Maybe you won’t agree with this. But when it comes to sports injuries, I prefer the severe and predictable over the subtle and (typically) less painful.
When I had knee surgery a few years ago, for example, the doctor was able to estimate (nearly) exactly how long it would be until I could run again. Sure, I couldn’t even walk for a month, but every day I got steadily, visibly stronger.
Unfortunately, my current injury – a strained calf muscle – is of the less preferred variety.
I can walk just fine and even at its worst it didn’t hurt nearly as much as blowing out my knee. But it came without warning and there’s no telling for sure how long it will stay (kind of like your brother-in-law).
And so for the last month I’ve been going to physical therapy, doing my best to get back on track.
Earlier this week, however, I didn’t feel like going. It was the first day back after the long Thanksgiving holiday and I was not yet ready to reenter a world that didn’t involve drinking in the middle of the day while sitting on the couch under a blanket next to a fire reading a book.
So I called the physical therapy practice at 7:10 Monday morning to see if I could cancel my 6:30 pm appointment that day.
“Sorry, our policy says you need to give us 24 hours notice to cancel.”
“But you weren’t open yesterday,” I said.
“You could have left us a voicemail.”
“But you wouldn’t have listened to it until 10 minutes ago anyway, when you opened the office.”
“Sorry, that’s our policy,” she said.
And you know what, she’s right. That is their policy. Not only that, I signed a piece of paper acknowledging said policy when I began my therapy. If this were a contract dispute, they’d win hands down.
But it’s not a contract – it’s a business that’s trying to thrive.
By enforcing their policy – on a first-time offender who, as a practical matter, didn’t give them any less notice than if I had left a message over the weekend – they got paid that day as planned. In terms of my complaint, I didn’t have a leg to stand limp on.
But what did they lose?
Well, imagine instead, if she had said, “Our policy is 24 hours, but I know what you mean about getting back in the groove today. Since it’s your first time cancelling, why don’t we just reschedule?”
I would have hung up the phone happy. I would have told people about my experience. I would have gone out of my way to come back to them in the future (and believe me, I’ve got a lot of PT in my near and distant future).
Instead, I remain completely indifferent to these people and this practice. I’m not mad at them, but I don’t love them either. Opportunity missed.
Here’s the thing. Policies are for employees (i.e. people with few options), not clients. I’ve got more choices for PT within five miles of my house than I do places to buy a hot cup of coffee.
And while I understand the need for rules and procedures, if you enforce them for the sake of enforcing them on people who are trying to give you money, you’re hurting your business.
Like it or not, everything you do is marketing. From your voicemail message to your holiday cards to your cancellation policy.
It’s particularly true if you sell something that looks/is the same as that of your competitors – whether that service is PT or accounting or recruiting or consulting or any number of other professional services.
The truth is, when it comes to selling something like that, the service you provide may be the least important piece of the marketing puzzle.
So take a good look at the barriers – I mean policies – you’ve put in place for those who wish to hire you. Then get rid of (or at least bend) the ones you don’t really need.
And by the way, if you’d like to unsubscribe from this newsletter, I won’t stop you. I do, however, require 24 hours notice before you click the opt out link at the bottom of the page. Sorry, that’s my policy.