The phones ring again – but often they ring to cancel.
As Omicron spreads, many appointment-based businesses such as hairdressers and beauticians and related health services like dentists are facing a series of cancellations.
Niq James, chairman of Hair and Barber New Zealand, believes this is a problem many businesses face.
As close contact businesses, Hair and Barber advises salons to encourage customers to take a test if they feel unwell and to rebook if necessary.
“Within a week, about 60% of your customers cancel and have to rebook,” he said.
In his living room in Christchurch, James had five dates on Wednesday alone which had to be cancelled.
He said it was hard on the business financially when owners and staff expected bookings to fail.
“We went through a stage there where the phones were a bit quieter, people weren’t booking, there was a bit of hesitation.
“But now we’ve entered a phase where the phone is ringing because people have to cancel appointments, or others who canceled theirs a few weeks ago have to come in.”
Most people are good at letting them know if they need to cancel, James said.
Hair and Barber New Zealand recommends that businesses do not charge cancellation fees.
James said a fee could encourage people to show up if they are sick or deter them from rebooking.
Instead, they recommend that lounges have a cancellation list so people can take short-term vacancies.
It’s another blow after the closures, said Jenna Duehr of the New Zealand Chiropractors Association.
“We are not the only companies feeling this, it seems to be everywhere, but it is certainly difficult after many absences over the last two years that we have not been able to practice.
Practices have reported numerous cancellations, with some reaching 50% capacity, she said.
New Zealand Dental Association president Dr Erin Collins said dental practices are expensive to run, so having spaces in the daytime is never good.
But they are still under pressure to try to catch up with the backlogs caused by the blockages, so there are often people waiting for places in the event of cancellation.
Collins estimates his Auckland practice faces up to 30 cancellations or postponements a week, or about 5% of patients.
“The heroes in the dental office right now are the front desk staff…they’re all doing a great job rescheduling patients and getting them in.”
Most practices are running cancellation books and the pressure they are under due to lockdowns means there are often lots of people waiting for places, Collins said.
He said most people are good at letting their dentist know they can’t come, and most practices are accommodating and don’t charge cancellation fees.