CLIENT COMMUNICATION ESSENTIALS, PART 2: DURING THE MASSAGE

[Image courtesy of Ryan Hoyme.]

You can’t have a thriving practice without return clients. In fact, the majority of stable, sustainable massage practices have a core of consistent, regular clients. Our communication with clients prior to the actual delivery of the service sets their expectations. The closer their expectations are to their experience, the more satisfied they will be and the more likely they are to return. More repeat clients equals more stability in our schedule and our income.

Once we’ve established a new client’s expectations, it’s time to meet (or exceed) them. Since we haven’t worked together before, we have no idea what their tissue feels like, how much pressure they prefer, which areas of their body are sensitive and which aren’t, how warm (or cool) they want the room to be, or how much support they need. That’s why we need to ask questions.

There are several classifications of questions, but we’ll stick with just three: yes-no, choice and open-ended. The kind of information we want to collect dictates the types of questions we ask, and there are certain times during the massage when knowing this information will best serve our clients. Having a script of sorts that you use with every new client makes meeting their expectations easier.

START SIMPLY

Yes-no questions are most appropriate when we’re verifying comfort and preferences. This is a good way to begin the massage. Unless someone is completely exhausted, they probably won’t be very relaxed yet when we enter the room to begin their session. They may actually be somewhat nervous or apprehensive, so ensuring they’re comfortable will help put them at ease and set the tone for their experience. We should be asking things like:

  • If the face cradle and bolster are well positioned.
  • If they are warm/cool enough (it’s impossible to relax when they’re too warm or too cold).
  • If the music is to their liking and at the appropriate volume.
  • If they want any aromatherapy, topical analgesics, or hot/cold packs before applying.

Once we establish their initial comfort and preferences, it’s important to give them permission to ask for any adjustments should the need arise. Often this is where the questioning stops because we don’t want to bother them while they receive our work. But many clients are reluctant to speak up during the massage because they don’t want to challenge our expertise or hurt our feelings. They just lie there wishing something was different, leave dissatisfied, and never return. That’s why we need to keep inquiring.

CUSTOMIZE WITH OPTIONS

Creating a customized experience takes more than just spending extra time on a problem area. Giving our clients choices as we go makes every massage unique. By giving two options, we’re empowering them while keeping our questioning from becoming an interrogation. Some ideas for incorporating these are asking:

  • If they want to start the massage at their head or their feet.
  • If they’d like more time spent on a particular area or like to move on.
  • If they want a scalp massage or more time on their neck.

Obviously, the exact questions we ask will vary from person to person. That’s what makes these questions so vital to providing a truly individualized treatment that they won’t get anywhere else. When we cultivate this kind of customer service, we set ourselves apart and become more desirable as practitioners.

OK ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH

When I was in massage school, we were taught to check in with our clients to determine if we were being effective. The question we all asked each other was: “Is this ok?” It took me many years of professional practice to realize that this yes-no question didn’t allow me to get the information I really needed. A better question is: “How does this feel?”

By asking this more specific, open-ended question, we gather much better feedback. Checking in periodically throughout the massage confirms the treatment we’re giving is meeting the needs of our client. Some key landmarks for employing this are:

  • After the first five minutes.
  • When we’re addressing areas of concern mentioned during intake.
  • When we find a tight spot or something unexpected.

There are times when our original treatment plan needs to be re-evaluated so we don’t run out of time trying to accommodate both a full body massage AND focused work on troublesome areas. Good time management is a sign of an accomplished professional. No one has ever died from having their legs skipped or missing out on face work. Asking where we can cut back in exchange for more attention where they want it lets the client decide what their priorities are and takes away the guesswork. These situations also lend themselves to recommending longer appointments, which fill more time on our schedules and make us more money.

This leads us to the third phase of the appointment. After the massage, we get to learn how our client feels and what their intentions are for rebooking. Asking the right questions here can make a potentially dreaded conversation flow naturally and minimize any discomfort with sales. Stay tuned for proven strategies that capitalize on this often underutilized opportunity.


Cath Cox has been a licensed massage therapist in Colorado since 1999 and is the creator of the Booked and Busy in 90 Days System™. Her mission is to heal the world by inspiring independent massage therapists to build thriving practices of their own so they can work authentically for as long as they desire. She currently provides ashiatsu barefoot deep tissue massage exclusively in her private practice. You can learn more about Cath and her journey at bookedandbusy.com.