By Kristina Schneider, Practice Success Coach
Having worked with numerous estate planning professionals over the years, one of the issues that a lot of people have struggled with are appointment and seminar no-shows and cancellations. One of my first questions is always, “What does your confirmation process look like?”
For some, they don’t have any process in place at all. For others, they have a mixture of an e-mail that is sent or a phone call the day before. While something is better than nothing, there is always room for improvement to help reduce the number of no-shows and cancellations.
The biggest thing to keep in mind here is: A reminder is NOT the same as a confirmation.
Here’s the confirmation process utilized by our President, estate planning attorney Phil Kavesh’s, law practice for confirming both appointments, as well as seminar attendees:
STEP #1: Send a Confirmation When the Appointment is Booked.
One of the first steps in properly ensuring that your prospects and clients show up to their appointment is to send them a confirmation with the day, time, location and directions to your office. This can be done in several ways, depending on how the appointment is booked. If you don’t do seminars, you can simply send them an e-mail or letter. A letter may be better, so that you ensure that they have everything that they may need printed and visible. Plus, you might have a questionnaire or some other form to complete and fill out. If you do seminars, we provide attendees an appointment card (which usually makes its way to a refrigerator door) and an appointment package. If the appointment is far enough out, we might also send out a reminder letter to confirm their appointment time.
STEP #2: Start Confirming Two Days Before the Appointment (or Seminar)
This step is extremely important and one where we see a lot of people make the mistake of confirming the day before. We recommend starting the process two days before, because not only can you better manage any potential reasons they want to cancel or reschedule (such as they have not completed their questionnaire), but you also have time to potentially fill that open appointment if they do need to cancel/reschedule with someone else. This also leads us to Step #3…
STEP #3: Know When to Leave a Message.
Most offices call to confirm an appointment and will call once and leave a message if nobody is available. This, in our firm, does not count as a properly confirmed appointment or seminar reservation. You never spoke with someone to, in fact, confirm that they plan on coming. Our office utilizes the morning call, another call (say after lunch) and then one more final call in the afternoon. If you start this process two days before, then you will do it again the day before, and it’s not until the final call on the day before, if you’re still not getting an answer, we will then leave a message to confirm the appointment. It might sound cumbersome and tedious, but this process has helped eliminate and prevent cancellations and no-shows much more than any other methods.
SOME OTHER BONUS TIPS
In addition to the above confirmation steps, here are some other bonus tips that might help reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations:
- Consider Using Monday Mornings as a “Work Day”. We used to hold client meetings on Monday mornings, but we also noticed that we had a lot more drop off on Monday morning meetings. Stuff comes up over the weekend and your confirmation of Monday morning meetings might happen the Thursday or Friday before and a lot can happen over the weekend. So, instead of getting frustrated with the no-show and cancellation rates on Monday mornings, we swapped out those appointments for “work days”. And, actually, what we did is we changed out Friday morning meetings for the attorneys to meet with Phil (the owner of the law firm) to Monday mornings. It made so much more sense, so that anything discussed during those key staff meetings could be absorbed and carried out throughout the work week.
- Don’t Overwhelm the Prospect/Client with Confirmations. Sometimes “too much” can be overwhelming and scare off or even annoy a potential client. Figure out what your confirmation process will be and stick with that. You don’t need to text, e-mail, and call them. Figure out the best means of communicating with your clients and stick with that. The reason why calls are best is because you actually speak with the prospect or client and have their attention. It’s easier and perhaps more cost efficient to send a text or e-mail, but those can often be overlooked and you may not get a response.
- Avoid Using “Easy to Cancel” Scheduling Systems. There are a lot of convenient scheduling services like Calendly or even features built into CRM software (like Clio). One issue with the self-scheduling online booking systems that is a downside when it comes to cancellations is that they’re also an easy no-hassle opportunity for people to cancel their appointment with no conversation with a live human being to help try and rehabilitate them (and good luck trying to get a hold of them after that!). Even some text confirmation services provide an easy cancellation option (“Please reply Y to confirm and N to cancel.”). Be sure to check these features and don’t give your prospective clients and clients any other option other than to call to cancel or reschedule.
- Train Your Staff on How to Handle Cancellations. Just as important as having your staff well-trained to confirm an appointment, all cancellations should go to a live person (not to voicemail) whenever possible and those that are to take those calls should be properly trained on how to handle cancellations and potential objections to coming in for the appointment. Role play with them about the common objections they receive. There are subtle ways to push people to keep their appointments without being too pushy. The key is to figure out what you’d like your staff to say to clients and train them using a script.
- Immediately Follow-Up with Any No-Shows. A common mistake that people make when they do have no-shows or cancellations is they fail to follow up with them to either book another appointment (or seminar) with them. It’s so easy to assume that the reason they didn’t show up to their appointment or the seminar is because they were no longer interested, but that’s not always the case. We often find out that something happened that prevented them from coming and, often times, they’re happy to reschedule. But, you have to do it while it is fresh and they still have some interest.
- Be Proactive in Filling Up Appointments that Open Up. As noted above about confirming two days before the appointment or seminar, you can be proactive to fill up any potential openings by looking at the calendar for a week later and see what potential clients or prospects to reach out to and see if they wish to come in sooner. Simply calling them and saying that you guys had some openings and were wondering if they’d like to come in sooner is all that’s needed. You might not be able to fill all openings, but you might be able to fill up some and then it opens up your calendar later on to be filled up by someone else.
In conclusion, you won’t be able to prevent all potential appointment or seminar attendance drop offs, but having a clear and effective process for confirming appointments will help eliminate some of the drop offs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach here at The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. She is currently pursuing her MBA degree from Pepperdine University Grazadio Business School. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
While there are several useful tips here, and the article was well written, what I’ve found over the years is that prospects that require constant follow up, are no shows, or re-schedule calls/meetings multiple times don’t make for good motivated and organized clients. Calling multiple times to confirm & reconfirm wastes time on prospects who ultimately aren’t ready for the process, and will tax your resources if brought on board. Over the years, I’ve found that the degree of client satisfaction and advisor fit is inversely proportional to how hard it is to get the prospect to come to a meeting or return a phone call. Some prospects are just not worth the effort expended.
Hi Sam! Very valid points; however, our prospective clients have booked an appointment from a seminar, so in our mind, these aren’t cold and uninterested leads. These are leads that we’ve already spent time and money on and who have also done the same, so to us, it is worth every single penny spent to do our due diligence to get them to the appointment that they set up. I agree that there’s a point where you stop following up, but not for these potential confirmations! ☺