To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “The Modern Massage Client: Earn Loyalty through Memberships, Referral Programs and Rewards,” by Meagan Holub, in the May 2013 issue. Article summary: While the personalized nature of massage therapy and the trusted relationships we build with our clients are often enough to keep clients returning to us, it can be argued we have stepped into an era of customer loyalty earned by value memberships, online rewards and referral programs.
Clients are able to do nearly everything online today, and they want to be able to schedule their massage appointments online, too. If you are a solo therapist, it can be difficult to catch client calls when you are always in session. This is why offering online scheduling can be beneficial.
The most common concern heard from massage therapists who haven’t yet made the transition to online scheduling is fear of losing control over their appointments. Luckily, this fear is easily assuaged. Nowadays, many online schedulers include multiple features that are designed to give you more management over your calendar.
Some of these features include:
- Ability to customize time between clients.
- Option to only offer openings before or after existing appointments, eliminating gaps.
- Start times on the hour or in minute increments.
- Appointment requests, so clients can’t automatically schedule.
The benefits of online scheduling are vast. They include, amongst other things, a decrease in no-shows with automated e-mail and/or text reminders to clients, as well as less time playing phone tag. Clients appreciate this convenience, and are more likely to schedule frequent appointments further out on your calendar.
Most programs include a feature to automatically collect testimonials from clients. This is an easy way to promote your business with real reviews rather than obvious copywriting.
Perhaps most importantly, many therapists report an overall increase in business once they start using online scheduling. While this is certainly a result of convenience in scheduling, it’s also commonly attributed to the professional image online scheduling offers.
Hillary Arrieta of GaiaBodywork.com in Dallas, Texas, sums up the benefits of online scheduling as follows: “Online scheduling has helped my practice by being able to offer a simple and easy way for my clients to book appointments on their time. My book stays full, and I can focus more time on my clients than on answering the phone and booking everything myself. They love it and I love it!”
Most therapists agree that the pros far outweigh the cons. Of course, as with anything, research will help you decide if online scheduling is right for you; and many programs offer free trials so you can try them out risk-free.
Some key points to look for in a company include:
- Do they offer customer support?
- Do they offer updates at no charge?
- Are backups regularly performed?
- Are you able to export your information or files if you choose to leave?
If the fear of control is what’s keeping you from offering online scheduling to your clients, then reconsider. You may just find the switch to be worthwhile for you and your clients.
Cindy Iwlew is the co-founder of Bodywork Buddy massage software (www.BodyworkBuddy.com), a complete online-management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling. She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 14 years, and has been an associate instructor for Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy since 2007.