Like many massage therapists, Brooke Riley enjoys a good chat with her clients.
However, she had this one client who loved to talk. She’d show up for her appointment and launch into what had been happening in her life since the last appointment — before even getting on the table.
Riley was at a loss. She didn’t want to be rude to her regular client, but the storytelling was time-consuming and would in turn prevent Riley from getting as much hands-on time with the guest. Each appointment with this client would run over, which impacted all the appointments following.
Time as a Tool
Career experts are quick to point out that one of the biggest factors to having a successful career no matter what industry you’re in is being able to manage your time well. Furthermore, managing your time well leads to less wasted time, more free time, less work and less stress.
Riley, a conscientious massage therapist, knew she had to nip this time management problem in the bud. “I decided I had to change the way I did this client’s pre-consultation,” she said.
She made a point of starting each session with questions related to that day’s treatment only. “I would not ask how (she) had been doing, but rather what area we would be focusing on,” she said. And if her client started to stray into the chatty zone, she’d cheerfully redirect her, telling her to get on the table first then they could chat while the massage work was ongoing. “You know what?” Riley said. “It worked every time!”
It is easy for massage therapists’ time management efforts to get derailed, said Riley, who has been a licensed massage therapist for six years and is currently an operations specialist for Massage Heights, a family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas.
The talkative client situation is a common time-management buster that therapists run into, she said. The two other biggest obstacles to effective time management are clients who need longer consultations and losing track of time while massaging.
Communication is Key
It may seem obvious, but in all of these situations, communication is the key to time management for massage therapists, she said. And there are multiple opportunities to communicate with your client that contribute to being able to manage your time.
In the case of clients who need longer consultations (they may have health conditions, for example, that need to be considered), Riley recommends asking clients questions about what issues they are having and why they are seeking a massage session over the phone before they arrive.
If therapists are working at a spa or retreat or in a group setting, the front desk staff can gather that information and have it in the client’s file for the massage therapist to reference before seeing the client. “This will allow the therapist to know a little about the guest ahead of time,” Riley said, which allows them to prepare for the session and potentially avoid losing track of time during the session.
By knowing ahead of time where there may be specific areas of the body that need more attention, rather than finding out with the client on the table, the massage therapist won’t get distracted by focusing so long on one area of the body that the rest of the body doesn’t receive the attention it should, she said.
In the event that therapists discover an area of the body that need more attention while doing the massage, instead of putting too much time into that area, therapists can communicate to their clients on the table about what they finding in that problem spot and can ask whether their clients want them to continue to focus there for the rest of the session, or to continue on massaging the rest of the body.
“(This) allows the therapist to let the client know why they are needing to work in that area a little longer so the client doesn’t feel like they got less of a service because they didn’t get a full body massage,” Riley said.
It also gives therapists an opportunity to encourage their clients to return for subsequent sessions, she said, especially if you take the time during the session to educate your clients on what needs to be done to help with those problem areas.
Keep Clients Happy
In her role managing massage therapists, Riley has sometimes seen cases where the time management of a session has been poor and clients don’t return because of that. For instance, clients may have felt cheated that they didn’t get a full body massage or felt they were disrespected if their session started late because the session prior to theirs ran over.
“Staying on time can mean more money in the long run for the therapist,” she said.
While some massage therapists swear by creating a timed session plan where they know exactly how many minutes they will spend on each part of the body, Riley doesn’t recommend that level of session planning. “Each session should be customized, and you can’t do that if you have to try to time everything out in a session,” she said.
Instead, Riley recommends practicing. Practice pre- and post-consultation conversations so you can keep focused on the treatment needs of each client and get them on the table quicker.
Practice how to communicate with the client about the importance of regular massage sessions, and if you think the degree of work a client needs to feel better requires a 90-minute session rather than an hour, say so and explain why.
If you know you may run overtime with particular clients maybe because they are elderly or have an injury or physical conditions that require a little extra time in the dressing and undressing process, make sure to arrange your schedule with some padding between the sessions following those clients so no one feels rushed or stressed and everyone feels cared for and respected.
About the Author:
Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.