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It Doesn’t Take Much

If you’re a professional, offering services to the public, you want your clients to think of you as a “trusted provider” … someone they know will take care of them and look out for their best interests.

Fact is, it often takes a long time to build that level of trust, comfort, and security.

And it can be lost in an instant.

Recently, I was running a little late for an appointment with a bodyworker whose office is about an hour away. I’ve been going there for years, even though it isn’t very convenient, because the practitioner is a friend and does a great job.

Realizing I couldn’t make it on time, I called ahead as a courtesy to let them know I might be ten minutes late.

“That’s not gonna work. We’re gonna have to reschedule,” the receptionist said, very matter-of-factly.

Now, I’m in the car, maybe about a quarter to a third of the way there. And I say, incredulously, “Reschedule? Because I’m a few minutes late?”

She asks me to hold on and confers with the office manager.

Office Manager … with no hello, no how are you, no nuthin’: “Exactly how late are you gonna be, because if you’re gonna be twenty minutes late, we can’t see you.”

Me: “I’m not gonna be twenty minutes late. I told the receptionist I might be ten minutes late.”

Office Manager: “Well, then we’ll just have to cut your treatment short.”

So, how do you think I’m feeling about now? Cared for? Do you think I might be getting the feeling that my best interests aren’t exactly the paramount consideration of the staff?

In fact, I had the sense that, since I was the last appointment of the morning, I was being given the bum’s rush so I wouldn’t interfere with their lunch. I find out later that was, in fact, part of what was going on.

Anyway, I hang up and I notice i’m tense and driving faster to make a bodywork appointment that’s supposed to relax me. How crazy is that? So I call back and cancel the appointment.

But I have another appointment in town later, so I keep going, just at a slower pace. When I pass their office, it’s seven minutes past the hour.

Now, it seems a new policy had been put in place, designed to deal with the vexing problem of clients calling to say they’d be ten minutes late and actually arriving twenty minutes late, which was messing up the day and putting everyone behind.

So, there was a positive intention there, but in trying to carry out that directive, the staff members lost sight of the importance of serving the customer and treating me with respect and courtesy, not to mention they should know me well enough to know I’m not sloppy. My ten minutes means no more than ten minutes. Plus, there was the lunch thing.

I know about that, because the practitioner called me herself to see what happened. Good move.

Honestly, had she not called me, I’d have been left where I was after the initial call with the office, asking myself, “Why am I driving all this way when I could see a practitioner I like here in town?”

The point here is that it didn’t take much to send me to a place where I was questioning a longstanding relationship.

How quickly it happens. So much good work … so many good feelings … negated in an instant.

The moral of the story? You and your staff need to interact with your clients as if the relationship you have with them can be easily damaged … because it can be.

The good news is that my bodyworker used the incident as a learning experience with her staff and an opportunity to recalibrate how they were interacting with clients. But isn’t it better to never have to go there in the first place?

You bet it is, and you do that by always asking yourself, “How can I best serve this person in this situation? How do I keep their trust?”

It’s as simple as that.

Best Wishes,


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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!