woman getting a massage

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 anywhere from four to 10 times as much money and takes three times the effort getting a new client as it does to retain a current client. 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 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.


Client Retention and Relationships

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 called 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.


massage client and therapist - keys to client retention

What Do Your Clients Care About?

According to social psychologists, motivational needs range from physiological to transcendent. 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 is easy to find and ensuring that it 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 issue of 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. You should offer a variety of payment options. Your check-in and checkout processes 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.


massage therapist

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 why doing treatment plans and regular assessments is crucial. Make sure you offer a good return on investment. 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.


confidential stamp

9. Integrity

People trust you with their bodies. It’s imperative that you’re a person of integrity. Maintain a client-centered approach. Keep your 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 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 nondiscrimination. 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 health care practitioners.


 intake interview

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 clients’ needs.

Creating treatment plans is the cornerstone of 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 can choose 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, as well as 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 want 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.


massage therapy session room

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 to read, DVDs to watch, and a retail area where they can touch, smell and sample the products you have for sale.

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

  • Install a dimmer control for lighting.
  • Provide a private area for personal belongings.
  • Regulate the temperature.
  • Paint the walls a soothing color.
  • Hang beautiful artwork.
  • Incorporate soothing sounds, such as an indoor fountain.
  • Invest in an excellent sound system.
  • Purchase state-of-the-art equipment such as a hydraulic table, ergonomic positioning cushions and a luxuriously padded face cradle.
  • Use fine linens, heated booties and mittens, and specialty products such as aromatherapy, sports creams, topical analgesics, custom-blended oils, personalized skin care formulations and customized herbal formulations.
  • Provide an assortment of beverages such as juices, herbal teas and personal bottles of filtered water with your sticker attached to the bottles.
  • Warm the table or chair with a full-length heated mattress pad and take the chill off any equipment when it’s cold outside.
  • In warm weather, be sure that the room temperature is mild and the lights are dimmed; offer clients a cool foot bath and a chilled eye pillow in the summer.


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


Cherie Sohnen-MoeAbout the Author

Cherie Sohnen-Moe is an author, business coach, international workshop leader and successful business owner since 1978. She has served as a faculty member at a massage school, acupuncture college, and holistic health college. Sohnen-Moe is the author of Business Mastery and Present Yourself Powerfully, and co-author of The Ethics of Touch. She is a founding member of and is the current President of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education.