One of my clients recently told me about an experience of going to another massage therapist, and why they chose to not return. Over the years, I've often had clients share feedback of why they didn't stick with previous MT's they had been to. I'm sure there are similar stories out there from clients who had been to me in the beginning of my massage career... before I realized some of the things I might be unconsciously doing that was hindering me building my business.
So I put together a quick list of the common reasons I hear from clients of why they moved on after previous massage experiences.
Room was too cold.
Remember, while the temperature may feel fine for you (or even warm for you while you're working) your client is laying on the table with only a drape and is getting their bare skin exposed to the air. Add some refreshing massage creme and you have a perfect recipe for a cold massage! It's hard to relax when you're cold. While a blanket and heated table can help to keep them cozy while covered, each body part being exposed while being worked on can be very uncomfortable if the room isn't sufficiently warm.
The take away: set your temperature in your space with your client in mind, not yourself. Check in with the client on temperature. Ask "are you warm enough?" rather than "are you cold?".
MT talks too much.
I can't even begin to add up how many clients have told me over the years that what they love about our sessions is that I don't talk. (I do have clients with whom I do talk, the important part is that I leave it up to them).
The take away: let your client set the tone for how much talking will happen in their session. Don't speak unless your client speaks. If they ask you questions, keep your answers short to allow them to choose to go silent if they wish. Clients might not know that they have the permission to be quiet and just journey inward. (and they'll never know if you keep talking...)
Too much pressure / too little pressure.
Clients have told stories of getting practically beat up in a session, and the therapist didn't check in on pressure once.
The take away: check in on pressure at least once. (not constantly, we don't want to break the flow of the session). Also check for non-verbal cues of going too deep. Are they tensing up? Wincing? Give the client permission to give you feedback on the pressure. A large percentage of getting a good session is communication between therapist and client. We, as MT's, need to make sure our clients know that this is their session and we can and want to customize it to them. Sometimes it takes more than just a "let me know if you want more or less pressure" at the beginning of a session.
MT didn't feel present.
"It didn't feel like she wanted to be there".
The take away: your clients can feel when you're not loving what you do or where you work. Have a lot on your mind? Running through your grocery shopping list while effleuraging their quads? Getting angry as you think over that comment from your MIL while taking an elbow up their erectors? Yikes! Your clients can tell. As a client of mine recently said "you can't fake being present". While I'm certainly guilty of not always being 100% present (life happens! It's understandable that sometimes your mind will wonder when you have a lot going on outside of the massage room). But for the most part, try to clear your head before you start your session so that you can really focus on your client. This is their hour. Be fully present for them and they will notice, and will likely become a regular.
Not given full time.
If you advertise $1/minute and charge $60, you better give 60 minutes! it's ok to do shorter time if it's known that you only do 50 min hours, etc. Or "an hour is approximately 60 minutes on the table". However, if you advertise it as $1/minute, and only give 52 minutes while charging $60, clients WILL notice.
The take away: this is about managed expectations. Lots of spas offer 50 minute hours, and it's not typically a problem because they're upfront about it. Clients know what to expect.
Massage felt rushed.
"The whole session felt rushed and they skipped over several areas".
The take away: this has nothing to do with amount of time on table. A friend and colleague of mine who works as a large spa that only allots 50 min hours has said that the time limit doesn't have to hinder the feeling of a slow and rhythmic massage to the client. Focus on slow, broad strokes and being present. It's still possible for clients to feel like they received an amazing massage in 50 minutes.
It felt like MT was just doing a routine, rubbing lotion on my body with their hands, or MT didn't listen to what areas I asked for more or specific work on.
The take away: Check in with your client. Listen. Watch for non-verbal signs of what their body needs. Remember that while you do massage all day, your client only gets a massage maybe once a month (maybe less than that!). Make it a memorable one, not one that would just blend in to your full day of sessions - all of them looking exactly alike. It's likely that we all learned a lot of different tools in massage school, and only use a handful of them regularly. Change it up a bit. Add in some different things that you don't do every single session. Feel like you're in a rut and need some new tools? Check out some continuing education. I find this is the best way to beat boredom in massage and to rekindle that spark; reminding me why I love massage in the first place. My clients also frequently comment on the fact that I'm always evolving and learning new things.
What reasons have you heard from clients on why they haven't returned to previous MT's? Or what comments have they made of why they've chosen your business? Maybe this post and your comments can help a newer massage therapist just getting started, or even help a more seasoned massage therapist make their sessions even better.
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 15 years. www.BodyworkBuddy.com