I recently updated my cancellation policy. Since then, I’ve been struggling with being fair to clients while being compensated for income I was counting on. I’ve come to the conclusion that policies are for weeding out clients who don’t value me or my services, not treating everyone the same.
When I was a teacher, I learned the importance of meeting students where they are. Every person has unique needs. A good teacher discovers them and engages that student based on those needs instead of simply pushing through the semester syllabus without regard for comprehension. Massage clients are no different. Each one has a special set of life circumstances that change over time. Some of those needs are ongoing and some are quite temporary. As a professional wellness provider, I have to be able to navigate that to effectively serve my clients as individuals.
I now know it was time for the client who inspired my change in policy to move on. After charging him $20 for his third same-day cancellation in two months (I was able to fill his slot but with a shorter session), he asked me to take him off the schedule. Soon after, a fairly new client cancelled less than two hours before his evening appointment. In his voice mail, he told me he had been feeling sick all day and didn’t feel up to a massage. That was his third appointment, and I told him he would be expected to pay for it at his next visit. He did rebook a few weeks later. I only charged him a $20 cancellation fee rather than the full amount (he said he had forgotten all about it) but I wonder if he’ll be back.
The hard-ass everyone pays for appointments they cancel less than twenty-four hours in advance enforcement just wasn’t working for me. Is that due to some deep-seeded self-worth issue that makes me incapable of owning my true value? Perhaps, but I think it’s because I treat my clients like I want to be treated and I want to be treated with care, compassion and understanding. So that’s what I’ve decided to do. After literally hours of thought (this has really bothered me), here’s my current plan for implementing my new policy:
- For established clients with good attendance records, the first short-notice cancellation that I can’t fill will not be charged. I’ll tell them I was able to fill the slot instead of setting a precedent of letting it slide (I’ve done this once so far).
- If such clients have a second short-notice cancellation that I can’t fill, they’ll be charged a cancellation fee based on appointment length. This is also what I’m doing with newer clients without a track record for their first offense (see above).
- Established clients with a third short-notice cancellation that I can’t fill will be charged the full fee. I’m curious to find out how long this will take!
- I currently have two clients who are a couple who have a close family member who is terminally ill. I’ve told them there will be no penalty for canceling last minute if they need to take care of him. On that note, I’ve always waved the package expiration date for clients dealing with a serious illness. I don’t tell them that, I just let them use it up as they are able to.
I get the business advice I’ve received about being diligent about enforcing policies to convey my value but the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t feel right for me. Personally, I feel more valuable as a provider who knows that life happens and that a massage appointment isn’t always the top priority. People who have demonstrated their commitment shouldn’t be penalized for things truly out of their control. Honoring both my heart and mind when it comes to policy enforcement creates the framework for a practice that I love!
How do you enforce your policies and what have the results been? Please share in the comments. Thank you!