February 02, 2006

What would you do?

I have a little dilemma with a new client.

Well, technically, she's a potential client, since she hasn't hired me yet.

Well, technically, she did hire me, but I haven't worked for her yet. therein lies the dilemma.

I was to have worked for her today at 11:00 a.m., but she phoned me at 9:15 a.m., and said that since her son was home sick, and since there were people working on her driveway, and her three dogs had to stay in the house, she thought it would be better if I didn't come today. I agreed.

I have a line in my reminder emails that states my cancellation policy. It says that if you cancel a scheduled session, you pay a cancellation fee which increases as the date gets closer. You cancel on the day-of, you pay the full fee. She acknowledged the fact that I charge a cancellation fee when she called, so she knows the policy... but ultimately, it's up to me to pursue it.
    Should I pursue it and charge the fee?
  • I feel awkward about charging her for the whole session, which I should do under my policy for canceling with less than 48 hours notice.
  • It was entirely her fault for canceling, and it wasn't because of an emergency, just a scheduling conflict.
  • I certainly would have booked another client for today if she hadn't reserved the time
  • I also turned down a squeeze-me-in appointment with my doctor about my ankle ouchie this morning because I was booked to cook
  • If I stick to my guns, will it create bad blood?
  • If I don't stick to my guns, will she be the kind of person who will take advantage of my make-nice attitude?
  • Do nice girls finish last too?
  • When is "business is business" not a good enough reason to adhere to your own policies?
  • I'm certain she can afford to pay the cancellation fee.
  • I'm the owner of my business, I get to bend or break the rules at my discretion...but do I want to set a precedent with her, or myself, for breaking the rules I wrote?
  • If I break this rule, will she expect me to break others?
Once, a while back, I was sick and canceled a client's first session because I thought I had pink eye. Turns out it was just irritation from my contacts, but it looked awful. The client was gracious and let me postpone, she didn't give me a hard time about it - in fact, she thanked me for being so considerate.

On the plus side, I have been cooking for her consistently ever since. They seem to love my cooking, they're a nice family, and their checks clear every week. On the minus, I've gone to her house to cook when her kids were sick, when kitchen was infested with ants, when I found the head lice remedies on the bathroom counter.... and it makes me wonder if I didn't have a cancellation penalty, would she have asked to postpone, sparing me the ickyness of insects, parasites and snot-nosed kids? (And suddenly I'm itchy all over, recalling those bazillions of ants... eww!)

It's up to me to make the decisions that affect my business and my relationships with clients, but I'm torn. I want to keep the policy so that it has "teeth" and people don't randomly cancel (which used to happen more frequently) but I don't want to keep it from having people cancel when they really should, and I don't want to impose it on people who have true emergencies (ummm, which this wasn't).

What would you do?

Last thing I ate or drank: honey dijon kettle chips

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  1. Joanna,
    You are the master of your universe and the answer is already there. If you speak without "teeth" your words may be mushy and not taken as seriously as needed. Were the supplies diverted to another client and how did you use the time otherwise?
    Your credibility is not at issue, it's your conscience that is arguing with you.

  2. i guess it would depend on your relationship with the client.. the way i look at it, if the relationship is very good, you probably could let the cancellation slide by as long the client is aware of the policy. But do not let it slide too often otherwise there will be problems later on. i was just thinking, there might be one day where client says "but you let it slide before why not now ??" so, i guess it is about how you feel about the client, is client trustworthy or something.

  3. Well, realistically, while you never want to scare a client off you seem to have plenty of people on your plate. A good client will pay the full fee (I know I used to pay my trainer the fee when I had to cancel at the last minute with him, and I was never angry), but a refusal to pay the fee probably is a sign of a bad client anyway. Seems you have little to lose by pursuing your policy.

  4. What does your cancellation policy state? Do you make exceptions for illness, act of God, death, etc?

    Perhaps you could send her a note saying "As you are aware, I have a cancellation policy, but in this case only, I will make an exception."

    It sounds like your conscience is bothering you, and in these cases, I think it is best to go with your gut instinct.

    Definitely a tough one.

  5. For me, I think it would depend on how much you want her as a client. Did she reschedule? If she didn't, I would say if you don't care about getting her as a client, you have a policy, she acknowledged it, you stick to it. It's there for a reason, and it's business. If she rescheduled, then let it go. If she didn't reschedule, you could give her the opportunity to reschedule and save herself the cancellation fee.

  6. What about a compromise position? Something like, "As you know, my normal cancellation fee for such a late cancellation would be the full amount. Because you are a new client and I would like us to start off on the right foot with each other, this time only I will reduce that fee by thirty percent" or "this time only I will charge you for the materials, but if this happens again it will be materials plus labor" or "this time only I will allow you to apply fifty percent of the cancellation fee towards a future session" . . .?


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