How to avoid no-shows and double-bookings when dealing with clients
Customers who are loyal are less likely to skip meetings, but it's important to make sure they can reach you easily. Here's how.
No Shows & Double Bookings — it sounds like a 50s Hollywood comedy caper. Scene one sees our hero, played by Jimmy Stewart—who else?—waiting on an ornate bridge. He’s holding a bunch of roses and keeps nervously checking his watch. Finally and forlornly, he walks away and, distracted, bumps into our leading lady—Kim Novak, of course. They both apologize at the same time; they laugh; they start talking…
Later in the movie, hilarity ensues as Jerry Lewis walks into a restaurant and realizes he’s arranged to meet two dates, Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn, in the same place at the same time. High jinks, indeed!
However, in modern business, no-shows and double-bookings are no laughing matter. It’s under-buttering the bread a little to say that meetings are essential in client-facing industries. Meetings are where services are sold, value is created and relationships are forged. Missed appointments and poorly-organized meetings lead to lost productivity and cost companies time and money.
How can client-facing companies ensure that their employees’ calendars are polished and professional examples of scheduling excellence, instead of looking more like the plot of a contender for 1956’s Award for Best Comedy?
Making no-shows a no go. Put the client in control
An effective scheduling process is like a swan — it looks graceful, but there’s a whole lot of work going on that can’t be seen. The first step to making sure your client never stands you up starts way before the meeting itself. Rather than telling a client when the meeting is and sending out a schedule, provide them with options to schedule the meeting themselves. Having choices makes us all feel powerful and gives clients an increased sense of agency.
You could, for example, send them your bookable calendar, with your availability already synced. The client can then choose the most convenient time before meeting invites are sent out automatically. When they’re an active participant in the process, they’re much more likely to follow through.
Busy people need reminders
While there are a whole host of reasons that clients, candidates and leads miss meetings, one of the most common are that they forgot or lost track of time. Simple and equally avoidable.
Many modern scheduling tools will allow you to send reminders, either manually or even via automated reminders. If you’re keen as mustard, you could also sign up to a third-party integration tool like Zapier and create custom recipes, such as sending a reminder of the meeting’s time and location via SMS. Now participants have no excuse for forgetting.
Give clients options
While COVID-19 has made us all fluent in Zoom, Teams and Hangouts, many client-facing industries, such as creative and media agencies, recruitment and consulting services, still see virtual platforms as the poor relation of face-to-face meetings. Yet, clients who are overrun by a jam-packed schedule or are faced with a last-minute burning platform are much more likely to shun an in-person meeting involving travel, transport and time away from the office than they are to neglect a logistically-simpler online option.
Scheduling tools like Doodle integrate with Zoom, creating a meeting link for every appointment that gets scheduled. Clients know that, even if they would prefer an in-person meeting, should their day go belly-up, there’s the fallback option of quickly jumping online.
Better later than never
While we’ve all worked with someone who makes us question it, all people understand intrinsically that missing meetings or consistently arriving late are unprofessional behavior. That’s why the first five minutes of most meetings consist of people apologizing to each other.
Clients never actively mean to miss a meeting, but it’s sometimes something that just happens. If you make it easier for them to reschedule than to cancel last minute on not show up at all, not only do you remove the sense of guilt from the client, which is good for the overall client experience and relationship, but you also ensure that the meeting doesn’t slip down through the cracks. This reasoning is baked into tools like Doodle. Meetings scheduled via Doodle contain a useful link where clients can use to reschedule right there and then.
Eliminating Double Trouble
Of course, it’s not only clients, leads and candidates who can have a little bother with their calendars from time to time. Client-facing professionals are in the business of making their clients happy and that can sometimes lead to them saying “Yes” when they really should be saying “Can you hang on a moment while I check my schedule.”
Make sure your company uses a scheduling process that is 100% integrated and works across all devices. If you choose to finetune your meeting processes via automated scheduling, you should also ensure that the tooling you choose is equally platform agnostic. Otherwise, you can find that meetings scheduled via mobile never make it onto your laptop or that invites distributed via your scheduling tool aren’t reflected on your usual calendar application. And that causes double bookings, missed meetings and general madness.
The more the messier
Most client-facing organizations have times of the year where everything gears up from pretty busy to utterly hectic almost overnight. For agencies, this could be in the lead up to the holiday season; for consultants and financial professionals, it tends to be the end of each quarter; while, for recruiters, it could merely be every time a big staffing contract is won.
These moments typically involve a high volume of calls and meetings and scheduling these without double booking or missing some entirely is a nightmarish proposition. Features such as Doodle 1:1 allows organizers to send various meeting slots to a high volume of attendees. As they select a date and time, that slot is automatically removed and is no longer an option for the rest of the attendees. In short, it’s a life-saver.
Use tools and create rules
One relatively simple way to avoid overscheduling is to create a different bookable calendar for each client with other available time slots. That way, there’s no chance of an embarrassing double booking. Plus, if you create rules such as never having back-to-back client meetings or allowing at least 30 minutes between appointments with your clients, some powerful AI has your back.
It’s not you, it’s her
Of course, sometimes you do everything right. You schedule a crucial meeting to pitch a client on a new solution to help them take their business to the next level. You invite the client to choose the perfect time for the meeting. You send a reminder and the client arrives on time. What could go wrong? It turns out that the product owner for that new solution is already in a meeting. She’s double-booked! Fear not, the Book On Behalf feature in Doodle allows meeting organizers to schedule time in other team members’ agendas to ensure the double-booking nightmare needs never come true.
Despite all your best efforts and reminders, it is still possible that clients double-book their schedules. But if you use a scheduling tool that gives them the agency to choose the most suitable time and makes rescheduling simple, then you’re well on the way to ensuring that a client’s double booking doesn’t become your no-show. And it just might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Do you still schedule your meetings via email? We explore the great debate between email and online scheduling.