Some may recall the famous line from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Failing to communicate can be a game-changer in dealing with clients. In fact, it may be the reason some clients seek another massage therapy provider, even though your service is of the highest caliber. That’s why honing your communication skills is as important as continuing to improve your expertise as a massage therapist.
Greet massage therapy clients
Effective communication begins when clients walk through the door. If clients book online, communication starts when they check-in at the reception desk at the designated hour. A new client may be apprehensive, especially if this is their first massage. You’ll want to put them at ease with a warm greeting immediately.
Next comes the intake session that is given and take. The intake session's goal is to find out what pain or discomfort a client is experiencing and what are their treatment goals. In addition to talking, you’ll want to look for nonverbal communication cues from clients to make sure you uncover any concerns or apprehension about the session that they feel uncomfortable discussing. For example, some clients may be uncomfortable about disrobing but are too embarrassed to raise the issue. Look for the nonverbal cues, and you’ll see the discomfort on their face or in their body language. Discuss draping and find out if there are parts of their body, particularly, they prefer you don’t touch and others that they want you to focus on.
Intake should focus on a client’s:
- Area of pain
- General health to determine what might be underlying an issue
- Mental state if stress is the reason for the treatment
- Current actions to address pain or stress/anxiety
- Occupation, which will have an impact on how much a client sits or stands, for example
- Previous experience with massage
- Treatment goals
First-time clients also may wonder how much they should communicate during the session or if they should assist you in any way in terms of moving or lifting parts of their body. Don’t wait for them to raise these issues; address them during the intake session.
Effective communication continues during the massage
Verbal communication should continue during the massage, along with constantly watching for non-verbal cues. Check-in with clients during the massage to make that the pressure you are applying is comfortable. Don’t wait for a client to tell you if something is bothering them. Be proactive and check in with them.
Similarly, a client’s physical comfort is paramount. This can be affected by room temperature, music – too loud or too soft- and table comfort. While a client may prefer a quiet, non-verbal massage therapy experience, ask questions to ensure the experience is positive and that nothing is impacting it negatively.
Conducting the exit interview
Before the client leaves, conduct an exit interview. You’ll want to find out if the massage met a client’s expectations regarding relieving pain or reducing stress. You will also find out what about the massage the client liked and some aspects that could have been handled differently or better. The goal is to provide an experience that is seamless and addresses a client’s specific needs. Asking questions is how to find out if the client had a satisfying experience.
The exit interview also provides an opportunity to provide the client with self-help tips so that they can extend the benefits of the treatment at home or deal with a chronic pain issue.
Communication builds trust and strengthens relationships. When you ask questions, provide information, and convey that you care, clients know that you have their best interests at heart. That keeps them coming back.