Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fire Your Bad Clients

One thing you learn early, running a business even as small as mine, is that a customer who starts troublesome will stay troublesome. The person who's willing to take an hour of your time on the phone, getting free advice and diagnostics before (possibly) agreeing to book an appointment, is precisely the same person who will no-show, and who will fail to pay for the appointments he does show up for. He's often the same person who will make inappropriate remarks and push boundaries. These clients are rare -- I've only had a couple of them in four years of practice -- but they can take up an inordinate amount of time, if you let them. My advice is save your effort: go the extra mile for clients who don't start off by asking for extra miles.

It's not just the time, it's the expense of spirit. One of the main reasons to work for yourself is that if you don't like working with someone, you can just stop. You don't have to be rude, and you don't have to blame them: you can just say that you don't think you're the right therapist for them, that you don't think they're benefiting from your massage as they ought to, and that they should try someone else. It's not that hard. They can't make you schedule another appointment.

You owe it to your other clients not to let the rare unpleasant person poison your work. Massage is just not something you can do well with a troubled and turbulent spirit. One person who leaves you feeling humiliated and ill-used can lower the quality of a whole subsequent week's work. Even in simple business terms, it's not worth it. Your peace of mind is your stock in trade, when you do massage: that's half of why people come to you, to get a sense that there's a world of calm and peace out there, somewhere, where people have the time and attention to spare to touch them lovingly, even if they can only get it for an hour at a time. The last thing anyone wants is a harried, unhappy, distracted massage therapist.

One of my massage books advised therapists, as part of maintaining therapeutic boundaries, not to tell their clients if they were having a bad day, or if they were going through troubled times. The massage session should be about the client, not about the therapist. I thought this was excellent advice: the only problem with it was that -- like so much excellent advice -- it was impossible to follow. If I spend an hour and a half touching somebody, they know damn well what kind of day I had. Skin doesn't lie. That's one of the reasons I got into massage in the first place: because of the fundamental honesty of it.

No. You can't afford bad clients. They'll wreck your practice. You have to bite the bullet and fire them.

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