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Bodywork Buddy Blog

Bodywork Buddy: business management software for the solo therapist that keeps you organized and makes tax time a breeze.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Aren't Clients Re-Booking?

Are you having problems building return clientele?  Clients not re-booking as much as they used to?  Clients often times will have simply gotten out of the habit of getting massage.  But if most of your clients aren't returning or re-booking, something is not right.

Here's a few suggestions to get you thinking outside the box and getting a different view of some possible reasons.

Receive a massage on your table.  Is your room comfortable?  Did you feel comfortable getting undressed and on the table?  Is your table comfy & cozy?  Does it have enough cushion?   Is there a big ugly water stain on the ceiling right above the table?  (This is how I discovered my ugly ceiling & a creative fix.)  Is the room too cold or too hot?  Is the massage cream frigid on your skin?  Are you staring at dust bunnies and lint balls on the floor under the face cradle?

Receive a massage from a business similar to yours.  (For example, if you work in a chiropractor's office, go to another chiropractor's office.)  What are other's doing that is different from you?  What do you like or dislike about other places?  Visiting other businesses can be as much a lesson in what not to do as it is what to do.

Receive a session from a business that is very different from yours.
(If you work in a private practice, get a session from a spa).  This can be a great way to think outside the box and open yourself up to other possibilities in your own practice.

Survey clients (with an online, anonymous survey) and ask for their honest feedback.
Often times, clients will feel more comfortable giving feedback anonymously and are more likely to be honest.  You might be surprised what you learn.

Take some continuing education classes to get your creative juices flowing.
Don't just signup for any old class because you need some CEU's... find a class that looks inspiring and that will add value to your practice.  I've had many clients comment that they love the fact that I am always learning something new.  Clients who have been coming to me for years are still surprised when I add fresh techniques to their session - they thought they knew all my tricks!

Here's some of the most common reasons clients don't return (in my opinion):

  • The therapist talks too much.
    Be mindful of your client's body language and non-verbal clues.  Are they keeping their answers short... but you keep talking?
    Have you communicated (verbally or non-verbally) to your clients that it's OK for them to be silent during their massage?  Sometimes, clients just need permission.  They might think it's rude to not talk during their massage.  Once given permission, they will often be silent and sink into a deeper state of relaxation they didn't know was possible.
  • The massage room is too cold.
    It's a delicate balance to keep the room cool enough for the therapist, but warm enough for the client. I've received a massage before from a therapist who keeps her room very cool.  She keeps a heavy blanket on the client, but the problem is that the body part she is working on is exposed to that cold air, and it's difficult to relax.  I haven't gone back.
    There are some other ways to ensure the client stays warm enough without making it uncomfortably warm for you.  (We'll explore those ideas in a wintertime post.)
  • The therapist doesn't deliver the type of massage the client requests.
    If your clients are asking for deep tissue, but you have a passion for reiki and therefore "talk them into reiki" or... just perform reiki when they've asked for deep tissue - don't expect them to come back.  If this kind of thing is happening a lot, it's a good time to re-evaluate your marketing and make sure you've got a clear target market of clients who are interested in your particular services.
If you've examined the above and don't recognize yourself, yet you're still not getting clients re-booking, there is one last thing to consider as a reason why clients didn't rebook:
Nobody ASKED them to!

What are your thoughts?  What do you think are common reasons clients don't return?

*Thanks to fellow therapist Ginger for the idea on this blog topic!

Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling

She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 13 years.


  1. indeed a great topic. However I would like to explore how to keep a client comfortably warm in a cool room during summer as well. Where I work we generally keep the temp set to about 72 in the winter and I have a table warmer as well as use hot towels.
    In the summer since it is sweltering hot here I generally keep the table warmer off. The temp of the room is usually between 74 and 80 depending on how hot it is outside and how our ac is working...
    What other suggestions do you have?

    1. Good point, Justine - it's important to be mindful of keeping the client warm in the summer months too! I'll move this topic up sooner rather than wintertime ;-)

    2. All of the above are excellent considerations! In my opinion, the reason clients may not re-book is that the therapist does not communicate accordingly and find out exactly what their needs are and follow through with it. Whether it is the temperature, the pressure, the type of massage, etc. It's all about them, not us! We all make positives and negatives in this profession (as do other professions) as this is how we learn and tweak our businesses... However, if the client is not feeling like they are number one no matter the reason, there is no reason for them to return. Did we send them a thank you note? Did we give them water? Did we respect their boundaries? Did we return their call within a reasonable amount of time. The list goes on.... In a nutshell, experience and being as aware, mindful and customer service oriented as possible is key! Oh I am sure I will realized I missed a few as soon as I hit "Publish"!! Have fun all, because it's not a job, it's an adventure!!!

    3. You're so right - it all comes down to excellent customer service. Thanks for the comment - several good point in there. Love the thank you note!

  2. I live in a small town,and the list of massage therapists is short.So I'm amazed that the #1 reason I don't book locally is when i call to book an appointment no one ever calls me back,ever. I have given up.

    1. Wow! I can't believe how much I hear of this very problem. It seems like biz 101, doesn't it?

  3. My sister and I just opened our own day spa about 5 months ago. We've had probably over 500 clients since we opened and only 2 or 3 people have complained about something. For the most part people really love our place. We do great massage(been practicing for 5 years) , we're in a great location, have great reviews on yelp, our prices are comparable to everyone else around, no water spots or stains on the floor, we keep things very clean, it's not to cold or to warm, the table feels comfortable, and the majority of people say our place smells great. We even ask every client to rebook, but they're still not!!! We don't understand why or whats going on and even if they do they call and cancel a few days before. We can't figure it out. Does anyone else have this problem and any suggestions on what we can do to fix the problem???

    1. Thanks for the comment. I'm going to post this on our Facebook page and see what kind of ideas other MT's have for you.