5 tips for preventing last-minute cancellations in field service
You can’t always avoid last-minute cancellations in field service, but you can take matters into your own hands with self-service strategies that prevent them.
Cancellations have a way of throwing a wrench in anyone’s plans. But when they’re last-minute, they’re especially frustrating.
While they can’t always be avoided, last-minute cancellations aren’t totally out of your control. And doing something about them is important because they can have a massive negative impact on your business — from gaps in technician schedules and underutilised resources to customer churn and lost revenue.
So, how can you reduce and prevent last-minute cancellations in field service? Let’s dig into some strategies to empower your team and your customers.
Common reasons for cancelled appointments
First, let’s take a look at some common reasons why last-minute cancellations happen:
- Customers forget about their appointments.
- Something comes up last minute.
- The time no longer works.
- The large time window you give is too ambiguous, so they step out and miss the appointment.
Sometimes, customers call ahead to cancel, even if it’s last minute, but others just may not answer the door or be home — leaving your technicians hung out to dry.
Note: Although last-minute cancellations are a pain, it’s helpful to gather data around them. Reaching out to customers after the fact can provide insight into why cancellations are happening, and how you can best address their prevention.
Tips for preventing last-minute cancellations
Now that we’ve uncovered some of the typical reasons why customers call off or miss appointments at the eleventh hour, here are five strategies to help prevent last-minute cancellations.
- Allow for appointment rescheduling — and make it easy for your staff and your customers. When rescheduling is a hassle, people are less likely to do it. (And when rescheduling is not even an option, well, that’s entirely on you.) Calls during operating hours to talk through new availabilities are frustrating and time-consuming for customers and staff alike — not to mention, it’s not always an option for customers if they work the same hours your office is open.
Providing self-service scheduling options like a customer portal empowers clients to reschedule how they want, when they want. Field service management software also eliminates the need for manual rescheduling, which typically leads to miscommunication — for example, technicians don’t see updated messaging and head to a cancelled appointment, or there’s confusion about routes. Digital tools allow you to see your schedules in a dashboard and easily make modifications that are relayed to technicians via real-time alerts and to customers via their portal.
- Utilise reminders and communicate before, during, and after appointments. A big reason customers cancel or miss appointments is because they misremember times and dates (and don’t know where to find the information again), or they simply forget. That’s why reminders can be a huge help with last-minute cancellations: When they’re sent before and on the day of service, customers are empowered with the knowledge of when the technician is going to show up at their door. Since most customers are always near their mobile phones, SMS reminders tend to be the most practical, but allow them to opt for phone calls and emails if they prefer. (And if you allow for rescheduling via SMS, let your customers know how to cancel an appointment by text.)
Adding reminders to your workflow doesn’t mean adding work for the back office or technicians — in fact, automated reminders and alerts that are sent at certain times before an appointment, or that are triggered by geofencing on the day of service, will reduce your team’s workload.
- Provide accurate ETA windows and utilise technician tracking. It’s becoming less and less acceptable for businesses to provide ambiguous ETA windows: Customers have gotten used to services like Amazon and Deliveroo, and they expect accurate, narrow ETA windows and/or the ability to track an operative live on a map. This expectation works in your favor, though, because accurate estimations of when a tech will arrive mean customers are more likely to be ready to answer the door, reducing missed appointments and improving first-time fix rates.
You can provide ETA windows via GPS tracking, but there are ways to further customise this offering based on customer expectations and your privacy needs. You can offer:
- Place in queue only
- Place in queue plus ETA
- Place in queue, plus ETA and location
Place in queue, plus ETA, location, and route planning
What type of GPS tracking is right for you? Read more to find out what’s best for your team’s needs.
- Collect data about cancellations. Cancellations are par for the course in field service, but knowing why they’re happening can help you determine the right strategy for your business in reducing them. Follow up with customers who miss or cancel appointments to glean more insight: If it’s because they forgot, implement automated alerts; if it’s because chase calls didn’t offer enough information about when their technician would show up, offer better GPS tracking options; and if it’s because calling during office hours to reschedule didn’t work for them, provide self-service options, such as an online portal.
- Create policies to protect your team. Even the best strategies can’t prevent every cancellation, so how can you protect yourself and your team? Create policies to let customers know upfront how you handle cancellations and avoid conflict or confusion. You can also ask for advance deposits to keep customers accountable for being available at their appointment time, as well as offer limited-time deals that entice them to follow through.
Implement your preventative strategies with Localz
Once you’ve decided upon the strategies to prevent last-minute cancellations that best align with your business, Localz can help you implement them with bolt-on software — no need to create a tech stack from scratch.
We make the day of service awesome for customers with features like:
- Automated notifications before and on the day of service
- Customer portals that allow for appointment rescheduling, confirming, and cancelling
- Real-time updates to routing and scheduling for technicians
- Customisable levels of GPS tracking to provide accurate ETA windows