Dealing With Cancellations
Cancellations are, unfortunately, part of doing business as a home inspector. I have been there many times. I have even had clients cancel on me as I walk up to the door of the house. No one likes it – it kills your day, hurts your bottom line, and is just plain rude on the part of the client and irritating.
If people cancel with enough notice, then that is fine – stuff happens. But short notice cancellations are the real problem. People often find an inspector cheaper or sooner and cancel on short notice. Something may have happened and they forgot to tell you, or any number of reasons.
We have worked out several ways to reduce (not completely eliminate, but reduce) the number of short notice cancellations. Below are some of the ways we have successfully done that.
1) Agreement Signed Early & Automated
You probably thought that we were going to say a cancelation fee first – but in actuality, this was the best deterrent. We automate our agreements and make sure they are sent to the client just a few moments after they schedule. By doing this, most clients sign pretty quickly, and that leaves them feeling contractually obligated to the appointment, even if they find a better price or someone sooner. When we started doing this, we cut our cancellations by half or more.
2) A Cancellation Policy
So this one is the obvious one – charge people for last-minute cancellations. Before I get into it, the arguments we always hear are “you will never collect it, so why have it”, or “the agents won’t recommend you if you do that”. But I am here to tell you that I have done it for years, and it works like a charm if you handle it with grace.
The first thing to know is that this policy is mostly a deterrent. If people know there is a cancellation fee, that in itself reduces the number of cancellations. We have our people on the phones tell the clients when they schedule in the “this is our process speech” that they give on each phone call. No one has ever complained or even brought it up since we added it years ago.
To answer the next question you likely have on your mind – yes, we have collected, and yes, there are times that we haven’t. Most people have been good about it and have paid the cancellation fee, the ones who seemed difficult – well, we just let them go. We also don’t try to collect when stuff is outside of people’s control. For instance, we had a client try to pay the cancellation fee because they felt bad because the seller got cold feet and canceled the whole thing the day of the inspection. That’s not something we are going to beat people with – so we let it go. Our policy is there to deter people from abusing our service – not to get money out of people in a tough spot trying to do the right thing.
3) Collect Payment Upfront
This is another thing that we have experimented with over the years. We use Square (which integrates with Inspector Toolbelt) to send the invoice when the client gets the agreement as well. This has been effective, since we already have their money and they really can’t disappear on us. Collecting payment upon scheduling (or at least a deposit) is very effective against last-minute cancellations.
4) Automated Reminders
Let’s be honest – sometimes we forget our dentist appointment, or forget that we scheduled a time with the mechanic. The kids are running around, a pipe bursts, or some other issue comes up and we just forget. That is why automated reminders are so great. It reminds the client via email or text that there is an inspection coming up. We also send them to both agents. We set the reminders for a week before the inspection, a couple of days before, and then a day before the inspection as well. This cuts down on a lot of accidentally forgotten inspections.
Home inspection cancellations are still going to happen – no matter how hard we try. By applying those four suggestions above, you can heavily reduce the number of cancellations you have like we did. But if one still happens, don’t get frustrated. Go for a long lunch, take a walk, read a book, or in some other way enjoy the unexpected time off.
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