Better Client Communication

Effective communication can help consumers better understand how massage therapy can be a part of their health and wellness goals.

May 28, 2014

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You want your clients to feel cared for and, perhaps more importantly, you want to provide them with services that take into account where they are with their health and wellness, as well as where they’d like to be.

From the Top: Communicating During Intake

Be welcoming. Particularly if the client is coming to see you for the first time, effective communication can begin from the time they step into your practice—and be a key component in establishing a trusting relationship. Be sure to make eye contact and welcome them to your practice, asking them their name preference as you shake their hand. If they give you a name other than what’s listed in your appointment schedule, like a shortened version of their full name, make sure you use what they prefer. If needed, make a note for yourself so when you go to reschedule or during follow-up appointments you remember. It’s a simple idea, but can go a long way in building rapport with new clients.

Intake form. A well-organized intake form is a great first step in getting to know your clients, and a great way for them to communicate to you a wide variety of information, such as any problems they’re having, recent injuries, chronic and past health issues, as well as any allergies or sensitivities they may have that need to be considered during the massage therapy session.

Consider grouping categories of information in a way that makes sense to you and is easy for the client to quickly understand and fill out. For example, you might have a section for personal information, along with any experience they have with massage therapy, current health, as well as health history.

For some of these sections, the way you organize information will likely depend on personal preference. You may want to be able to scan health history information by body system, asking clients about health conditions that have affected their musculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory, digestive and nervous system, for example. Or, you might find that categorizing health conditions according to how they affect the client is a more efficient use of your time.

Remember, it’s imperative for you to easily locate necessary information, such as any medications the client is currently taking or any recent injuries, inflammation or surgeries they’ve had, so give some thought to where on the form these questions should be so you won’t miss them.

You also need to be able to quickly scan and process information that may require you ask the client additional questions to better gauge how massage therapy can help, so consider how easily your current intake form allows you to do this and make changes if necessary. For example, you’ll need to know how a client with arthritis or diabetes is managing their disease, so having an intake form that makes this information easily accessible is key. Especially for clients with special medical considerations, your intake form should allow you to quickly and easily establish: cautions and contraindications, the benefits massage therapy might provide a client, as well as things you might need to do to maximize client comfort. 

Verbal intake. The information a client provides on their intake form will ideally lead you to questions that help you focus the client’s expectations of massage. If, for example, a client comes to you dealing with pain, try to ask questions that help them get very specific about how they’re feeling instead of general, open-ended questions that may not solicit the same kind of information. You might ask them for a few words that best describe their pain instead of a general question about how they’re feeling. Or, help them pinpoint one or two things they do that give them relief instead of a general: What makes you feel better? The more you can focus the client’s attention, the more helpful and detailed information you’ll get—which, in the long run, helps you plan a massage therapy session that will provide them the most benefit.

Also, your clients need to know that you understand what they’ve told you, so summarize the intake and give clients the opportunity to clarify any information for you that they think you misunderstood. Don’t hurry your clients. Remember, they want to feel like you are listening and interested—invested in their health and well-being.

Managing the Middle: Communicating During the Massage Session

Some clients might like to talk during a massage therapy session, but many will want to focus their attention on their own relaxation. No matter their preference, however, you are going to need to periodically check in with clients.

Pressure. Although you may have talked about the type of pressure the client expects during the intake process, you still need to check in with them during the massage session to ensure they’re comfortable. A simple question like “How’s the pressure feel for you?” or “Is the pressure OK?” may be all that’s needed. If the client is dealing with a chronic health condition, too, checking in about pressure may need to happen more often. Remember, asking clients for feedback instead of waiting for them to tell you shows you are paying attention and invested in the success of the massage session.

Comfort. Similar to pressure, communicate with your client about their physical comfort. Ask if the room temperature and volume of the music are OK. Also, check in with them about the comfort of the table. Is the face cradle comfortable? Do they need anything adjusted? Again, the point isn’t to interrupt the client’s massage therapy session, but you do want to make sure nothing is negatively impacting their experience that you could easily remedy.

Putting it all Together: Communicating After the Massage Therapy Session

Getting clients through the door is great, but you also want to help them see the value of making massage therapy an integral part of their health and wellness regimen. The end of a massage session is a great time to get some feedback that can help you create loyal clients.

Exit interview. Though an exit interview may sound formal, it’s a great way to reinforce the benefits of massage therapy. Take a few brief moments to get a client’s impressions of the massage session. Ask them questions that will help focus their attention on how they’re feeling so they can connect improvement in pain or relaxation with massage therapy. For example: “We worked to relieve pain in your lower back this session. How would you rate your pain now?” Or: “You noted on your intake that stress was one of the main reasons you came for massage today. Are you feeling more relaxed now?” The goal is to connect the dots for the client so they better understand the benefits of massage therapy—and the need for regular appointments.

Teach self-care. You should also share any self-care tips you might have during the exit interview, particularly if a client remarks on how massage therapy has helped. Can you put together a brief handout of common self-care techniques in advance that you give clients after a session? Or, if they’re dealing with a chronic health issue, do you have information you can share about how massage therapy might help them manage symptoms? The goal here, as with intake, is to show your clients you are invested in their health and well-being—not just their business.

Stay in touch. After the massage therapy session, find meaningful ways to stay in touch with your clients. If you have a Facebook page that clients subscribe to, for example, share articles that are relevant to their needs. Do you have a client with osteoarthritis? Share a link regarding how massage therapy has been shown to help relieve pain.  

Or, invite clients to subscribe to your e-newsletter so you have a point of regular contact with them and can share information about your practice, the benefits of massage therapy and health and wellness tips.

If marketing strategies are what get consumers to come to your practice, good communication, among other things (like a great massage experience), is what helps keep them coming back.

Communication touches every aspect of the massage therapy session, from how you welcome clients to your practice to your intake to helping them understand the benefits of massage after a session is over—and taking the time to communicate effectively and with care can turn first-time massage consumers into long-time, loyal clients.