“Soo, ummm . . . would you like to come back?” <awkwardly pokes toe in the grass>. In this episode of Business or Pressure, host Allissa Haines talks through the after-massage conversations that help us better serve clients.
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0:01:02.9 AH: Welcome to Business or Pressure, taking the pain out of massage business with me, Allissa Haines. This is your no-nonsense guide to building a happy, sustainable massage therapy business. It is our mission to make sure that every massage therapist and body worker has the tools to make that happen. Let's jump in. Today we are continuing our conversation about communication. In the last episode, we talked about communicating before and during a massage to make sure that you are delivering the massage that the client wants and needs and the best massage that you can deliver. And now we're gonna talk about the things we say after a massage to best serve our clients and best serve our business. So the client gets a massage, they feel great 'cause you were great with your communication and you delivered the massage that they want and need and now you're done.
0:01:55.8 AH: So you leave the massage room and they pull themselves together and you get to the part where you are checking them out, essentially. If you are the kind of massage therapist who does this, I strongly encourage you to also follow up with written instructions, either emailed or texted to your client because people can't always remember really well what happens in the 10 minutes after a massage and you might not have a lot of time to be specific with them, but if you follow up, it allows you to be much more specific. You can send along some written instructions to whatever you have suggested or links to videos. Now, in a perfect world, we would all create our own video series of the self-care and stretching or whatever that we recommend to clients, but we do not live in a perfect world and not everybody is willing or able to create a video series.
0:02:45.7 AH: So I encourage you to find a source that you like. I have a YouTube channel bookmarked in my browser of a physical therapist. I really like her approach. She's got videos for everything and if I want a client to do a certain stretch, I look it up on her channel and send them along a link to guide them in their post massage care. So you show them the self-care or whatever, you've made a note to send along some written instructions afterwards, what's next? This is also a good time to communicate about how they might feel in the next few days. If your goal is to help the client to sleep better that night, you want to pave the way for them to remember how they feel. So you might say, "Hopefully you'll sleep like a log tonight. Just take note of that in the morning. Hopefully you'll notice an improvement in your range of motion tomorrow. Just take note of that."
0:03:42.4 AH: If you want the client to use cold or heat or do anything in particular, now's a good time. Payment, people need to pay you for your services. Now, it's possible that they've already done that, great, or maybe they need to pay. So how do you verbalize this? I encourage you, if they've already paid to acknowledge that, say, "Oh, you already paid online. That's great." And then you'll move on to the rebooking, which we'll talk about in just a moment. If they have not yet paid, I typically have my credit card, like my mobile device open and ready in front of me and I say, "Your total is $115. Are you using a card today?" Or you could say... And I say that because I encourage using a card, I don't like taking cash and checks are a pain in the neck. You might say, "Your total is $115. How are you paying for that today?"
0:04:32.9 AH: Whatever your line is, be ready to accept payment, physically be ready to accept payment, and that is helpful in sending the signal and verbalizing and feeling a little less awkward. You're not jumping randomly to a topic and also people expect to pay for a massage. So this is not unexpected news to them. So you've either acknowledged that they paid ahead or you have taken payment from them. And now's the real talk. Now is the asking for the next appointment. And oftentimes clients will jump into this themselves like, "Can I make another appointment?" And sometimes they literally don't know that they can make another appointment standing there with me. If it's a new client who booked online for their first appointment, they might think they have to book that way each time. It sounds weird, but I did run into this. It really happens.
0:05:19.5 AH: So the client might ask if they can make another appointment, but it's really your job to bring that up. Let's cover the really tricky stuff first, which is when clients say, "How often should I come back?" If you have strong feelings about this, if you are treating a particular issue, if you've got this specialty or you have this knowledge and you know how to treat this issue and you know what tends to work best, tell them that. You can say, "In treating this kind of issue, I found it's most effective if you can come back for an hour once a week for three or four weeks and then kind of space it out based on how you're feeling." And sometimes people will accept that without thought and they are perfectly equipped and funded to come back once a week, and sometimes they will demonstrate that they are... That's a little much for them. And it's okay to meet people where they're at. And I will say that out loud, I say, "But it's my job to meet you where you're at. So what works best for your schedule and your budget?"
0:06:23.5 AH: I had a massage instructor who taught us to say, "In a perfect world, everyone would come for a massage at least once a week. You should do what your schedule and your budget allows." And that really kind of subconsciously encourages people to think about how often they really want to come in and work towards that goal. With every client, it is our job to meet them where they are at without unnecessary pressure, without catastrophizing their issue, without making them feel like they have to come back within a certain window to effectively treat their issue. We gotta meet them where they're at and it's okay to say, "This is ideal, but what's gonna work best for you? Let's see where we can meet here." If it's not that kind of issue, then you're just asking for a raw schedule without a lot of context around it. And that's fine too. You can say, "Would you like to make your next appointment?"
0:07:20.7 AH: There's a gentle sales approach where you verbalize the question as if assuming they want to make another appointment, which is great, we should always assume our clients wanna come back, rock on. And you can say, "When would you like to come back?" There is also a more assertive sales technique where you say, "Would you like to come back next Thursday at 5:00?" Where you give them an appointment time that's as soon as you want the appointment to be without necessarily conferring with the client about that. It works for some people, it doesn't work for me, it makes me feel awkward and then I just end up not scheduling anything at all. I tend to say, "Would you like to make your next appointment?" Or, "Would you like to make a plan to come back?" If it's a client I don't know real well yet and, or I know them and sometimes they make their next appointment and sometimes they don't, I say, "Would you like to make your next appointment now or do you wanna wing it and schedule online when you're ready?"
0:08:17.4 AH: Now, this is like decidedly not super salesy, right? 'Cause everybody's gonna say you need to catch them in the moment and book that darn appointment, but not every client wants to do that. So I offer, when appropriate, the do you wanna wing it and make that appointment online when you're ready. And if someone wants to do that, I offer the opportunity for a nudge. I say, "Do you want me to drop you an email in a few weeks to remind you to book?" And a lot of times they say, "Yeah, that would be great. A reminder would be great." And I make a note in my calendar in like two weeks to email that person. And that email usually says, "Hey, this is your reminder to book your next appointment." And it has a link to my schedule page. And this merges right with my next suggestion, which is, if you've got clients who come back but kind of irregular or they always call you last minute, you wanna set some expectations. And you can do that by saying, "My schedule is getting a little busier, would you like to book now so you can get the best appointment time for you?"
0:09:20.3 AH: You're setting that expectation. I did this yesterday and it felt a little bit uncomfortable 'cause it was a client that I hadn't seen in like 10 years and then they called me a couple weeks ago and said, "I am in pain, can I get in?" And they had to wait a couple of days, but I was able to fit them in within like four or five days. And they came in and they felt better in the appointment. And when they left I said, "Do you wanna make another appointment?" But I hadn't seen the person in 10 years and I'd only seen them like once or twice before that. And she said, "I'm gonna see how I feel." I'm like, "Okay." And then of course she called like three days ago feeling better, but still having a little bit of pain and was like, "How soon can I get in?" And I was able to fit her in and it's my last appointment for this month that was available and I had to go in a little bit early to do it, but I decided that I wanted to, it worked with my schedule.
0:10:11.0 AH: So I gave her the appointment and then when I saw her, I gave her the massage, she felt much better. She was continuing to improve and at the end when I was having this whole conversation with her, I said, "It is unusual to be able to get in so quickly with me." And so I asked, "Do you want to make a maintenance appointment three or four weeks out?" And she hesitated just a moment and I started to feel really, really weird and awkward. And she went, "Yeah, that would be a really good idea." The key here is to ask, and if you think someone's on the fence, you can give a gentle nudge and offer booking an appointment as a service to them and not necessarily a favor to you. It is a service to a client to think ahead and make sure they get an appointment time that works best for their schedule.
0:11:02.9 AH: It is a gift to them. You are a very good massage therapist and getting an appointment with you is awesome. You're doing them a favor. Now, whether or not you have booked another appointment for this client, you get to decide if you wanna do an email or a text follow-up to check on them. I don't do this as much anymore, but if a client, especially a new client, comes to me and they're in some kind of pain or they're having some kind of issue that is likely to be resolved or significantly helped or not with massage, then I tend to follow up with them a few days later. I drop an email because that's how I primarily communicate with my clients. If you're someone who texts, this is fine too. I wanna know if what I did had any impact and I wanna be able to make a note and help that client remember how they were feeling a few days after the massage.
0:11:56.4 AH: All right, so you've made the next appointment or they have decided they're gonna book it on their own later. Now is the chance to let them know if you're the kind of massage therapist who follows up. So if you're gonna send them an email in a couple of days or a text in a few days to ask how they're feeling, let them know that now. And you can say, "I want to keep track of your progress here, so I'm gonna drop you an email in a few days just to check in on how you're feeling." Set that expectation so that when they get that email from you, they're not gonna initially react as, "Oh, this is a sales email." You're just checking up on them. So if you are the kind of therapist that does that and you get to decide if you wanna follow up or not, set that expectation so they know they're gonna hear from you. And the last bit I wanna cover about communicating with clients in this realm of bringing them back in, I think it really helps to have a protocol, a policy, a pattern in place to contact long lost clients, clients that don't rebook and you don't see them for another three to six months.
0:13:00.3 AH: You get to decide the criteria of this and it's helpful to use the tools built into the systems you already have. So if you use an online scheduling system, there may well be a feature that allows you to automate an email that sends to somebody. In my system, I had it automated to send an email to anybody who hadn't been in for the last eight weeks and didn't have anything booked in the future. That email says, "Hello, I hope you're feeling great. It's been a while since you've had a massage. If you want to make an appointment, you can book online here." Sometimes clients will reply and say, "I've been thinking of you. I wanna book something, but I have to wait till I get back from my vacation." Or, "When the kids get back in school, I'm definitely gonna schedule an appointment." And if you're kind of old school or just like a written medium, you can send a birthday card to clients.
0:13:55.3 AH: You don't have to offer a discount or anything, you can just send a birthday card to clients or you can do holiday cards. I have a friend who always does a greeting card in January. She sends a Happy New Year card the first week in January. It's a great way to remind clients that you exist and perhaps they want to schedule another appointment. And it's a nice gesture to clients who already come in regularly and it's a wonderful retention technique for clients who do not schedule regularly. And that covers communicating with a client immediately after the massage, setting expectations for payment and scheduling and follow up. All of this communication, it can take place over four minutes. It sounds big, but once you get into a rhythm, it's actually really quick and efficient.
0:14:43.1 AH: Today's high five goes to whoever invented this cleaning cloth keyboard cover combination that I got when I got my new computer. So you can buy these computer screen cleaning cloths and they come in sizes that will effectively cover your laptop keyboard and then you close the computer right over it and they're awesome because when you put this cloth over your keyboard and then you close your laptop, all the natural oils from your fingertips that are on your keyboard, they don't get smeared against your screen. I know this sounds ridiculous, but if you're the kind of person who spends a lot of time on a laptop and you open and you close it a lot, and even after you wash your hands, you've got either a little bit of residual massage oil or you've just got like that residue from soap sometimes, your computer screen and your keyboard can get so filthy and grimy.
0:15:39.1 AH: With this cloth, that doesn't happen and it's awesome. And also I can clean my eyeglasses with it and it's always right there. So high five to the laptop cleaning cloth keyboard cover. You can get it for like six bucks on Amazon, rock on. If you have a question about running your business or an idea for an episode, reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me building websites and playing with my community of massage therapists over at deepbreathdigital.com. And make sure that you are subscribed to ABMP's podcast so you don't miss a beat. There is so much to learn about building and maintaining a massage practice. We're gonna help you cover the business and marketing side, the communication skills, and all the things you need to help you be successful. I will meet you right here for the next episode. I can't wait.