We all have clients that seem to forget that we are running a business. This is a common issue throughout every service industry, but we in the beauty industry are only recently becoming united in the concept of having our time and skills respected. There is a common saying that is so relevant to the beauty industry…
We teach our clients how to treat us.
And it’s true! If you are constantly making exceptions and allowances for bad behavior, bad behavior will continue. So let’s talk policies, how to implement them and how to enforce them.
I include my booking, cancellation and refund policies in all booking correspondence with clients. Confirmations, reminders, receipts and consult forms all have this information, as well as a policies page on my website. My booking system also includes this information before they complete the booking process. There should be no way for a client to claim that they were not informed of policies.
Booking Fees and Deposits
Personally, I do not collect a booking fee/deposit to secure an appointment. I use Square for both my payment processor and appointment book app and I require clients to book online. This allows me to require a credit card on file to book an appointment, without actually charging the card ahead of their appointment. In the event of a cancellation or no-show, I am able to charge the card for the amount I specified when creating the booking option.
For those that prefer to have the fee up front, there are a few things to consider.
- A deposit or booking fee is security for you that even if they don’t show up for their appointment, you will be paid for the time that they had booked. This fee should be reasonable. My preference is for setting the fee to the hourly wages that I am losing from their missed appointment. If you haven’t calculated your hourly wages yet, you can view my guide here.
- In many areas, a “deposit” is a refundable security against a future purchase. Meaning that if they cancel within your required timeframe, you are required to refund. Even if you state that it is non-refundable. Please research your local consumer practices laws regarding using the term deposit.
- A “booking fee” on the other hand is security of exclusive use of YOUR time and services. Meaning that they are paying a fee to make sure that you will be available to work for them. If they cancel, in most areas, you are within your rights to retain that fee. Again, check your local laws before writing your policies.
- In either case, a booking fee/deposit should be going toward the total price of the service. You don’t collect a fee and then charge full price on top of it. They are paying a portion of their total service cost, in advance, to secure your time. The balance will be paid at the end of service.
- This money should not be “spent” until the appointment has been completed. Many areas require that you have a separate trust account that these funds go into and you don’t count them as income or transfer them into your “working account” until after the appointment is completed. Once again, please check your local business practices laws.
- If “non-refundable” deposits or booking fees are allowed in your area, state clear terms in your policies. Is there a deadline for cancellation of an appointment to allow refund of their deposit? Is the fee collected the minute they cancel last minute or no-show? Can a deposit be transferred to a rescheduling of that appointment? If so, under what conditions? Here’s a link to my client policies, if you’d like an example.
Every client has emergencies at one time or another. Some clients can’t seem to follow a clock, no matter what. Some…just don’t respect your time or other clients’ schedules. You need to have clear policies in place regarding your time.
- How much notice must a client give to cancel?
- What are your requirements for cancellation of an appointment?
- Do you have clear communication channels in place for timely cancellation?
- What are the consequences of last minute cancellation or no show?
- Will you have exceptions?
My booking system allows cancellation until 24 hours before the scheduled appointment time. Less than 24hrs notice cancellation must be done either by phone, text or email and will result in a charge of 50% of their appointment cost. Failure to attend an appointment with no notice (no-show) will result in a full charge of the missed appointment and they will no longer be able to book my services.
I do not advertise the fact, but I do allow every client one freebie late cancel. Kids get sick, cars break down, snowstorms happen here. I always respond to a late cancel notice with:
“As stated in my policies, cancellation with less than 24hrs notice results in a charge of 50% of your appointment cost. This charge will be processed immediately.”
IF they haven’t already used their one freebie, I also include “Would you like to use your one missed appointment without penalty? This is only available once, to each client.”
The above gives my client the opportunity to change their mind about cancelling, allows this one time gesture of goodwill and explains to the client that if it happens again, they will be charged, no questions asked.
No-show appointments do not receive any leniency in my studio after the fact. However I do attempt to contact the client before I mark them as a no-show. At 10min past their scheduled time, I will CALL (no texting while they may be driving) and ask if they’re on their way or leave a voicemail. I call because maybe they booked through my site and don’t have my number on their phone. I also get the opportunity to properly convey the tone I want, rather than them interpreting my tone through a text.
“Hi X! This is MJ at Studio 202, I had you booked in for xx:xx. Are you almost here? We’ve got about 5minutes left before I have to cancel your appointment.”
This lets the client know that I’m waiting on them, gives new clients the opportunity to ask for directions if they’re lost, any client to tell me they’re stuck in traffic…whatever. If I know they’re on their way and I have the availability to allow them to come late, I will. If I’m booked back to back and they can’t be here within that 5min, then I will cancel the appointment and charge them.
If I receive no response, they receive a message from my booking system along with the receipt of their charges.
I do not offer refunds on services rendered. I’ve used my products, my time and incurred overhead costs to provide their service. My refund policy is included in my booking site process, on both confirmation and reminder notices, and on my consultation form which must be initialed by every client before they sign and date the completed form. I also take the time to read this policy aloud (along with aftercare instructions and other policies they must initial) before I have them initial it. This way, there is no possibility of misunderstanding, before they even lay down on my table. Here’s how I word it:
“I understand that Studio 202 does not offer refunds on services rendered. In the event of an issue with my lash extensions, Studio 202 will provide a complimentary removal or touch up to correct the issue, at the artist’s discretion.
I understand that issues must be communicated to the artist within 3 days of the original appointment and any complimentary service must be completed within 7 days of the original appointment. Issues occurring outside this timeframe will require a regularly priced appointment for service.“
Please note the “at the artist’s discretion” up there. This gives me the ability to opt for either a touch up or removal based on what I see when I evaluate the lashes. For example, if I can see that they’ve picked off all of their extensions, I can immediately take pictures and show them what I am seeing.
Having them initial this clause, along with signing their consult form directly under this line, provides explicit proof of acceptance of my policy to a bank or payment processor in the event of a payment dispute with a client.
Nobody is ever going to make Everyone happy
There will always be instances when you receive pushback from clients regarding your policies. If you are effectively communicating with your clients, then you can minimize the potential of this happening. If you choose to book by phone, text or email rather than using an online booking system, these policies should still be communicated to all clients.
Have a script for phone booking. Include all information that EVERY client should receive at every booking. Use it every time! This is especially useful in a busy salon or studio with multiple people answering phones and booking appointments. The receptionist doesn’t always know what questions to ask!
Have a text document that you can easily print out for phone calls or copy & paste for text and email bookings.
Create an auto-response list for Messenger booking, too.
Sample Phone Script:
Here’s a couple options for ending your booking calls:
“Ok, I have xx:xx, on :date: available. The booking fee for this appointment is $x.xx and will be applied to the total cost of your appointment.
That can be paid by (cc over the phone, by etransfer, email the invoice or in person by card or cash…whatever payment forms you accept). Which method will you be using today?”
“I require a card on file for all bookings. Would you like to do that now, over the phone, or would you prefer to stop by and do it in person?”
If they decline putting a card on file, you can respond with something like “I cannot secure any appointment without a card on file. If you’re able to stop by with your information, I’m happy to hold the spot until close of business today, but after that it will be removed from my schedule and the time will be available to be booked by someone else.” If you offer other options, like above, list them.
If they want the appointment, they’ll make arrangements. If they’re wasting your time, bless them and let them go.
Include your service etiquette and all relevant information after the above is completd. Appointment timing, clean face, no caffeine, no guests, dress warmly (if you cannot offer blankets due to C19, for example), etc. My general phone info for new clients is:
“Please remember to arrive no more than 10 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. Texting upon arrival allows me to let you know if you can come right in or if you need to wait until your appointment start time. Please refrain from caffeine intake at least 1hour before your appointment and arrive makeup free, if possible. My studio is usually around 22C. I do offer a blanket if you need it. Phones are not allowed on the treatment table and should be on silent mode when you arrive. Due to licensing and insurance restrictions, please make alternate arrangements for family, friends or pets. They will not be allowed on site. Music, audio books and podcasts are all available here in the studio, but you’re welcome to bring headphones if you have a preferred playlist you’d like to enjoy instead.”
Quote your cancellation policy to them before they hang up.
“Ok, you’re booked for :service: on :date and time:. Can I get your email address to send your confirmation to or would you prefer text messages? (whichever you offer). Appointment reminders are sent out 48hrs before your scheduled appointment time and include everything I’ve covered today. If you are unable to attend your appointment, I do require at least 24hrs notice of cancellation to avoid a cancellation charge.
Did you have any questions for me?”
Once you’ve used your script a few times, you will get comfortable with using it every time. You’re welcome to use or modify this script to suit your needs, if you’re going to offer phone bookings.
Script Additions that can be helpful
Previous reaction of any type:
“Thank you for letting me know. Can you tell me a little about what happened?
Depending on their response you can go whatever route seems best to you. I prefer to ask if they were checked out by a doctor. If yes, I’ll ask if they were diagnosed with an allergy and to what. If not, I will require a patch test at least 48hrs before I will allow a full service appointment.
Bashing another artist:
“I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. I’d love to give you a great one! Can you tell me what you didn’t like about your previous set?
I try very hard to avoid the topic of the previous artist themselves. I don’t need that information. I do need to know what was bad about the SET they received and if I am able to offer them a better experience.
Who else has other additions or different thoughts on policies? I’d love to hear from you!
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