to major revenue losses for retailers.

No-show appointments are different from a cancellation — and significantly more frustrating for the business. Cancellations give businesses an advanced warning and let them make adjustments to account for the recent opening in their schedule. Missed appointments aren’t necessarily obvious until about 10 or 15 minutes past the appointment time, meaning the window of opportunity to use that time effectively is severely limited.

2020 was a hard year for retailers (and everyone else). No-show appointment rates reflect this, as they have increased during the pandemic. The numbers are too fresh to allow us to ascertain a clear reason as to why this happened, but the theories are plentiful. Appointment-based retail is somewhat of a new concept for most people, who may take booking an appointment and not showing up as lightly as putting an item in their virtual shopping cart and never checking out. In other words, the consumer (or would-be consumer) sees it as a harmless way to hold onto something in case they later decide that they want to make a purchase or show up.

But just like abandoned shopping carts, no-show appointments are anything but harmless for the business. For retailers, each no-show is revenue lost both from the missed appointment and from the unexpected downtime for staff. If they can’t fill the space with a walk-in or by shifting around other appointments, their valuable time is wasted.

No-show rates were certainly compounded by the overall social atmosphere of the past year. Even the best-intentioned customers may have simply found it too daunting to mask up and go shopping in person when it was time to actually leave the house. But what can businesses do about it?

Some businesses, such as airlines, overbook in order to compensate for no-shows. While this helps make up for the lost sales volume, at least in theory, you actually have very little control over how this strategy plays out. You’re essentially planning to cause longer wait times for customers and hope that unexpected no-shows let you keep things moving at a healthy rate. You’re relying on luck, which is never a good strategy. It also creates distrust for customers, as they may not be able to board their plane or attend their appointment if everyone does show up.

Instead, we recommend you combat no-show appointments through increased communication — which is why our Qless software automatically sends reminders for scheduled appointments. This is the most effective way to reduce the number of no-shows caused by simply forgetting about an appointment. Increased communication also gives the customer time to easily cancel their appointment, and the business time to potentially find a new customer to replace the canceled time slot.  

By creating a virtual waitlist of customers and allowing for flexible scheduling, it also becomes easier to fill in for a no-show after the fact. Once it’s obvious that someone missed their appointment, you can send text messages to the next few customers in line and see if any of them are willing to come in on short notice. It’s not as effective as identifying and avoiding no-show appointments in the first place, but it’s certainly better than having an empty store until your next appointment! It can save time for customers and save the business money. 

Missed appointments will always happen, but by planning in advance and making good use of communications through Qless, you can make sure they’re not a major problem for your business. The average business deals with a no-show rate of around 10% to 15%, although that varies by industry. Using Qless to proactively combat no-shows can significantly reduce that rate, and help fill in the rare occasions where it does happen.