You’ve been working with a new client, and you feel like it’s going well.
They’re getting results, seeing transformation, and then suddenly… they’re AWOL. (That’s ‘absent without leave’, meaning they’ve dropped out of communication.)
Maybe it starts with a missed appointment. When you reach out to re-schedule, they don’t respond. Perhaps a payment is due, and they don’t respond to the three voice mails you’ve sent.
This is particularly painful if there’s a payment due.
It’s easy to despair. Instead, you can see this as an opportunity.
Here are 5 steps to take when (not if) this happens to you:
1) Take a deep breath.
Take a walk, do some EFT tapping, drink a cup of herbal tea. It’s easy to jump to assumptions like ‘this person doesn’t like me, they don’t see value in what we’re doing, no one will ever work with me again…’
When you’re a coach, healer, consultant, or trainer, you’re asking your clients to transform their lives with your support. That’s challenging, and even good people will get scared sometimes. This action is almost NEVER about you, it’s about the client, and taking some time to calm yourself will help you react powerfully.
2) Figure out what YOU want.
Is this a client who you took on with gritted teeth, feeling like you needed the money? Do YOU really want to continue to work with this person?
It’s worthwhile to ask yourself if the universe is doing you a favor by taking this person out of your life. That may be the case, or it may be the case that you’re getting an opportunity to step up, be professional, and explain your policies. Only you (and your higher self!) know the answer to this question.
3) This one situation should not determine your entire business model.
I’ve heard musicians who play gigs say that every clause in their contract came because some client made a last-minute outrageous request, so they put terms in their contract to avoid those happening in the future.
While you can certainly learn from situations that come up, don’t try to make business policies when you are upset, angry, or depressed. You’ll almost certainly create something that you second-guess later. Get some help from a coach to reach a place of calm, and THEN decide the policies you want to establish.
4) Set a policy about missed appointments.
After you set a policy about missed sessions, communicate it to current clients, and put it in your agreement or contract for new clients as they start working with you. Under what terms will a missed appointment be rescheduled? Can a client request to reschedule an appointment up to 48 hours before the appointment? or 24 hours?
Setting these policies before missed appointments happen helps you to make decisions from a calm, powerful place rather than a place of upset.
One of my favorite ways to handle this is to grant every client one ‘total forgiveness’: you can reschedule one missed appointment during the course of our working together. I can certainly forgive other missed appointments for things like true emergencies like car accidents, etc. However, I set my policies for normal situations, not for emergencies. When there is an expectation, it’s easier to be professional and protect your boundaries.
5) Put payment terms, and termination terms, in your agreement.
If someone misses a payment, do you have a backup payment method? How is your contract structured? If someone wants to discontinue before the end of the agreement, is that allowed? Since you’re in a business, this is something that you really want the help of an attorney to create.
There is, unfortunately, a belief in the transformational industry (like the coaching industry) that coaching contracts should be able to simply be canceled at any time, regardless of terms. If you believe this, then you can set your agreements up accordingly. If you want to be treated like other professionals, you might want to think through your payment and termination terms.
This will never be a comfortable situation, and the discussions around it aren’t necessarily comfortable either. But running a successful business – just like having a great relationship – requires that you set your boundaries, and communicate clear expectations. When you do that, the number of these conversations that you have to have drops, and the ones that you do have become much easier.
Share with me on Facebook – what’s your pet peeve with clients who become uncommunicative?