How to Wrap Up a Lengthy Consultation

Do you have certain clients that ALWAYS take longer than you expect?

In my first year of practice, I had several clients who were consistently in my office at least 20 minutes after their appointment had officially ended.  One was a talker; I really did not know how to reign her in without seeming rude. Another tended to have very emotional visits; I felt guilty and hard-hearted for trying to hurry her out the door.

At first, I didn’t really mind.

I wasn’t busy. I didn’t have other clients scheduled immediately. I generally like my clients and enjoy spending time with them. “What’s the harm?” I thought.

It turns out that this wasn’t the best strategy. As my practice grew, I got busier (thankfully!). I DID have clients scheduled back-t0-back. ¬†Running a bit over could throw my schedule off for hours, in fact.

Letting clients linger for extended appointments also meant that I wasn’t practicing focused questioning or valuing my time – I certainly wasn’t charging extra when visits went longer than anticipated. Clients got used to spending that much time with me, and that’s what they expected the next time they scheduled an appointment.

I had to toughen up, set some boundaries and learn strategies to reign in consultations that were heading down the “overtime” path. I do believe that there are times when it’s important and worth it to take a bit longer with someone. However, you need to have the *option* of ending on time as well. It all boils down to having the skills to wrap the visit up, which allows you to make an informed choice to spend more time under certain circumstances.

Here are my top three strategies for ending a consultation on time (video):

Do you struggle with this as well? What strategies have you tried to keep clients focused and on track?

 

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Camille

Hi there. I'm Camille. I'm a professor at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology and pathophysiology. I'm also a licensed nutritionist and herbalist, specializing in fertility and reproductive health. Lastly but not leastly, I'm a mom, a gardener and a pretty horrible housekeeper.

  • Joan Howard says:

    Hi I really enjoyed these tips. I have only set up 4 months ago so things are slow but at a good pace for me right now. However I am aware that I am allowing consultations to run over time. Another problem is people who arrive late, again not an issue for me at moment but as my client base builds up it will be. Any strategies for this one?

    • Camille says:

      Congrats on geting your practice up & running, Joan! Ah, yes. Dealing with late clients is another common concern. Do you have an informed consent form? Or a welcome email that you send to your new clients? Since I am seeing all of my clients virtually, I have a policy that if I cannot reach the client via email, Skype or phone within 10 minutes of the appointment start time then that appointment is cancelled and we’ll need to reschedule.

      That’s easier to do when the client is not actually sitting on my doorstep! I think the best thing to do is to have a clear policy and make sure that you communicate it to your clients in advance. So you could say something like this in your welcome email/packet: “Please expect your appointment to last ~60 minutes. I am happy to work with you if you are running late, and I cannot extend the hours of your consultation or reduce the fee for late arrivals.”

      You can always choose to be more lenient if you do have the time, or if the clients has a wonderful excuse and has never been late before. I do encourage you to enforce whatever policy you select, though, especially when working with new clients so as not to set a precedent that you’ll later regret. Hope that helps some & best of luck!

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