What's Your Come-Back Strategy

5 Steps to Getting Clients to Rebook

By Kristin Coverly

The art of getting clients to rebook includes more than just asking them to (although, yes, that’s incredibly important, and we’ll get to that). It’s about creating value for your work in your clients’ minds—value that motivates clients to overcome the all-too-common barriers of time and money to come back on a regular basis. So, how do you showcase that value?

Get Personal
Clients say one of the main reasons they don’t return to a therapist is that they didn’t get the session they asked for.1
Every client comes to their session with unique goals and needs—unique from other clients, but also unique from one session to the next. I’ve been working with some of my clients for 15 years, and they come to each appointment with new requests for areas of focus, specific injury work, or stress reduction.
Start every session by asking your clients what their needs, wants, and goals are for your time together. It might take them a minute to figure out how they’re actually feeling; be ready to help them with a self-assessment if they need it. Then, put your active listening skills to work; repeat back what you heard and work together to create a unique plan for the session. This is also the perfect opportunity to catch and discuss any unrealistic expectations the client has about what might be accomplished in one session and set realistic goals together.

Connect the Dots
Wouldn’t it be lovely if clients would intuitively recognize all the benefits of the bodywork they’re receiving during and after their session? Sometimes they do—which is fantastic—but often they don’t because, let’s face it, they don’t understand all the potential benefits of the work. It’s our job to educate and help them understand. As soon as the session ends, their mind might already be racing off to the next item on their to-do list.
Help clients hit the pause button and assign value to the work they just received from you by recognizing the physical and emotional changes that occurred during the session. Check in with them about all the areas of concern they had before the session and ask how differently each is feeling now: More range of motion? Less pain? Decreased anxiety? Etc. This is such an important step, because if they don’t connect the dots between how differently they feel after the session versus before—and how beneficial your work is—they may be less motivated to come back for more.

Ask For It … Now!
The absolute number-one rule for rebooking success: ask clients to book their next appointment right after the session, when they’re still with you in person and you both have your calendars in front of you. And, most importantly, ask when they’re smack dab in the middle of experiencing how great your work feels and they’re fully educated on its benefits because you’ve just had the connect-the-dots talk.
So, how do you ask them to rebook? That’s really up to you and what approach you feel most comfortable with. Some go with the “assume” approach: “When would you like to schedule another appointment? How many weeks from now should I look for availabilities?”
And others “recommend”: “Based on your current areas of concern, I recommend you make another appointment in two weeks. Let’s look to see what’s available.”
There are many, many variations on the theme. The most important pieces are (1) you’re saying or doing something to encourage clients to rebook in the moment, and (2) you’re comfortable and confident with whatever approach you’re using. Clients will sense if you’re uncomfortable, and it often comes across as a lack of confidence in your own work; plus, you’ll dread saying it, which means you won’t do it half the time. What works for one therapist may not work for you, and that’s absolutely OK. Find your version that’s true to who you are as a practitioner, but is directed enough to get another session on the books.
And, if you’re already scheduling another appointment, why not schedule their next two or three so they can lock in the dates and times that work for them, and you can increase your retention rate?

Take Control
What if, for whatever reason, your clients don’t want to (or can’t) rebook right after the session? Do you let them leave your space with a little wave and a “Hope to see you again?”
No! Put yourself in the driver’s seat for whatever happens next. Take control and ask how and when they would like you to follow up with them to book their next session: “Should I send a reminder text next week with some appointment times for four weeks from now?” “How about I send you a follow-up email with a link to my online scheduling program?”
Give clients options, but pin down what the next step will be and make sure that you’re the one in charge of the follow-up.

Revisit the Past
You know all that work you did at the start of your session to encourage clients to do an extensive self-assessment and the conversation you had about how your work affected their specific concerns? That wasn’t a once-and-done deal. Begin the next session by checking in about how those problem areas feel today, how long the effects of the work lasted, etc. Review the thorough SOAP and session notes that you’re writing after every session (right?) so you’re prepared.
To understand the value of massage and bodywork, clients need a constant reminder of how effective your work is, and they often forget what you focused on in the previous session. Picking up the dialog where you left off last time reminds them of the work you did together and its lasting effects. It also identifies chronic problems that may need additional attention or a modified treatment plan.
Don’t wait until the next session to check in with clients; a “How do you feel?” phone call, text, or email a few days after your massage shows incredible customer service and reminds clients of the benefits of your work.

From the Client’s Perspective
By Mary Abel
I had been dealing with some chronic shoulder pain for several months. I enthusiastically sought out a local massage therapist who specialized in pain management.
After my massage, which I felt really good about, I looked forward to the conversation in which she would share her thoughts about what the problem might be and how she might help me manage my pain.
The conversation didn’t happen. As she processed my payment, I felt like I was trying to telepathically will her to tell me when I should come back. At that moment, I needed her to be the expert. I was desperate for her to tell me what to do. I wanted to book another appointment, but she just thanked me for my business and sent me on my way. I never heard from her again.
Mary Abel is associate editor for Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.

1. Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals 2015 National Consumer Survey, conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc.

Kristin Coverly, LMT, kristin@abmp.com, is the manager of professional development at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP). She blends more than 15 years as a massage therapist with her background in marketing and public relations to help therapists develop unique strategies to successfully market and manage their practices. Watch her business webinars in ABMP’s Education Center (www.abmp.com/ce), including “Yes, You Can Market Your Practice! Essential Marketing Skills Made Easy.”