Whether you like it or not, your facility and your staff will make a lasting and powerful impression upon clients within the first 10 seconds of their initial contact with you and your business.
Little things mean a lot. Despite the fact you put in an enormous effort to do a good job for your client, the appearance of your waiting room and the attitude of your staff can subtly work against your efforts to help your clients.
Is your waiting room comfortable, clean and orderly? The slightest lack of cleanliness will cause client concerns about sanitation in your health facility. One of your employees should be responsible for monitoring the waiting room’s appearance, restack magazines and remove leaves from the floor and cups from tables.
Another problem that can occur within the first 10 seconds of a client entering your massage business is the front-office staff is “too busy” to greet all incoming clients—and if they do acknowledge your client’s presence, it is in a grumpy and offhand manner. The client is left feeling unimportant, insecure and confused. Your staff should be trained to greet each new client with a warm, cheery smile; make them feel welcome and special, and that you will be with them as soon as possible.
Along the same lines, the phone should never be answered in an impatient manner. It is easy for a hard-pressured staff to fall into this pattern—especially when work is piling up, clients are vying for their attention and the phone lines are ringing, all at once.
It must be impressed upon your staff how important their job is both in its daily function and as a representative of your facility to clients and referring therapists, dentists and doctors.
The next potential problem area in a clinic involves the financial responsibilities of the client. Your office should have clear policies about this, and the client should be informed as to what is required regarding payment for your services, keeping appointments, etc.
Clients become irritable when they are made to wait more than a few minutes beyond their scheduled treatment time. While this cannot always be avoided, if this happens consistently, your excuses will run thin.
Clients should be brought back into a clean, tidy room with a clear explanation about what clothing they are to remove and where any gowns and blankets are located. This avoids needless embarrassment.
Before you have even entered the treatment room to meet your client, the client has had a chance to evaluate your massage facility, your staff’s morale and attitude, as well as your clinic’s handling of business matters. Has your client been positively impressed and looking forward to meeting you, or will you be fighting against tremendous odds?
Now it is your turn. Do you enter the room with an air of professionalism and confidence? Is your appearance clean and neat? Some people view professionalism as an attitude of arrogance and aloofness. I strongly feel this is a major mistake born out of feelings of inferiority. In my mind, professionalism is an intelligent, warm, caring attitude that is attentive and nonjudgmental.
Listen to what your clients tell you, and respect them by intelligently informing them of your plan of action and mutual goals.
I also feel strongly that, except in isolated incidences, it is unwise to allow any of the client’s family or friends in the treatment room during treatments. Family and friends, even with the best of intentions, will tend to distort what you say or focus on the negative, upsetting the client unnecessarily.
Plus, if you are truly functioning in a high-caliber manner, you should be able to bring out the client’s innermost feelings and conflicts, which are an important part of his total symptom complex. This can never be done with someone else in the room.
It is also important that the individuals helping you in the treatment process be neat and clean, and wear badges with their tag and title clearly printed. We must remind ourselves and those working with us to have the strength of character to drop any personal or business concerns before working on the client. It is our responsibility to uplift the client, not drag her down into the mire of our worries.
Conversations with clients should be directed toward their concerns and redirected toward self-responsibility, always being aware of clues from clients to determine their needs. This allows no time for idle chatter into which we can so easily be seduced. I have seen too many good therapists bog the client down with their own personal problems or lose track of time.
The 10-second principle and the points I have just covered are evident to most of us with any experience in the health care profession. However, in reality, systems we set up for the protection of our clients and ourselves slowly erode. We become so busy, we forget or do not have the time to monitor the responsibilities of others in our team. We assume they are doing the correct thing. Slowly, without realizing, pieces begin to disappear from the system until it collapses in disarray. Most people need and appreciate strong leadership and clear-cut guidelines to function happily und efficiently. You or the leader of your managerial team must monitor and re-evaluate these functions at all times. By doing this, you will have a cohesive and content team that produces the kind of results you expect.
John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is an international lecturer, author and acknowledged expert in the area of myofascial release. He has instructed more than 75,000 therapists worldwide in his Myofascial Release approach, and he is the author of Myofascial Release: the Search for Excellence (Rehabilitation Services Inc., 1990) and Healing Ancient Wounds: the Renegade’s Wisdom (Myofascial Release Treatment Centers & Seminars, 2000). He is on the counsel of advisors of the American Back Society; he is also on MASSAGE Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board; and is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. For more information, visit www.myofascialrelease.com.
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