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This Week's Business Tip…

Consider Implications of Extending Courtesies

Providing excellent customer service is a cornerstone of successful business. Simple courtesies like returning phone calls or brief emails within an hour, and completing reports and other paperwork promptly on behalf of your clients, go a long way in communicating that you care. In turn, satisfied clients often recommend you to their family and friends.

Making small accommodations for clients is another way to provide excellent customer service. For example, if you normally charge a fee for late cancellations, you might make an exception in certain circumstances. Or, you might agree to meet with a current client on a one time basis outside of your normal office hours, to help the person deal with a pressing issue.

At the same, however, it's important to be mindful of how you feel - both now and in the future - when making such accommodations. At the point when you start feeling taken advantage of, you risk losing objectivity - which can render you less effective clinically.

You can minimize the chance of this happening by anticipating the short-term and longer-term consequences of making accommodations, vs not doing so.

For example...

1. A prospective client says, "I'd like to start therapy. I don't have insurance, and can pay your full fee. But I travel during the week, and can only come on Friday evenings after 7 pm."

If you typically end your office hours at 4 pm on Fridays, would you make an exception for this person? It would be nice to get that full fee. On the other hand, how important is your personal time? What if this turns out to be a complex case that requires months of Friday evenings, not to mention the energy demands at the end of a long week?

2. A prospective client laments, "My cardiologist strongly recommended that I see you. But you don't participate with my insurance, and I can only afford $25 a session. Oh, and by the way, I need an evening appointment."

This is the third patient that the cardiologist has sent you, and all three have been financially strapped. You already see several clients at a reduced fee, and are reluctant to fill your schedule with any more, especially in the evenings.

 

Are you willing to risk the possibility that the cardiologist will stop referring patients to you if you turn this person away? And if that happens, would you regret your decision?

3. A current client asks, "I was just too depressed over my breakup to go to work yesterday. And because I've missed so many days, they now they say I need a doctor's excuse. Will you write a letter, and can I pick it up this afternoon?"

On the one hand, you understand how upsetting it is to go through a breakup. On the other hand, this client has a pattern of finding herself in the midst of a crisis. If you refuse to write an excuse letter, she might get angry. And then she might post negative online reviews about your practice.

In addition, there are ethical issues to consider when writing such a letter, which may have long-term implications, for both you and the client.

Bottom line...

Being flexible and accommodating in response to requests from clients and referral sources is often good for business.

However, before saying yes, consider the potential financial and ethical implications, and the degree to which you might feel taken advantage of in the long run.