Late Customers

The biggest pain associated with time slots are definitely people being late. Employees are often blamed for being late, but quite often, they are late because of another customer. What about customers who run late, though? Dealing with that sort of situation is both an art and a science.

Be stern, yet polite.
I read about how one company says something along the lines of “Bob, I’m glad to see you. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to help you today.” This sort of message suggests that Bob was at risk of losing his appointment and that the company is working with him.

Set hard guidelines.
You need to set hard guidelines about how to deal with late customers as well. Some companies like to allow X number of chances before they start becoming more stern with the customer or before they do other things like scheduling the appointment a half hour later on purpose.  What guidelines you set and how strictly they are enforced should depend on your business and your company. There isn’t any general rule of thumb that I can recommend.

Account for late customers in the schedule.
If you see a lot of customers in a day, some of them are going to be late. It is just the way it works. Since you know that it is inevitable, try to account for late customers in the schedule. Make it so if one customer is late, it won’t mess up the rest of the appointments for the day.

Think about fees.
Lots of companies like to charge late or canceled appointment fees. I don’t personally advocate them, but it is up to your judgement (obviously). They don’t show a lot of trust or faith in the customer. I don’t feel that they represent good customer service, but if you feel they are necessary and your experiences to date show they are, you can go ahead and implement them. 

Be patient.
It is generally fair to wait about 10 – 15 minutes before doing anything. Always attempt to contact the customer before leaving or starting to work with another customer. If you have the customer’s cell phone number, you should definitely try to reach them there. If not, call them at whatever number you have.

3 Responses to “Late Customers”

  1. jen_chan, writer said:

    Oct 14, 07 at 12:19 pm

    That “I was concerned I wasn’t going to be able to help you today” line is pretty smooth. It shows that everything you do is in the customer’s best interests. It’s certainly 10 times better than charging fees for tardiness. But as you mentioned last, patience is still a key factor.

  2. Ben Hubbard said:

    Oct 16, 07 at 6:32 pm

    I’m all for setting upfront contracts. If you ask me to set an appointment for 4:00 PM, I could respond and let you know that I am free from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, and then when we join up for our appointment, a reminder of a follow up engagement can be used as a reminder.

  3. Service Untitled said:

    Oct 16, 07 at 9:54 pm

    Jen, I agree it is a very smooth line. I can’t stand fees for tardiness. I think those are pretty low and don’t give the customer much credit.

    Ben, that sounds like it could work. I’m not aware of it being done that way.