When you’re servicing the growing massage therapy market, a high degree of professionalism and client focus is critical. Whether you’re opening a new massage business or you’ve been operating for years, there are certain non-negotiables in terms of behaviour and processes.
Here are 10 tips to help you develop and maintain a reputation for the utmost professionalism.
Don’t be late – EVER! Being on time for client appointments is critical for the ongoing success of any business. Nobody likes to be kept waiting. To your busy client in the waiting area, your inability to treat them at the appointed time indicates a failure to manage your previous appointment properly, and shows a disregard for them and their time. This may also affect their mood and disposition, thereby negatively impacting the ensuing massage experience, for both them and you. Good time management is a skill that needs to be practiced. Not only is it professional, it also helps to establish rapport with your client by showing them that you care about them and their needs.
Be very aware of your personal care, hygiene and grooming. Give thought to the type of clothing you’re wearing, the length of your fingernails and stay away from using strong perfumes or aftershaves that can overwhelm the client and detract from any essential oils you are using therapeutically. Being neat and tidy will give the impression that you care about your business and its reputation. By making sure these small things are looked after, you can really increase your levels of professionalism.
Introducing yourself and addressing your client by name are the first steps to building trust and establishing a friendly, professional relationship. Pay close attention to your body language; be open in posture and demonstrate an energy that matches your intention to therapeutically work on your client. Intent is everything.
In addition to practicing great face-to-face communication, ensure you deliver the same standard of professionalism in your other forms of contact. Answer your phone by stating your name and business and giving a friendly greeting. Return any missed calls promptly: nothing screams ‘unprofessional’ like having to be chased up by a client. One missed call is acceptable, as long as it is returned or at least acknowledged promptly.
If you manage your own incoming calls, you obviously cannot answer while you are treating another client, but if you manage your time well then you should have a few minutes between appointments in which to either return a call or at least send an SMS of acknowledgement and promise to return the call later that day.
Ensure that you have a voicemail message that clearly states your name and business, along with an apology for being unable to answer the call and a confirmation that you will return the call within a certain short timeframe. Be sure to follow up on this promise.
When it comes to emailing your clients, respond in a timely manner, don’t use overly informal language, and ensure you always sign off professionally (seeing ‘Sent from my iPhone’ at the end of an email is not a professional look).
If you use social media or apps to communicate directly with clients, ensure you maintain the same high standards you apply to in-person, phone and email communications. It goes without saying that the general messaging, posts and communications from these platforms and your website, if you have one, should always reflect the professionalism of your business. Your business platforms are not the same as your personal platforms.
Before your client arrives, spend some time centering your energy and letting go of your own agenda. This assists in giving a balanced session and helps stop any negative energy transference to the client. Your session is about your clients’ needs and not your own. A client will definitely notice any tension on your side and may not come out feeling as relaxed as they should be. By putting any of your own personal anxieties aside for the duration of the massage, you’ll be able to provide a better service to your client.
Create an environment that reflects your business and the type of therapist you are. This will help with congruence and promote good energy flow. You don’t need to overpower the room with candles and incense. Instead, choose decor, lighting, music and scents that suit your style and your business. By creating an atmosphere that you yourself find stress-relieving, you’ll enhance your massage performance and thereby increase your client’s ability to relax and benefit from the treatment.
Keeping your hands on your client throughout the massage is a golden rule. When moving between limbs and positions, remain ‘plugged in’ to the session. It can be unnerving for a client (particularly if it’s their first massage) to be unaware of where you are in the room or in relation to their physical space. Not knowing what you’re doing can put the client on edge and prevent them from relaxing.
You are client driven. Unless your client generates conversation, leave them to relax. It may seem rude at first to not say much (if anything at all) to them during the session, but in reality this is ideal. Not talking means that you can allow your client to relax and unwind without feeling obliged to make small talk. It’s bad enough being trapped with someone at a social function, trying to think of topics of conversation, but lying on a massage table for an hour presents little opportunity to make your excuses and leave when the conversation dries up. If your client wants to talk, however, feel free to respond.
Don’t become complacent around draping. The technique of exposing only the area of the body that is being worked on at the time can help your client feel safe and shows a clear respect for personal boundaries.
Some clients will have questions regarding draping and being partially undressed during their session. Answer any of their questions, respond appropriately if they appear concerned, and drape them in a way that ensures they don’t feel overexposed, unsafe or uncomfortable. If a client appears to feel uncomfortable, offer some advice and details of the session before starting. This will ensure they understand what will happen in terms of needing to turn over or have other areas of their body worked on.
Allow your clients time to gently refocus before emerging back into the world – especially if they are going to be driving after a relaxation massage. Some clients may even fall asleep during a session, and waking from a daytime nap can make anyone feel a little ‘off’. Even relaxing deeply can have the same effect. Give your client time to come back to reality and feel refreshed before they leave.
Rushing them out of the door also runs the risk of making them feel undervalued as a client and reluctant to return to you. Incorporate a few minutes of readjustment time into the session, rather than following it, and ensure your bookings never overlap by allowing a few minutes buffer between appointments.
Allow your client to debrief, give your recommendations and complete your notes. Ask them if they have any questions or concerns and if they would like to book a future session. If this debriefing is left unfinished, you may carry thoughts about the session or the client’s treatment needs into the next appointment, which will negatively affect your focus – so don’t overlook it.
Ready to take the first step towards becoming a qualified massage therapist? The Australian Institute of Fitness offers practical and comprehensive massage therapy courses.