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Today, we’re talking policies; what policies to have and why you need to always enforce them.

Policies are crucial to a business. They’re going to set boundaries for what you as a business should expect from your clients, and what those clients can expect from you.

First, we’re going to look at the types of policies you really need to have for your massage practice, and a few that you may want to put into place, but aren’t as necessary. You can word these policies however you like, but take the time to sit down and work these out in detail if you haven’t already. It will save you so much time and stress in the long run! So first, those must-have policies will need to cover these subjects…

Cancellations

This is a big one. What’s the time frame they can cancel in with no repercussions, and what happens if they don’t give you enough time. So let’s say you have a 24 hour cancellation notice policy, what needs to also be stated is how much of that service fee they’re responsible for if they cancel less than 24 hours before their appointment. Late Arrivals / No Shows How long before their appointment should they arrive? What happens if they’re late? This really depends on how you operate your day-to-day practice, how much time you give yourself between clients, etc. Most places, it’s customary that if a client is late they lose that time and you still end at the scheduled time, especially if they’re 15 minutes late or more. Beyond 15-20 minutes, depending on the time of the service, many places will simply say you’ve forfeited the appointment. The choice is yours. As for no-shows, what do you need to enforce to discourage this? One no-show with no consequence and then a credit card is required to hold all future appointments? Are they required to pay the full service fee if they miss? That stuff is usually kind of standard, but you have to do what you feel is right of course.

Inappropriate Behavior / Right to Refuse Service / Client Termination

These all kind of go hand-in-hand so you may have one policy, or you may separate this type of thing out. It just depends on the specifics of your business. But this is definitely needed as we in this industry often have to deal with those who have some not-so-professional requests for massage therapists. So what’s your policy around this? If they say or do anything that makes you uncomfortable, or overtly request any inappropriate actions, you have the right to end the session, they are required to pay in full, and they’re banned from your establishment? You’ve got to figure out what works for you. One note…be careful how you word this, as any time you use the word ‘sexual’ or anything like that, even in reference to the fact that you DON’T offer that, those lovely search engines may still pick that up and put your website in a search meant for something else. So just be mindful of that when you’re working up the wording for this particular policy on your website. You also may want to include something about simply your right to refuse service and terminate a client; this could be in regard to someone impaired due to drug, alcohol, or prescription use, refusal to follow other policies, lack of respect shown toward you or your staff, or anything of that nature. Any reason you may flat out refuse to see someone. And you can terminate someone as a client for any of these reasons too. You have that right, as long as it’s not discriminatory in nature, of course.

Refunds / Exchanges / Transfers

This is especially important if you sell retail, but if you offer packages or have a membership program, this is also an important part to include in the terms you need to set down for those specific setups. So, what qualifies someone for a refund? Can they exchange one product for another? What if it’s been used? How much? Things like that. Can they transfer their package or membership to a friend, or even split it with someone else? All of these things need to be considered and laid out in detail.

Gift Certificates

If you sell gift certificates, you’ll need a policy concerning when they expire, but also concerning refunds, exchanges, transfers, etc. just like I mentioned a minute ago. Can they get a refund for cash or is it exchange only? Can someone who received a gift certificate let someone else use it? If the certificate was for a specific service, can they pick something else instead? All of that kind of stuff has to be considered and put into your policy. On this note, be sure to check with your state regarding expiration dates for gift certificates! This is not something you arbitrarily decide, but is a state and federal law that you have to abide by. Usually it’s 2-5 years that a gift certificate has to be honored, but some states don’t allow an expiration at all. Check with your state to be sure you’re following the law here!

Returned Checks

If you take checks, it’s imperative that you have a policy about returned or bounced checks. What’s the fee you will charge if they bounce a check? How do you expect payment? What timeframe do they have to pay the amount plus the returned check fee? What’s your policy on taking checks from that person after that? All of this needs to be laid out. Now, for those policies you may want to have, but aren’t necessarily as important…

A Cell Phone Policy

So do you require cell phones to be put away, on silent, or do you even care?

An Appointment Booking / Credit Card Holding Policy

You may require a phone consultation before they can book an appointment, or you may require a credit card to hold any appointment, or anything along those lines. If you have some requirements around booking an appointment, you’ll need to have those spelled out for clients.

Third Party Discount Site Policies

If you use anything like Groupon or the like, you’ll want to have some policies laid out. Things like, they must present their voucher at the time of service, that they’re only to be used for a service, not gift certificates, things like that. And if you have a plan on getting these clients to work their way up to paying full-price, have that laid out as well. So maybe you honor a discount schedule that increases by $10 or something for each of their next 4 visits until they’re at the full price…or whatever it may be. I’ve just seen some therapists do that and it works well for transitioning clients from Groupon to full-paying. So if you do that sort of thing, this is where you can lay that for them. And last but not least…

Age Requirements

This can be specifically for those receiving services as well as those who are allowed in the establishment period. So you may not work on any minors…say that. No one under 18 is allowed to book a service. Or you’ll need to lay out that you require a parent to be present in the room the entire session if you do work on minors. Or you may have a no children policy, so no one under the age of 18 or maybe 16 or whatever you decide, is allowed to be in your establishment. I’ve heard a lot of therapists complain of a client bringing a kid to sit out in the waiting room, who was loud the entire time and disturbed other guests. If you’re not okay with that, spell it out in a policy.

So do those policies make sense? You have to figure out exactly what you want included in each of these. I can’t tell you what’s going to be best for your massage practice, so do what’s right for you. And be sure you have these policies clearly stated on your website, referenced in your emails, and the necessary ones mentioned again in your reminder calls.

Now, some of you may be asking, is it really necessary to have all of these? Most of them, yes…absolutely necessary. You have a business, right? Not a hobby? So treat it as such. Give your business and yourself the respect you each deserve and set your boundaries. Figure out what you will and will not tolerate, and write your policies around that. And don’t feel like these have to stay forever. Through changes in your business and just specific experiences, you may tweak these policies over time. That’s perfectly fine. But have them! And here’s the thing, for the absolute majority, and I mean 99.9999% of the time, these should be strictly enforced. Don’t let your policies waiver or they’re nothing more than a suggestion.

Now I’m not cold-hearted, I understand stuff happens sometimes and good clients just mess up, so if you, on a very rare occasion, really feel the need to bend a little on something, ok. For example, I had a client who was always on time, never missed, if she had to cancel she gave plenty of notice, was always very respectful and sent a ton of clients my way. When her mother and father were both very sick and in and out of the hospital before they both passed, she, understandably was a bit of a mess and no-showed me twice. Normally I would have enforced my policy and required payment for the second and a credit card to hold future appointments, but for her specifically, the type of client she was and the situation she was in, it did not bother me in the least to give her a bit more grace. But that was a very very very rare occurrence. The vast majority of the time, our policies need to be non-negotiable.

So please, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, set your policies and stick with them! So, let me know, any policies I mentioned that you hadn’t thought of that you’ll implement now? Or does this reinforce what you’re already doing? Or if you’ve got a suggestion for another policy you think is important, let us know.

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