I’ve often been asked what the best way is to get the most benefit out of a massage session, and I always suggest that communication and education are essential.
Massage therapists have so many opportunities during the interactions with our guests to communicate and educate, in order to build long term clients, but we don’t always take our chance. I’ve experienced plenty of sessions that could have been much more impactful had the communication lines been open and education been provided by the therapist.
Whether it’s fear or lack of knowledge, as professional massage therapists it is our duty to our clients to educate them to the best of our ability. This way, they receive the most out of their session, and from my experience, you build long term clients. But, it is a process. Here are the steps I have identified as part of the process.
Step 1: Get to Know Your Clients Before You Meet Them
Whether you’ve done your own booking or you have someone who does it for you, taking and reviewing any notes on the appointment just made are key. What important information did the client give you, which will allow you to provide a better experience once in session? This could be anything: suffering from lower back pain due to sitting at a desk all day; it’s her birthday; stressed out because of work; coming in on a gift card are all examples.
All of this information can help you start to build a relationship, as well as an action plan for how you expect to remedy a client’s specific needs.
When you are well-informed about your client before you even meet him, it shows him just how serious you take his wellness, and sets the tone for how serious he should be taking it, too.
Step 2: First Impressions Help Build Long Term Clients
A professional and well-kept image is important to clients. You want to pride yourself in your professional appearance and realize that a lack of it can affect your guests, your business and—I hate to say it—even your gratuity.
A question to ask yourself is, would you feel comfortable and safe getting a service from you?
Remember that your appearance should match the experience that you are offering. This isn’t just limited to clothing; keep in mind that body language can play a huge role in this as well. Displaying an assured stance will perceive confidence, and confidence perceives trust.
As you know, trust is an important factor in this industry. Your clients are trusting you to alleviate their pain and stress. That’s why smiling is another essential detail. Once meeting the client, smiling can help to disarm her. It shows that you are happy she came to you; after all, she could have gone somewhere else, but didn’t.
Lastly, be sure that you keep eye contact with your client. In doing this you are showing the client that you are there for him in that moment, and your focus is on his well-being.
Step 3: The First Touch
Once you’ve accomplished all of the above, you are now ready to meet and greet your client. If this is your first session with your guest be sure to introduce yourself, letting her know your name and that you will be her massage therapist.
A big part of this introduction is giving the client a firm and caring, yet professional handshake. Not only will this show your confidence but it allows you to complete the first touch, which is the first time the client gets a sense for your touch.
If you work in a practice that has a lobby, be sure that when you walk the client to your treatment room, you open any doors for her, and offer the restroom as this may be her last chance before the session starts.
Step 4: Elevate Your Pre-Consultation
Now that you have the client in your treatment room, the education can really begin. The pre-consultation is your opportunity to assert yourself as the professional in the client’s wellness routine, as well as your chance to find out why your client is there. During this time, you want to ensure a few significant elements.
Although this may seem basic, sometimes our personal struggles can interfere with the energy we bring into the treatment room, so be sure to leave them at the door. Show compassion and concern for your client as he begins to tell you what he may be suffering from.
It’s also important to remember that you are the professional. You have the ability to identify needs and provide solutions for those needs. Clients will trust your professional recommendation as long as you educate them with confidence.
As soon as you get the client in the room, it’s beneficial to reconfirm her service, just in case it has changed or was accidentally booked incorrectly; you’ll be able to correct it right away.
During my pre-consultations with clients I always ask two key questions: “Where is your pain?” and “What is your favorite part of the massage?”
Doing this allows you to dive deeper into what is bothering the client, and why. In addition, it also makes you aware of what he likes so you are sure to hit on it during the session.
Plus, by asking these two questions you are more informed and can reasonably make any professional recommendations as far as add-on services that could be therapeutically beneficial.
An important factor is that you explain the why of add-on services, like this: “Because you told me your lower back is in pain from sitting at a desk all day, I definitely recommend our Hot Stone Therapy. This will allow the muscles of your lower back to release more rapidly; it will allow me to go deeper and work the muscle tissue more quickly, allowing you to get the most out of your session.”
Lastly, explain exactly how you want the client to lie on the table, and be sure to ask if she has any questions you can answer before you step out of the room.
Step 5: The Service
Once the client is on your table and you’ve entered the room, check for comfort; this can be related to the face cradle, bolster, lights or music. The client should be as comfortable as possible before the session starts.
Next, it’s time to begin your therapy. I know a lot of therapists tend to stay quiet during this time, but it is reasonable and most times very helpful for both the therapist and client to have limited conversation during this time, as long as it remains educational for the client and in line with what he wants.
For example, if the client is someone who does not like to talk during the session, respect that, but if he is interested in what is going on with his health, then by all means educate him, within the scope of practice of soft tissue therapy.
As soon as you find a problem area, start that education process. Educate your client on how that particular problem might have happened, whether through questions or educated guesses on their normal everyday body mechanics. You want to show the client how that problem area potentially happened, then if necessary educate the client on how receiving regular massage therapy will help to alleviate that issue.
Don’t forget to ask your client about your pressure. We all know that good communication throughout the session is important, but sometimes we forget to ask or don’t ask the right way. When asking the client about pressure, it’s helpful to ask open-ended questions.
For example, instead of asking “How’s that pressure?” ask “Is that pressure too light or too firm?”, or “Would you like more or less pressure?” When you ask these types of questions, it influences the client to say what he is really thinking, and needing.
Step 6: Elevate Your Post-Consultation
Once you step out of the room and are washing up, you should start to prepare for a proper post-consultation. Start thinking about what you found in the session, and what you may recommend to your client to help remedy any concerns.
As soon as the client is done re-dressing, ask her how she is feeling. This simple question will give you a good gauge of how your session went, but also how much information this person may be able to retain. Remember, your client may be very relaxed, so you may need to keep your education in simple terms.
Ask if she has any questions for you, as this will show her that you are listening and care about the outcome of her service. It will also allow her a chance to ask any questions she may have forgotten about while in session.
At this point, you can now go over any professional recommendations you may have for this person. I find that it is extremely beneficial to write these down, so my client can review it at home; I call it homework.
This can be anything from coming back to see you in two weeks, to any self-care advice, to taking home therapeutic retail products. An important point to remember is that with the education and recommendations you provide clients, be sure that you are explaining why they need each one and how it will help alleviate their pain.
Above and Beyond
Education and communication with your clients is essential for a successful massage therapy practice and to build long term clients. Although you should cater education and communication to your needs, don’t forget the needs of your client. Each client will be different, and this will dictate how you use this process.
Above all, when you go above and beyond clients’ expectations, you give them a reason to come back to you. You are then truly helping your clients and fulfilling your duty as a professional and passionate massage therapist.
About the Author
Nichole Velez, L.M.T., is training and development manager for Massage Heights. She has written several articles for massagemag.com, including “3 False Beliefs About Massage Sales Success,” “Master These 3 Steps to Please Even the Most Unhappy Customer,” “The Road to Leadership Success,” and “Find the Right Job with a Topnotch Résumé.”