Start where you are at – know where you are at.
There are three parts to marketing a massage business…getting clients in the door and on the table in the first place and then getting them to come back. Having them refer all their friends and family members is the icing on the cake. I have talked about getting new clients that involves mainly using your website and online presence and getting referrals. Rebooking clients is another part of the five pillars for success. Rebooking clients is a much cheaper way to get clients on the table than having to get new clients on the table all the time. Filling your schedule with previous clients is just good financial health.
Becoming aware of all of the things that are involved in rebooking clients and becoming aware of how YOU rebook or don’t rebook clients is the best place to start. Once you are more aware of what you are doing or not doing, you can begin the process of learning to be a master at rebooking.
The rebooking process is a natural extension of your session. People rebook when they feel comfortable with you, value your service and are confident that they will get their desired results.
~Cherie Sohnen-Moe, Business Mastery
Personally, I have never been concerned with rebooking or rebooking rates. It always just came naturally with over 25 years of a handful of people coming once a week. I also have been billing insurance for car accidents, workers compensation and health insurance since the beginning of my career in 1989 so rebooking came more easily. People will come in more often when their insurance is payins
Fear of rebooking
We all have that fear of rebooking clients at one time or another in many different ways. We fear that we are not good enough and that people did not like the massage enough to want to come back. We don’t want to ask at the end of the session for fear of rejection. We don’t follow up with people because it challenges our beliefs in ourselves – what if they do want to come in again! It proves us wrong!
What’s the ideal rebooking rate? It depends on your business and what your clients need. I personally focus on injury and pain treatments so I recommend coming in once or twice a week for about 4-6 weeks to see where they are at. I personally don’t like doing maintenance massage so after that my booking rate drops. There is no ideal or preferred rate of rebooking so don’t let other people’s numbers drag you down.
Before they are clients.
When people are searching for a massage therapist and come across your website or Google listing or Yelp listing or are referred by a friend, your whole appearance online can help you in the rebooking process. People who find your website should see tons of articles and information to help show that YOU are the expert in massage therapy in your area. When you use your website to educate potential clients and current clients, they already come in to your office knowing you are someone that they want to see and would see regularly if your massage meets their needs.
If you are using online scheduling systems, your confirmation email/text should make them feel welcome and more comfortable. Have directions to the office with specific landmarks that they can look for. Have a way for them to contact you directly. Have your cancellation policies and no show policies in the communications too. Send your intake form or options for them to fill out the form previous to their appointment.
The intake process
When they show up for their appointment – first impressions are everything. Be on time and waiting for them if you can. Greet them professionally and personally. One of the things people often say to me is that I look like my photo on my website so there is some ease of recognition for them taking some of the anxiety out of the first appointment. Offer your hand to shake or watch for them to offer their hand. Handshakes still tell a lot about people.
It starts with the intake process and asking the right questions. It isn’t just the health questions you need to ask but the intake is where you can get to know what motivates a person to take care of themselves. Are they training for an event or are they a weekend warrior, gardener or traveler? Do they like their jobs and career path? Are they taking care of aging parents, disabled children, or sick partners/family members? What motivates them to seek better health? I have both a written and verbal intake process. The written form is filled out first with their health details and the verbal intake process is to ask more detailed questions to show my interest in them and the issues they bring to the table. I also ask them little personal questions like where do they work and usually tie it into me looking for information related to whatever complaints they have but the information also comes in handy when you remember things like that for their next session.
They usually want to be able to run faster, work without pain and tightness, play longer with their kids and grandkids. They want to work longer and harder in the garden or travel to exciting places where they will have to walk and hike. When you talk to clients, talk to them about their goals and what they want and then connect it to how massage therapy can help them do that. You will have to come up with your own personal message on how YOUR massage does that.
The massage session
The massage session is where you can teach people about their body and how massage works. Start with just pointing out tight areas and show them how it compares to the other side or other areas. The main goal of your session should be to educate clients about the value of massage. Educating clients is more than just spouting off information. It is about finding out what outcomes clients want and figuring out a way to deliver the results they want. You want to build trust and create value.
The main thing people are looking for is relief from pain and stress. Start with formulating a plan with people that will help them achieve their goals for better living. Having less pain at work will help them be more productive. Having less pain at home will allow them more time to enjoy their families and free time activities. Having less pain and stress will help them to engage more fully in the things that they love to do.
Your massage matters. Every massage you give has the potential to leaving a client in such a state that they are in awe of what just happened. Your work in each massage session is to do your best work and get the client engaged in the session. It is easiest to rebook people who have pain or health issues by explaining how massage can help them to alleviate or reduce their issues. Stress is also a big issue and getting regular massage could really help that.
Getting the pressure just right is probably one of the biggest things that can increase your rebooking rates. Developing a clear communication system about the pressure is an art and process.
I tell people that I can feel the tightness and triggerpoints and that working on these areas will often cause a feeling of discomfort or even pain and that even though I can feel these areas, I can’t know how it feels to you so it is important to speak up.
The customer is always right used to be the gold standard in customer service. Nowadays it seems like massage therapists are quick to fire clients when they are late, don’t show up at all or behave in challenging ways. Customer service is a combination of yes the client is right with setting boundaries to let the client know when their behavior is affecting their sessions. They may not understand what happens when they are late or don’t show. They are usually just thinking about themselves. You have to tell them clearly and make sure they understand your policies. Most people don’t read the policies even though you may have them printed on the intake or posted on your website. Make sure your client knows by having them repeat it back to you in some way.
If clients want to talk on the phone all session, that is their right. If it bothers you let them know you will wait outside the door until they are done. If clients want to direct you in your session and it bothers you, tell them how they can make the most of their massage session by focusing on your hands and the massage. Most often dealing with difficult clients is just a matter of being direct with them and setting the boundary.
People are paying for the massage therapy session so they have the right to receive the best massage that you have to offer. Work on the areas of their biggest complaint first to make sure you have it covered.
The Big Ask
Before the end of the session pull together the treatment plan based on what you have talked about during the massage session. Ask them when they want to come back next week to continue working on whatever issues they have. Once a week is NOT too often in general. The once a month thing is really to maintain one’s condition, not to make it better.
Before you ask them to rebook, ask them how they feel right then and there. Remind them of their problem areas and how it felt when you first started working on them. I usually finish the massage session working on the areas that were the tightest and show them how it feels now. People are often not aware of things like tightness or imbalances that may be causing their issues. Track your results!
Let them know your schedule for next week or the week after. If you are already booked, use this as a way to get them on the schedule when you can. Say something like I am booked out until this date but after that I can get you in once a week regularly.
How often should they rebook ? Once a week, once a month, once every other month? If someone is in pain and struggling, once a week is ideal. Once a week is also ideal for someone with a busy, stressful schedule even if they are not in pain.
Clients often need permission to come in for a massage regularly. They are often surprised to hear that others come in once a week or even twice a week. They hear other people’s story and it gives them the OK to do it for themselves too.
Some ideas for the ask:
- Does this time work for you next week?
- What time is good for you next week?
- I have been booking up quickly lately so you might want to get on the schedule now for next week or the week after.
- What’s the best time of day for you to come in next week?
Following up after they leave the office can help remind them to rebook with you. A simple email or text can be used to follow up. Make sure you have permission to contact clients in this matter. (HIPAA requirement).
They can’t afford it.
When people say they can’t afford regular massage they are often saying something different. True there really are families with low income that really can’t afford weekly or even monthly massage. The majority of people saying this are usually not saying what the true problem is because it probably involves telling you that you talked too much or they did not get the massage that they needed. Clients not speaking up and saying what they mean is often part of the transference process that happens during massage. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, yet they won’t speak up to clear up the issue and instead take the easy way out and just don’t come back. There may be massage therapists offering cheaper massage somewhere else and they might use that as a reason why they aren’t coming back. You have to decide if it would be worth it to offer them a discount to stay or not. Each person and each situation is different.
Having a membership program helps take the stress out of rebooking. Clients will sign up for a once a month or once a week package. You can have them pay for it by the month or by the year or whatever works best for you. Franchise membership programs usually automatically charge the person’s credit card each month whether they come in or not. If you do that, you need to allow the sessions to stack up or make it so they don’t lose the session itself otherwise you will have upset clients.
The idea of having an incentive program is similar to the membership program but as added incentive you will give them a small discount on the regular price if they buy a package of sessions – like 5 sessions for $85each instead of your $95 each. Another way to do this is to raise your rates to something higher than your regular rate and make the package rate your regular price to make sure you are getting what you need to make for each session. There are many options for giving incentives. There is the buy X amount and get one free. Client feel like getting one free is something special.
It seems like we are a reward driven society nowadays with the many shopping incentives everywhere. People also expect that from a massage business. You will have to decide the lowest you want to go before you start feeling resentful and balance that out with the value of keeping a client coming back again. See more on how to set your fees.
Why People Don’t Come Back
People don’t come back usually when things happen in the session that they don’t like. You talked to much. The pressure wasn’t just right. The room was too cold or too hot. The sheets are threadbare or smell like oil. There is mascara on the facerest cover. All the fine details of your massage business will come into play and add to the clients overall impression of you and your massage work.
One of the big problems is the client comes in and asks for work on their back and neck and you spend most of the time on their feet or other body part. If you are working on an area that you feel is connected to their issue, you need to explain what you are doing. If you are working on an issue not connected to their issue because you feel it is what you need to do or for whatever reason, you need to get with the program and make this about the client.
People may make up reasons why they can’t rebook immediately after their session. They don’t know their schedule or can’t access it or have some things that might come up at the last minute. Ideally rebooking them at the end of the session is ideal, but having an online booking system will also make it easy for them to make the appointment later when they have time to look at their schedule. Remind them in a few days or a week if they haven’t booked just with a simple email or text.
If they really are not rebooking, you probably have an unknown issue in your massage sessions or a clash in personalities. People who really really like what you do will easily rebook and they will also send all their friends and family members in too. If it is an issue with your sessions, you have to realize that not every style is for every client but be sure to check up on your style regularly and make sure you are getting massage yourself to know what it is like from a client perspective.
They also may not come back because you solved their issue!
Rebooking massage clients is a skill that needs to be learned. Keep working on this and watch your results. Keep changing your wording and actions until you get the right script that works best for you. It isn’t about being pushy or being a sales person. It is about just being YOU and giving your best massage session.
Other reading and resources
Marketing Massage. (affiliate link to amazon.com) How to build your dream practice by Monica Roseberry has a very complete section on rebooking clients that is one of the best I have seen.