Dealing with clients who misunderstand an offer or policy takes preparation and practice. A normal first reaction is to bite the bullet, making it clear you’re not happy about it, or to flat out tell the client, “No,” and then deal with the fallout. Either way you feel crummy and walk around in a general malaise of badness for a few days. It’s normal but we can do better.

Prepare

The first and most important thing is to believe that your clients are good people. I’m not kidding. You need to keep that thought at the forefront whenever you deal with a client difficulty. All of us do dumb things on occasion. Often we know we’re being dumb while we’re being dumb but we just can’t seem to stop and call for a do-over. Be ready for the curveballs. Read through your offers and policies carefully. Ask a friend to read them, too. Look for the wildest, most improbable loopholes and decide what you will do or say if someone misinterprets what you intended. See examples at the end of the entry.

Don’t Strain Yourself

Understand that no matter how clear you feel you are and how specific you make your policies, there are clients who see the world at a different angle than you. So take it easy. Write up the essence of your policies in brief, exact statements. You don’t need a list a mile long covering every eventuality. It’s going to give your clients the impression of overly nit-picky uptightness. And it’s not going to make you feel better anyway; there’s always something that comes up.

Practice

What will you say when they ask for the moon and the stars? We all feel goofy practicing stuff like this, but I swear to the divinity of your choice, people respond to the Voice of Authority. I’m not saying your clients are animals, but dealing with people is just like training dogs or horses. If you have your intention clear in your head, people can sense it. If you are unprepared, they can sense that, too. One of our customers has graciously allowed me to use some of her Client Curveballs as examples for you. (Please understand that I am in no way suggesting what she should have done. These are merely good, real-life examples for practice.)

 

Client Curveball 1

I give 15 minutes [extra massage] for each new client. I had to exclude [giving the extra 15 minutes] on gift certificates after this Xmas season when a woman arm-wrestled me into giving her a 1/2 hour chair massage for buying 2 one hour GC’s. She was the first one to ever do that and hopefully the last one. I am still mad at myself for not being firm… the fact that I am still mad means that the $120 I got for the GC’s was not worth it.

It’s irritating to be taken by surprise and not having a ready, diplomatic answer. But you don’t want to stop being generous, right? You don’t want to deprive other clients. And, of course, you want to give a new client some extra time to make them remember you. Here’s some ideas of what she could consider saying next time: “Wow, I never looked at it like that. Aren’t you clever? However, those extra 15 minutes are a one-time thing for each new client.”

If she persists, you can say: “Tell you what, I can see you are very generous to your friends. You do need a little reward for yourself. I’ve [been training in the new (whatever) technique/got some fabulous new oils/got some extra time in the evenings this week]. Next time you book for an hour, I’ll give you the New Client Special Plus.”

All else failing, say, “For you, sure.” Say it sincerely. Be gracious. And chalk it up to experience. Your teachers come in all forms.

 

Client Curveball 2

My coworker recently had a massage party. She went to someone’s house and massaged a lady and her 3 friends. ALL new clients. Her referral policy is that she will give a 1 hour massage for each 3 clients referred to her. The hostess saw the referral offer and said that she should get a free massage since she referred 3 brand new clients. My coworker was taken aback. At the time they joked about it and she thought that was the end of it. Apparently, the woman took it seriously because now she is calling demanding her free massage. My coworker feels that this is not the correct situation since the woman was not an existing client at the time and those 4 women made a collective decision to have a party and get massages. Unfortunately, her written policy did not state that. The MT also waived her travel fee of $45 for those women (they pressured her into that, too).

It’s hard to think clearly with an 85 mph curveball heading right between your eyes. Some brainstorms for the next time: “Oh, gosh, you’re the first person to see it that way. That rewards program is something I use to thank my regular clients for their loyalty and trust. How about I meet you halfway? You asked me to waive the $45 travel fee, which I did. How about I apply that $45 towards the price of a one-hour session in my studio? Here’s a gift certificate for $45. Give me a call and we’ll find a good time for you.”

 

Anyway, those are off-the-top-of-my-head-ers. I’m sure they’re not perfect and everyone’s practice is unique. But this should get you inspired to prepare for those awkward moments that seem to flourish spectacularly this time of year. The general idea is to give your client an “out” (because they know when they’re being silly) while still appearing generous and caring. Anybody have any good phrases they like to use? Share! All my best, Eileen

[This blog article was originally published on the Natural Touch Marketing blog site in 2008. We are reposting it here for your benefit, and with permission.]