Making appointments with your massage clients is really an art form and it is really an important part of building a successful massage business. The appointment is of course how you will make your living. The more appointments and the more repeat appointments the better!
When clients are calling to make an appointment (or emailing or using your online scheduling system), you never really know what process they went through before they called or emailed. Were they in pain for weeks before finally calling? Did they wake up this morning and think they couldn’t take it anymore and just had to get in? Had they gone to their doctor a month ago who recommended that they start getting regular massage because they are so stressed? Did they get a gift certificate from someone and they really have never gotten a massage so they don’t know what to expect or what to do? Are they regular users of massage and have had many massages during their life? When you think about the many possibilities it can see that the one thing in common is that they eventually find you and contact you for the appointment. The one thing you can provide is a easy way to contact you and make the appointment and set up your schedule in a way that supports you in what you need to be successful and to take care of yourself. Creating this framework is often a process of finding out what doesn’t work and creating new boundaries to support what does work for you and the clients.
It is important to have set hours so that clients can know when to expect that you will be in the office. Having set hours also helps in creating and supporting the therapeutic relationship with clients. I also have a set of regular weekly or every other week clients who come in at the same time on the same day, making it easy to remember and fit into their schedule. Having a regular time and day, helps take the stress out of getting to a massage and gives people a sense of security or knowing when they will see you again. This is actually an important part of dealing with transference that happens with clients. Transference is a very complex process that happens between the client and the massage therapist. It happens in every relationship to some extent for that matter – family, friends, schools, church – you name it really. Transference happens in a relationship with a power imbalance. A client will think of the massage therapists as someone with more knowledge then them about their body/muscles and will look to the massage therapist to ‘fix’ the problems. When the pain is relieved or they feel better, they feel nurtured which also has the risk of bringing up past issues/feelings of getting their needs met as a child. With the added touch component, these feelings can be amplified.
In the clients’ eyes, you become the wonder massage therapist. What keeps the feelings from being projected onto you is – any guesses? Yes Boundaries! Setting your appointment times helps create a healing container for your clients. They know when they are seeing you next so that they can depend on that. They learn that they are separate from you but that they can count on you. It is the boundaries that provide the actual real ‘healing’ letting them feel a greater sense of themselves and feel supported and cared for.
So having a set schedule – a starting time, a lunch time, an ending time can help clients feel more secure and will help you to take care of yourself. When you start extending your schedule to try to meet clients needs like working through your lunch, coming in earlier than you planned or staying later than you planned, chances are that you are going to end up feeling resentful. Through the years I have found that trying to accommodate clients and be there for them at any hour, usually ends up in clients doing things like not showing up for their appointment or showing up late or things like that, making them fall into the category of the ‘draining client’ and not an Ideal Client. Every instance will be different though and you have to evaluate every situation as to whether or not you will let your schedule slide to accommodate clients. Usually in the beginning of starting a massage business, you often feel like you have to be there to get the client and you come in at hours that you might not want to be there. The more you can set clear boundaries around the times that you will be at the office, and let clients create their schedule around you, the more people will actually respect you. Massage Therapist have a tendency to want to please everyone and will often let clients schedule according to the clients schedule letting their boundaries slide. The way you will know that your it is a boundary issue is usually you will start to feel resentful, exhausted and will feel like you are being taken for granted. So the clearer your boundaries, the more respect you will get as a massage professional. You also have to really evaluate each situation. If you do this once in awhile for a really regular client or someone in so much pain they are crying on the phone, and you do other things to take care of your own needs for time and nurturing it will most likely work out OK. Where you get into trouble is when it happens too often and you start feeling drained to the point of you won’t feel like going in to the office.
A few other tips for making appointments with clients that I have found to work is when you are scheduling a client – tell them what times you have available first so they can see if something will fit their schedule. If you don’t have many clients when you are first starting out, don’t tell clients that directly as in ‘I am open all day’. If you are open all day, start with telling them the optimal time for you -like if you have one appointment scheduled late in the afternoon, you will want them to come in the afternoon and not 8 am making you have to wait all day in between sessions unless you are doing a ton of marketing which would be a good idea too. The thing is to make clients think you are popular. While that may seem deceptive, I just think of it as it is none of anyone’s business. I also use it to take better care of myself by making the most of my time.
Some more tips for making appointments:
- Decide if you want/need online scheduling. It can make it easy to make an appointment. If you live in an area where people are more comfortable using this then it will work. If you work with retired people or people who are less computer savvy then it might be an issue. Online scheduling will let you take credit cards to secure appointments and send auto reminders to people if you are having issues with no shows or late comers. It is also much easier to then follow up with clients after their sessions which is an important part of building a referral network.
- Tell people your cancellation policy when they make an appointment. Have it on your website and intake forms but also tell people out loud to make sure they understand it. You can’t enforce it if people don’t know about it (well you can but they will probably be pretty mad!)
- Return phone calls/emails ASAP – within an hour if you can. People will be really impressed and grateful!
- If you are replying by email – don’t just say – Yes I have xxx open – ask questions about what condition they have or why they want massage.
- When people call and just ask how much do you charge they may start out just being a price shopper, but you can turn it around by asking a question about them first before you just say your price. Say something like “Are you calling because of some pain or health condition?” People will usually give a sigh of relief and start pouring out their story. Just listen! Ask more questions. Build the relationship. Then when it comes to price, most won’t care and it won’t matter anymore.
- Don’t let clients see your appointment book. First it is a privacy issue! Next if there are big holes in your schedule, people will fill it in with their own ideas about why you are not busy. Last week when I went to the convention, I had all Thursday open on my book. People may think other things like – hmm…they don’t want to see me, she isn’t busy, she might not be good…or whatever.
- ASK the client to make another appointment at the end of their session. This is preceded by a massage session where you are educating clients about massage and how it applies to the issues they are having in their body. It is about asking them what they feel when you find tight muscles and getting them to feel the change massage is making.
- Set your boundaries around late arrivals. If they come late, they usually lose the time. Again, you will have to evaluate each situation as to whether or not you will go longer (if you can go longer to make up the time.) In general, do not go longer.
- Tell people that you have people that come once a week or once a month. I have many who come twice a week and have for over 15 years! When I tell people that, they usually are wowed! and it gets them thinking and dreaming. My accountant says that most people say that they would get a weekly massage if they could afford it. People need to start understanding the value of a massage. Telling them that you have other clients coming in often gives them permission to do so themselves!
What other tips and tricks do you have for creating appointments? Share them here!