Last-minute cancellations and failed appointments throw a wrench in the works of your field operations.  

To start with, your business will need to cover the cost of drivers and technicians who are at a loose end, without time to be reassigned to another job. In addition, you could face rescheduling costs and potential lost revenue.  

It’s not always possible to prevent last-minute cancellations. However, there are ways to make the scenario less likely.  

Here we’ll explore customer engagement tips that remind customers about their appointment and help them to reschedule in advance.  

Common Reasons for Cancelled Appointments 

To prevent missed appointments, it’s crucial to understand why they happen in the first place. Here are a few common reasons: 

  • The customer forgot about their appointment 
  • A scheduling conflict came up at the last minute 
  • Customers were offered an inconvenient time slot that they couldn’t change. 
  • The time no longer works 
  • The business provided a large time window with no further updates, so the customer went out and missed the appointment 

Broadly, these reasons can be categorized into two themes: Either the customer was unaware of their appointment, or the time was not convenient for them. 

Sometimes, customers call ahead to cancel. Others might simply be absent — leaving drivers and technicians unable to complete their work. 

Tips for Preventing Last-Minute Cancellations

Now we know why customers call off or abandon appointments at the eleventh hour, here are five customer engagement tips to prevent failed appointments and cancellations. 

Offer appointment rescheduling - and make it simple

Customers expect services to work around their busy lives. Existing commitments can make it difficult to attend at a suggested time – especially if the estimated arrival window covers several hours. Allowing customer to choose a different time slot makes it much more likely that they will be available.  
Telephone-based rescheduling is a step in the right direction. However, inbound calls are a source of unnecessary friction for customers and staff. By providing a link to a web-based customer portal, you can give customers a convenient way to choose a new time slot, without devoting customer service resources.  

Automatically remind the customer as their appointment approaches

Without timely reminders, customers can get swept up in other commitments on the day of the appointment. 
Regular SMS notifications help customers to remember that the day is approaching, so they can avoid scheduling conflicts. SMS updates are a great opportunity to link to an online portal where the customer can confirm, reschedule or cancel their appointment in advance. 


Best Practices for Last Mile Delivery

Company size has nothing to do with the ability to transform home/last mile delivery performance—it all starts with a different perspective and vision to turn delivery into a competitive weapon. Technology is an incredibly important enabler of world class delivery performance. Every best-in-class delivery company has 3 things in common. Download our Last Mile Delivery Best Practices eBook to see how you match up.

Provide accurate ETAs and driver tracking

Customers are used to on-demand ecommerce with accurate ETAs and real-time carrier tracking. Fortunately, it’s possible to provide a similar experience for service appointments.  
Last mile tracking and ETA updates can be generated using the driver’s location. The information is shared with the customer via SMS notifications that link to a real-time tracking map. This ensures that customers are ready and waiting for their appointment.  

Collect data about cancellations

Some cancellations are inevitable, but knowing the underlying causes can help your business to define a mitigation strategy. Ask customers to provide a reason for cancellation, and follow up with them if necessary. 

Communicate cancellation policies with customers

It’s important to let customers know upfront how you handle cancellations. You can also ask for advance deposits to hold customers accountable for appointments they have booked, or offer limited-time deals that encourage them to keep the appointment. 

The Effects of Missed Appointments

Last minute cancellations aren’t just an operational headache: They also have a real impact on the bottom line. The effects of missed appointments include rescheduling costs, driver productivity, wasted resources and fuel. Luckily, we’ve seen how customer engagement technology can help. 

The key is to take information that your business has at hand – available time slots, order status updates, and driver location – and use these to engage customers throughout the appointment lifecycle.  

With Descartes’ customer engagement solution, businesses can offer self-service order tracking and appointment management to ensure customers are ready for their driver or technician.

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