By Leslie Young
[Editor's Note]

A confident smile, a reassuring touch, and a healing space.
These are the unique gifts you bring to clients. But are you sure you’re communicating with them as clearly as possible? Let me tell you why I ask.

Every two years, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals does a nationwide survey on the use of massage so we can help educate practitioners about how to meet consumers’ needs. We love sharing the 2011 results. A full 16 percent of Americans had a massage in the past year (about the same as in 2006, after a small dip in 2008). A whopping 83 percent of those users rated their experience an 8, 9, or 10 on a 10-point scale (10 being the highest). No surprise—they loved it!

That’s great, but I’m actually more interested in the feedback from the other 17 percent who told us their experience could have been better. These folks focused on three areas of improvement:

Environment: a group of clients said it could have been more relaxing, and another group said it could have been better/more private.

Intensity: a portion of clients said the work was too intense and, yet, a comparable portion said the work should have been deeper.

Therapist skill: some wanted the therapist to use more strength; others wished the therapist had additional skills; some wanted the therapist to use different tools.

The exciting (and frustrating) part about this feedback is that these clients’ needs could have been met with a few seconds of communication. “Are you warm enough?” “Is this pressure about right for you?” “I’m going to start the session now; is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable?” These little check-ins are easy for therapists to work into each session.

As a client, I frequently have the opposite problem: too often my massage therapist wants to talk and I want to escape. If I want a relaxing experience, I never, ever tell them what I do for a living. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to be direct with the therapist. And if it’s a challenge for me—with a doctorate in communication and just short of a decade of experience in the field—I can’t imagine how challenging it is for new clients.

It’s much easier to nurture the clients you have than to recruit new clients. Ideally you’re doing both, but perhaps it’s time to check in with your regulars to see if there’s anything you can do to better meet their needs. They’ll appreciate the touchstone. They’ll keep coming back. And they’ll tell their friends.


Leslie A. Young, Editor in Chief