How does a busy therapist answer her phone and schedule appointments while in session or away from the office? This is a logistical reality that affects every massage practice. While reviewing your options, keep in mind missed appointment opportunities will cost you money.
1) Answering machine or voice mail.
Clients want a massage, and they want it now! If they get your answering machine, they either hang up without leaving a message or leave a message—and by the time you get back to them, they have scheduled an appointment with another therapist or they no longer have time for the appointment they originally wanted. Missed calls equal missed appointment opportunities.
However, a full-time receptionist is not an affordable option for many massage practices.
3) Online scheduling system.
Internet scheduling systems are ideal. They allow clients to view appointment availability and book their own appointments. Most offer a variety of practice management features that allow you to retain customer data to use for marketing, data management, selling gift certificates online and processing credit card payments.
However, Internet scheduling alone falls short in providing clients with the opportunity to talk to a live person if they do not have access to the Internet and/or are not computer savvy.
4) Answering service.
Answering services will take messages and relay them to the therapist via voice mail, e-mail and/or text message a cell phone or PDA. Clients get a live response and feel that their initial needs are being met. The operator can help with basic information about services and prices, as well as give directions.
Answering services typically do not schedule appointments. Similar to the use of an answering machine or voice mail, you run the risk the caller has found another therapist by the time you return her call.
5) Answering service that utilizes an Internet scheduling system.
A live “receptionist’ answers the therapist’s phone and has access to the appointment calendar. A caller can schedule immediately. Therapists have round-the-clock access to their own calendar and can make adjustments to their availability on the fly.
If allowed, clients can also go online and schedule their own appointments. This makes it easy for a client to get what they want, when they want it.
If clients can easily make an appointment with you and it is a hassle to make an appointment with your competition, who do you think they will be spending their money with?
The bottom-line is: Advertise, promote and take all the massage training you want. However, if you do not have an effective method in place to turn appointment opportunities into scheduled appointments, you are wasting your time and money.
[Related article: Online Tools for Client Scheduling: How to Put an End to Phone-Tag and Boost Your Bottom Line, by Kirk Keeter, MASSAGE Magazine issue 122, June 2006]
Norm Green has been a massage client for 25 years. He is the director of business development for My Receptionist (www.myreceptionist.com). He has a background in franchise development and consults massage therapists on how to increase their revenue, cash flow and free time by utilizing the services offered by My Receptionist. He can be reached at (800) 686-0162.