Running a PMU salon isn’t just about doing amazing PMU work – it also implies a whole range of responsibilities, like doing paperwork and handling clients. And that latter one can definitely be tricky!
Here’s a harsh truth – not all clients are equally honest and respectable. While most of your existing and future clients are sensible folk, you will inevitably encounter some bumps along the way, and one of them will be last-minute cancellations.
So, you need to have a solid cancellation policy that will protect your business and your sanity. Here’s how to set one up!
Why Do I Need a Cancellation Policy?
You need a cancellation policy in order to mitigate losses due to last-minute cancellations.
PMU appointments are something that has to be planned out and booked in advance, both from the point of view of the client, and you as an artist.
Clients need to plan out their activities before and after a PMU appointment in order to keep up the proper pre-care and aftercare. Before an appointment, they can’t do invasive facials, for example, or tan. After an appointment, they’ll be going through 2 weeks of relatively intense healing and follow aftercare instructions.
So the treatment can’t be booked impulsively.
You have set up your schedule for each day at least a week or so in advance. Timing is very important so that you can optimize your working day so that you take advantage of all your working hours – booking appointments back to back is ideal, because you’re not wasting any time and losing potential earnings.
So when a client cancels at the last minute and you don’t have the time to fill in their spot with another client, you’re directly losing income.
A cancellation policy which includes a last-minute cancellation fee ensures that you get some income even if your client cancels, so you’re not wasting time-slots if you can get another client to fill the spot.
Image source: Freepik
What Makes a Fair Cancellation Policy?
Your cancellation policy should be fair to both you and the client. Therefore, it should allow the client to cancel the appointment up to a certain point, but also ensure compensation for you if they cancel so close to the appointment you don’t have time to book another client.
This can easily be done by including a last-minute cancellation fee in your consent form, or even better – set up your booking system so that they agree to it the moment they book the initial appointment. Either way, they have to read through it and agree to the terms, putting their name on it.
What most artists are doing nowadays is taking deposits which they can keep in the case of a last-minute cancellation. Online booking systems (Schedulicity, Acuity, to name a couple) have the option of making the deposit a prerequisite for booking the appointment in the first place.
When a client pays the deposit upon booking, they’ll think twice before they cancel the appointment and will only cancel in the case of an actual emergency.
Of course, if your client wants to re-book their appointment at a different time, you should allow them to do so, but make the deposit transferable once. If the client keeps canceling appointments with clear disregard for your time, their deposit should be considered forfeited.
If they cancel yet again, keep their initial deposit and explain that, if they want to book another appointment, they have to pay the deposit again.
With financial matters such as this, the wording is everything. You have to pay close attention to what you’re going to call your cancellation fee. And while the deposit system is the best way to ensure compensation, calling it a deposit is not the best approach.
Why? Because the deposit is supposed to be a portion of the full-service price which goes towards the service. If the service isn’t performed, the client has the right to ask for their deposit back, and if they dispute the charge to their credit card, the bank will most likely decide in their favor.
So, the best, bullet-proof wording is to call the deposit a non-refundable booking fee. This way, the client agrees to pay a certain amount to get the appointment in the first place, and they have no legal right to ask for it back. If they cancel last-minute, you just keep the booking fee which compensates for your time, at least to a point.
If they want to re-book, the booking fee should apply to 1 substitute appointment. If they cancel again, well, tough luck, they forfeit their booking fee.
How High Should My Cancellation Fee Be?
This primarily depends on how much you charge for the service, but a general rule is that the deposit or booking fee should be high enough to cover for your lost time in the case of a cancellation, but not so high that it scares people away from booking.
It should be high enough to show that the client is willing to commit to the treatment and isn’t just acting on an impulse.
30% of the price of the full treatment should be fair. It’s high enough to make the client not want to forfeit it without a thought and will give you relatively decent compensation if the treatment is never performed.
How Close to the Appointment Is Considered Last-Minute?
Most artists consider a 48-72 hour notice fair, and don’t apply the cancellation fee if the client cancels up to that point. They feel like they can fill the spot within that time, and are willing to re-book or refund.
If you feel like clients are swarming to your salon and are confident you’ll fill the spot, 24 hours is also okay, although it goes more in favor of canceling clients. But be careful, as such a lenient cancellation policy can attract the wrong type of clients, those who book impulsively and aren’t serious about getting the treatment.
It all depends on how much time you feel you need to find a substitute client to fill in the spot of the canceler.
Justifiable and Unjustifiable Last-Minute Cancellations
Of course, we’re all people at the end of the day and, if you’re expecting your clients to treat you with respect and understanding, you have to return the favor.
Sometimes, your clients will have justifiable reasons for canceling their appointment at the last minute, and these are the cases where you shouldn’t stick to your cancelation policy so rigidly – illness, death in the family, kid emergencies. If they work in health, they may literally have life-or-death work emergencies.
If your client reaches out apologetically with a justifiable reason, and you believe them, you can choose not to take their deposit and either give it back or re-book them. It’s the fair thing to do, plus you don’t want to risk developing a bad rap.
But you should also be aware that not everyone is equally honest, and if your client keeps coming up with excuses and clearly takes no regard for your time, stand your ground and take the financial compensation.
Whether or not you want to engage with a client who keeps canceling is down to you, but more than 1 untimely cancellation can be considered a red flag and indicative of further complications they may cause you during and after the treatment. Such clients may not be worth taking at all – they can cause you some serious stress that far exceeds the financial gain.
Here’s a Pep-Talk for the End
Setting up and enforcing a cancellation policy can be intimidating to some artists, especially those just starting out who are still not too confident in their work. But we’re here to assure you that, when dealing with clients, you have to stand your ground, even if it gets awkward, even if an occasional client gets confrontational.
Last-minute cancellations are not fair to you and you shouldn’t be afraid to take your compensation. This doesn’t mean you should enforce the policy blindly – some cancellations are justifiable. But if you feel like your client isn’t being honest or they’re being rude and disrespectful, don’t let them walk all over you, no matter how little experience you have.
Cover image source: Pexels