As you establish your health & wellness business, one matter to consider is the policies you’ll have in place. What will you include? How will you communicate them to your clients? Why do you need them?
Meeting of the Minds
While you might think the reason to get an agreement in writing is to sue if the other party doesn’t act as you agreed, that’s not necessarily the case. Lawsuits are costly and time consuming. The true benefit of having written agreements is the meeting of the minds: negotiating with the other party and then confirming your agreement in writing. Over time our memories fade and we may forget what we agreed to; that’s when we can turn to the contract: the written meeting of our minds. Written policies are like contracts; they communicate your expectations as a health & wellness professional while your client’s acknowledgment indicates their agreement to those policies.
Deciding Which Policies You Need
Depending on your business, some policies you might consider are related to appointments, behavior, and refunds and fees.
Most health & wellness businesses have policies related to cancellations, no shows, lateness, and illness. Include how long your clients have to give you notice of cancellations or illness. Of course, there will always be unexpected events and you can make exceptions for those, but it’s useful to make your expectations clear in advance.
Particularly for licensed massage therapists there can be some confusion about what services are provided. You might consider clearly stating that inappropriate behavior or remarks will result in termination of the session.
Refunds & Fees
If you have a policy regarding refunds (for packages of services or merchandise, for example) or impose fees for cancellations or no shows, the best practice is to advise your clients of that in writing and have them sign off on these policies, as discussed further below.
Communicating Policies to Your Clients
You’ll want your policies in writing and online. If your business is completely digital, include a check box where your clients acknowledge having read them. Also include your policies on your website, so potential clients can review them before making an appointment if they like.
If you have paper policies, you could laminate a copy and have clients sign a written acknowledgment of having reviewed them. You could also have printed copies of your policies that your clients sign, and that you keep on file with your client notes.
Preventing Problems with Policies
Policies make our expectations clear as practitioners and business owners. Here are a few ways they help you, your clients, and your business:
- Communicate Clearly. As I discussed in my last post, communication with our clients is key. When our potential clients see our policies online and in written form at their first appointment, your expectations of them are clear. Many people will sign documents without really reading them, but you can verbally summarize or ask if they have any questions.
- Demonstrate Professionalism. When we set boundaries and communicate them, that shows our clients that we are professionals. We have given our policies some thought, put them in writing (digital or paper), and notified our clients.
- Prevent Problems. If problems arise with our clients, we can turn to their signed acknowledgment of our policies when discussing the problem, whether it’s repeated no shows or cancelations at short notice. This is especially important when it comes to refunds or fees you might impose. If your packages or merchandise are not refundable, or if you impose fees for no shows or cancellations, having your client’s signed acknowledgment of this policy will help if a disgruntled client disputes the charge on their credit card and asks for it to be reversed. This is called a chargeback; you might check on the policies of your credit card processor to make sure you’re in compliance, so they will defend you if a disgruntled client attempts to reclaim the disputed amount.
Unlike client intake forms, you don’t need to review policy forms with clients yearly. Update them as your policies change and obtain client acknowledgment of your new or revised policies.
What Are Your Questions or Tips on Policies?
Contact me or share in the comments below.