Whether you have your own massage practice or are working as an employee in a spa or other professional setting, it is important to make a good first impression and then continue that reliable service each and every time you massage your clients. Too often, massage therapists forget what a session feels like from the client’s perspective. These tips will help you keep your practice fresh and interesting for clients who come in just once, and for clients who you see once a week. These ideas are meant to be supplementary of course, and are not meant to replace a consistent, quality massage. Clients should always be treated to unwaveringly good service, timeliness, and professionalism by massage therapists.
Reception / Waiting Room Area
When your client arrives, the first thing they should feel is a sense of being welcomed into your practice. Either you or a receptionist should check them in, offer them something to drink, and if you are not ready to see them immediately, offer the client a seat in a waiting room until the massage. Clients should be comfortable in the waiting room, but remember that waiting areas are not meant as places to “hold” a client until you have time to see them. Massage therapists should make sure the waiting room is a quiet place for clients to decompress before the session, but by no means should the client be there for an extended amount of time.
It is a good idea to keep a table in your waiting room with a fresh pitcher of water and glasses, so that your client can stay hydrated before the massage. Clients often come in for massages after a long day at work or after being stuck in traffic on the highway, and providing a small, healthy snack like a granola bar or fruit may also be appreciated by hungry clients before the massage. Therapists should provide a variety of family-friendly magazines catering to both men and women. Be sure to frequently rotate your magazines around so that while waiting for the massage, clients are not forced to read the same content week after week.
In the Massage Room
Prior to greeting your client, run through his or her S.O.A.P notes and review any notes about music preferences or aversion to scents from any prior massage. Clients might be tired of a specific CD, and it is a good idea to make a small note about what music you listen to during each session and review these notes to make sure your music selection stays fresh, just like magazines. Additionally, many massage therapists burn scented candles or oils in the treatment room. Make sure you ask your client periodically whether or not they like the scent, and if they do not, be sure to make a note of this as well.
After you greet and escort your client into your massage room, be sure to explain to them what to do with their clothes and shoes before the massage. For clients who are regulars, you do not have to repeat your entire speech each time, but massage therapists should always say something like “I’ll knock in a few seconds after your have time to hang up your clothes and get comfortable on the table” before leaving to prepare for the massage. Clients who have received massage before likely know the drill, but massage therapists should always give each client the same attention and care as a new client instead of simply saying something like “ok, see you in a few.” While the client is undressing, be sure to have a variety of places available to store personal belongings. Massage therapists should provide at least two hooks behind the door for coats and garments, perhaps a small basket for shoes (this makes them easier to move if you find they are in the way during the massage), and a small container for personal belongings like cell phones, watches, jewelry, etc. When not provided these amenities during a massage, clients may feel frustrated by having to fold their clothes on a chair, or may feel awkward about hanging their clothes up on a door. By providing multiple options, you make everybody happy.
Of course, you should approach your treatment session with the same professionalism and care that you would during each massage. Therapists should make the environment interesting, but remember that it is the massage clients are most interested in. Stay focused, listen to your client’s needs, and consistently provide the highest quality massage possible.
After the Massage
After the massage, and depending on your client’s preferences, it is a good idea to close with a saying or “thank you” to the client. Massage therapists should rotate these sayings around at the end of a massage – clients may be tired of hearing “thank you” each time, and something as small as saying “thank you for coming in today” or “thank you for your time” may be just the small change needed to keep it interesting. Before leaving the room, let your client know that you will leave a hot or moist towel on the shelf in case they want to get lotion off of their hands before getting dressed (some massage therapists offer this as an option, others do not – it is up to you). It is also a nice gesture to leave a mint or piece of candy next to the towel so that clients can feel fresh and awake each time they leave the massage. Clients should be greeted in the waiting room with a fresh glass of water from a pitcher – a refreshing way for massage therapists to offer their clients a healthy alternative to bottled water. While your client checks out, do not simply say “goodbye!” and walk back to your room, but spend some time speaking with him or her about any changes felt, ask about problem areas that are still bothersome, and recommend personalized stretches that the client may use between sessions.
It is easy for massage therapists to fall into a routine, and these small tips are simple ways to spruce up your practice just enough so that before, during, and after a massage, clients stay interested and know that you are concerned about their comfort.
Laurie Craig, the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Jerome Perlinski American Massage Therapy Association National Teacher of the Year award, is a respected health science educator, who serves as a subject matter expert and test item writer for the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. She has also participated in test item writing for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. With more than 25 years of varied experience in massage training in Atlanta, Laurie used her in-depth industry knowledge to open Georgia Massage School in Suwanee, Georgia. She combines her unique teaching skills, professional acumen, and passion for teaching with a comedic edge that students remember and embrace years after experiencing her classes.