How to Change Service Providers Without Burning Bridges

03/20/2015 02:43 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015

We tend to form special bonds with those who provide personal services to us, whether they're physicians, hair stylists, personal trainers or financial advisers. Occasionally we also happen to see them outside of their place of business, perhaps at social or community events, or at the ball field where our kids may be on the same sports team.

All of these factors make it difficult when we decide a change is in order. It's common to feel a loyalty to those who have given us quality care over the years. If the relationship has run its course, or you are no longer happy, this should not stand in the way of moving on. Your needs evolve and hopefully those you must say good-bye to will understand.

Here are five etiquette tips for making a smooth, graceful exit with your reputation and relationship intact.

  • Say something. When changing from a hair stylist you have seen only a handful of times, you are perfectly justified in doing so without a word of explanation. For those with whom we have longer histories, letting them know you are going in another direction is the right thing to do. Example: "Susan, I have truly appreciated the excellent job you've done and want you to know my decision has much more to do with convenience and cost. Thank you again for everything!"
  • Explain why you are leaving. In some cases, this is easy. If you are moving or your health insurance plan no longer includes that doctor, that's a simple explanation. When it comes to poor service, the conversation may be more difficult, but you will probably be doing them a favor. Waiting an hour for every appointment or playing endless games of phone tag to schedule a basic haircut are points worth mentioning.
  • Follow the formula. If telling them to their face makes you nervous, you can always send a friendly note. Start off with a positive comment, give your reason for leaving and thank them for their efforts. Example: "You have been a very good physician for me in the past, but I am interested in a more holistic approach to health and I want to explore some different options. I've appreciated your guidance and wish you all the best."
  • When possible, avoid seeing another provider in the same practice. Switching to another physician within the same office or another stylist at the same salon can exacerbate an already uncomfortable situation. Still, if the person you really want to work with is just a chair away, be ready for a quick discussion. Example: "I just wanted to let you know that Alice cut my hair while you were on vacation and I really like the way she controls my curls. I am going to book my next haircut with her and wanted you to know beforehand. I have enjoyed our relationship and still admire your work."
  • Avoid burning bridges. You never know when you might want to go back. It's entirely possible that you will try someplace new and realize it's not an ideal fit. Keep the door open for continued communication and potentially future visits.

In any of these scenarios, there's no guarantee that you will avoid hurt feelings, but if the person is a true professional, they will graciously accept your transition. Ultimately, it's your body, your money and your calendar, and you are entitled to make a choice that is right for you.

For more of Diane's business etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, follow her on Pinterest and Instagram and "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook.