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15 Elements of Client Retention

A thriving practice consists of a strong base of clients who receive your massages regularly, as well as a steady stream of new clients. Unfortunately, many massage therapists become so focused on efforts to attract new clients that they overlook simple ways to enhance client retention.

Many studies have been done on customer retention. One of the most common statistics is that on the average it costs six times as much money and takes three times the effort getting a new client as retaining a current one. The good news is that you can easily master the art of retaining valued clients with a minimal investment of time and effort. The trick is that the effort must be consistent to succeed; the key is to make sure that your clients feel valued. This article highlights time-tested ways to enhance your customer service so you can avoid the mistake of under-emphasizing client retention.

The core of client retention is a solid customer service plan. At the heart of all top-notch customer service plans is one thing—a consistent, careful, and creative effort to build strong relationships with clients.

In marketing lingo this is referred to as relationship-based marketing, and it involves truly caring about how you can best serve your client’s needs. In essence you become your client’s partner in wellness. It isn’t about convincing or selling; it’s about listening, planning, educating, and being proactive. It means going the extra mile to attune to your clients’ needs and taking the time to express your appreciation for their business.

Building lasting client relationships takes consideration, time, and some money. Keep in mind that customer service techniques are only powerful if your clients are aware of them. You could implement major changes, but if your clients aren’t directly informed, they might never notice.

Ultimately the key to building strong relationships is to inspire your clients to move from a space of client satisfaction to one of client enthusiasm. In addition to inspiring clients to work with you on a regular basis, this usually results in “glowing reviews” that naturally translate into word-of-mouth referrals.

In general, the main things needed to improve retention are to maintain a client-centered approach, show that you truly care about your clients, keep your space clean and comfortable, and anticipate what your clients want—and make those services and products available.

According to social psychologists, motivational needs range from physiological to transcendence. Many postulate that the core human needs are to avoid pain and gain pleasure. In terms of receiving wellness care, clients have many wants in addition to the desire to achieve their specific wellness goals.

The following are the top client concerns, not necessarily ranked in order of priority. All of these factors can profoundly impact your success. When you provide what clients need before they know it, your clients appreciate your extra attention and think the world of you.

  1. Convenience

    The three major aspects of convenience are location, products, and appointments. In real estate lingo, the phrase is “It’s all about location, location, location!” In terms of location, consider things such as being near the majority of your target markets, making sure your office easy to find and that is has ample parking. Make sure your office is handicapped-accessible. Carry the products you use in your sessions and stock items that you tend to recommend clients use. Offer online booking. Use a receptionist service or front desk personnel. Offer evening and weekend appointments.

  2. Accessibility

    Following up on the location, is it easy for your clients to get into your office? For instance, if one of your markets is people in injury rehabilitation or seniors, are there ramps (and elevators if you aren’t on the first floor)? Also, if you do hands-on work on a table, is it hydraulic? (This can be crucial if any of your clients have limited mobility or if you’re really tall, you don’t want clients to feel as though they have to pole vault to get on the table.)

  3. Efficiency

    Most people have busy lives and appreciate efficiency. Clients need to be able to easily book appointments, by phone and online. Your check-in and check-out process should be smooth.

  4. Safety

    Safety is paramount. Your office should be in a safe neighborhood, where there is plenty of lighting for clients arriving for nighttime appointments. If there are steps leading to your office, they must be in good condition. Stairs must have handrails. Your equipment must be sturdy and in good condition. For instance, you don’t want people to be worried about falling off a table or having it collapse under them.

  5. Value

    People want to get good value for the money they spend. Sometimes this is a bit difficult to identify with wellness care. Clients can more easily justify the time and money spent on your services if they have observable or quantifiable results, which is where doing treatment plans and regular assessments is crucial. Make sure you offer a good return on investment (ROI). Perform thorough intake interviews and follow-up with progress assessments.

  6. Courtesy

    Keep in mind that your clients pay your bills. Treat them with respect and courtesy. Greet clients with a smile and handshake, and call them by name.

  7. Reliability

    Reliability can make or break your practice—and is one of the major complaints employers have with practitioners. Be punctual. Make sure the quality of your work is consistent.

  8. Compassion

    You must honor clients for who they are and have compassion for their issues and challenges. Offer comfort while maintaining boundaries. Take the time to listen to clients and discover their concerns and goals. Conduct thorough intake interviews and co-create treatment plans with your clients. Be well-versed in the issues, options, and protocols of the major common concerns of your target markets.

  9. Integrity

    People trust you with their bodies. It’s imperative that you’re a person of integrity. Maintain a client-centered approach. Keep agreements. Honor confidentiality.

  10. Attention

    Treat your clients like they’re the center of the universe. For some people, that can be more valuable than the actual work you do with them. Review your client files before each session and make notes afterward. Be fully present during the session. Make every attempt to accommodate clients’ special requests, such as those related to temperature, sound, and favorite music.

  11. Acceptance

    People crave being accepted for who they are. Plus, so many people have body issues. Coming from a position of acceptance can be incredibly healing for your clients. Operate from a position of non-discrimination. Respect clients even if they don’t share your beliefs or don’t do what you recommend.

  12. Expertise

    Clients expect you to excel in your work. Keep up with current research. Regularly take advanced continuing education classes. Read trade journals. Confer with other healthcare practitioners.

  13. Care

    Establishing trust and credibility encourages people to commit to working with you on a regular basis and following through on their wellness goals. The key to developing long-term professional relationships is that you must truly care about how you can best serve your client’s needs.

    Creating treatment plans is the cornerstone to client retention and compliance. Do thorough intake interviews in which your clients identify their long-term and short-term wellness goals, and then develop a treatment plan together. By doing this you identify their needs, clarify your role, and determine what other services they might need.

    Your role here is to educate clients on their options so they chose how to proceed. It’s very crucial to list the long-term goals as well as the immediate ones: When they’ve achieved the desired results of the immediate goals, you are still there to work with them on the next phase of their wellness.

  14. Plan

    Always review clients’ charts before their sessions. Before you do any hands-on work, update the clients’ long-term treatment plans and set specific goals for the current sessions. Take the time to research potentially effective techniques or other recommended services for specific client conditions, and prepare handouts of resources and referrals of other wellness providers. Place a check-in call the day after the first session and whenever a client experiences dramatic changes from your work.

  15. Professionalism

    Being professional includes your communications, your attire, and the steps you take to go beyond basic customer service. Greet clients with a smile and a handshake. Have water or tea for clients to drink. Share information and resources. Send thank-you notes for referrals and give clients some reward for every referral. Return calls within 24 hours. Make confirmation calls. Professionalism also includes maintaining a clean, safe environment, and using high quality products and supplies. (See “Use Your Session Room to Keep Clients Coming Back” below.)

    Ensure that all of those things match the image you wish to portray. Stock books and products that can be beneficial to clients.

    Keep in touch by sending clients announcements, newsletters, and newspaper or magazine clippings on topics in which they’ve expressed interest. Hold events such as monthly open houses, demonstrations and free workshops for clients and their guests. Send greeting cards for birthdays and anniversaries. Ask clients to give you feedback either verbally or on a comment card. Offer incentives and freebies. Post published newspaper or magazine articles about your clients’ achievements in your office and on your website —with their permission, of course, so as not to violate confidentiality.

Use Your Session Room to Keep Clients Coming Back

If your session room is seen—and felt—as an oasis of peace and healing, clients will be eager to return to it.

Make your office environment soothing and comfortable. Give clients something to do while waiting for their sessions, such as articles for to read, DVDs to watch, and a retail area to touch, smell, and sample the products you have for sale.

Additional ways to make your session room as inviting as possible are:

This article was adapted from Business Mastery, Fifth Edition, by Cherie Sohnen-Moe.

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Last updated: September 11, 2016
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