For those massage therapists lucky enough to have a front desk taking care of payments and such, or management setting policies, you’ll probably never have to worry about these issues.
For the rest of us, I think this can be one of the stickiest wickets to deal with when it comes to our clients and money.
Clients may feel that they are paying you to massage them, and that if they don’t show up, and don’t get a massage, then they shouldn’t owe you money as they didn’t get the thing they think they are paying for.
As a massage therapist, its important to remember that what clients are paying for is for a chunk of your time, during which you are available to massage them. If they don’t show up, they still used your time. If they show up late, they used that time, they just didn’t spend it in your company, so you weren’t able to massage them.
When clients show up late to my office, they often apologize for being late. While it might sound fairly callous, I regularly tell them “No need to apologize , it’s your time.” Clients have the right to spend the time they have reserved however they want. If they want to show up 30 minutes late, and talk for another 15minutes before getting on the table, they can do that, as long as they pay for the full session. I know many massage therapists that will give clients a full hour massage, even when the client shows up 10 minutes late, and while I’ve done this occasionally, I recommend against doing so on a regular basis. You’re responsible for your schedule, and making later clients in your day wait on you because you tried to be nice to a client who couldn’t make it on time is rude. If I have a significant amount of slack in my schedule, I’ll do what I can for clients, but I let them know that while I might be able to do so this time, normally I won’t be able to. It’s your job to set the boundaries and maintain them with your clients.
If clients call you up a week before an appointment to cancel, should they pay for the slot? Of course not, you’ve got plenty of time to refill that slot and won’t even notice the cancellation most likely. If they call to cancel 90 minutes before they are supposed to be there for a massage, are you likely to be able to fill the slot? Nope. Finding the right balance for you and your practice that allows you to be fill slots that folks cancel will be tricky, but I would suggest that 24 hours or 48 hours depending on your practice is both reasonable and fairly standard in the service industries.
For those clients that cancel with not enough notice, or those clients that just don’t show up, you’ll want to create a policy governing what the cost is to the client. In my practice, I charged 1/2 the total price of the session for some time, but recently switched to a full charge for late cancels or no-shows.
How you charge your clients can be complicated. If you use a scheduling software, it may take credit card information in order to confirm bookings. Charging the client for no-shows and the like is easy with these systems. If you don’t use this sort of hardware, you need to decide if you want to hold client’s credit card information somehow. I’m leery of doing this for a few reasons so I operate on the honor system for payment in these situations instead. For those of my clients that are on packages (bundles of massages purchased at a discount) I simply mark the time off what they’ve already purchased. For the rest of them, I simply mark the amount owed in their contact information, and the next time they call to schedule or come in, I remind them of the date and amount of the no-show fee.
Some clients will choose to not pay these fees and will just not come back to you. For those situations, I give some words of wisdom from my father: “If you loan a friend $20 and you never see him again, it was money well spent.” I tend to feel that clients that don’t respect my time are clients that I’d rather do without, and I hope that most massage therapists have a high enough sense of worth that they feel the same.