By Allissa Haines
Every business class teaches the basics of Customer Service: be reliable; have a clean space, easy scheduling protocols, and soft sheets; reward clients for frequent visits; use email or bulk texting to remind clients that you exist and that they love your massage.
You know the drill. These are standard and important techniques for gaining and keeping clients. But I’d like to dive a little deeper with clear client retention activities. That is, getting clients you already know on your table more reliably and more often. When I see empty appointments in my calendar, I like to consider what I’ve been doing—or not doing—and what I could change to get clients on the table with greater frequency.
I’m sharing a few of my favorite strategies for improving client retention, especially with clients who are simply irregular in their scheduling.
1. Listen, then do
Level up your communication skills before, during, and after a massage treatment. During your verbal intake, ask the client about their priorities for the session. Repeat it back to confirm you heard and understood. This might sound like, “So, you need some overall relaxation and some special attention to your jaw pain?” or, “It sounds like our goal is to get a little more movement in that sore shoulder, is that right?”
If there’s a specific issue or area requested, check in while you are working on that area. “Do you feel like I’m getting to the sore spots here?” Since our work doesn’t always garner immediate relief or change in pain or motion, we always want the client to acknowledge and remember that we attended to their issue as requested.
After the session, confirm that their needs were met to the extent of your ability. Ask something like, “How is your jaw feeling now?” or suggest some movement to gauge improved range of motion. Even asking, “Do you feel better than when you walked in?” will cement the value of massage in the client’s mind and make them more likely to book their next appointment before they leave your office.
2. Rebook and have a plan for the commitment-phobic
Asking a client if they want to schedule their next appointment should be automatic. It can feel uncomfortable at first, but with a little practice it becomes easier and more natural. But what about the clients who know they want to come back, but can’t commit to when? I like to offer a nudge. When I’m confident a client will be back but they say they can’t schedule on the spot, I ask, “Would you like me to send an email (or text) in four weeks with a nudge and a link to schedule?” This may not work for every infrequent client, but think about the patterns of some of your random schedulers and consider asking if they would like a nudge.
Make a note in your calendar on the best day to send that email, then do it. It can be short and sweet. “Hi Jane, I hope you are doing well. This is your nudge to book a massage soon! <insert your scheduling link>.”
3. Send birthday cards (or an annual card of some kind)
It’s old school and it works. Sure, you can do this with an email, but it’s better with a real, paper card delivered by an actual USPS mail carrier. You can get fancy and include a coupon with a special add-on or offer, but that’s not necessary. Just extending a happy thought is often enough to remind a client that they love massage (your massage, specifically).
If birthday cards are too much for you to manage throughout the year, consider picking a holiday or season and make it yours. Send a Valentine’s card to clients in February. Or every year at the anniversary of your massage business opening, send thank you cards to your full client list.
Choose one date or event to celebrate and stick with it. And after a year or two, you’ll be known for always having great Arbor Day or pretty summer solstice cards, and it will become part of your business reputation.
In a massage business, retention is a key factor in keeping a full schedule. Get creative and find the activities that work well for you and your business.
Allissa Haines is a practicing massage therapist and columnist for Massage & Bodywork magazine. You can read her column, “Blueprint for Success,” in the digital edition at massageandbodyworkdigital.com.