Why Empathy is Important and How to Bring it Into Your Massage Practice
By Meredith Simmons
Imagine you’ve just met a new customer for the first time. What do you do first?
In all likelihood, you’ll welcome them, start a discussion about what brought them in for a massage, and seek to make them feel at ease. While this may seem like a basic part of your client intake process, it’s actually an example of empathy in action. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, and it's of the utmost importance to build a successful massage practice.
Now, think about that same new client again, but this time, imagine you immediately have them go on the table and, without building any rapport, begin treating them. Starting a session that way probably seems foreign to you, and may make you emotional, unsafe, or concerned. Whatever it is you’re feeling represents the value of empathy in your business—without it, you won’t perform at your best.
The value of empathy expands beyond a massage therapists' first initial interaction with a client though. Empathy will help guide you in determining the cause of a client’s physical or emotional concerns by asking them questions and getting to know their history. It will also help you understand and feel when a customer is uncomfortable or feeling tense under your touch, and give you the tools to explore what you can change.
A massage practice grounded in empathy is significant for both you and your clientele, which is why we’ve gathered four ways you can be more empathetic in your practice daily.
1. Let your customers book online
Your customers lead busy lives, and it can be hard to find the time to call, text, or email you to schedule their next massage therapy appointment. Make it easier for them by offering online booking through your website or an app. That way, they can book when it’s most convenient for them, whether it’s on a break at work or when they wake up in pain from a stiff neck at 2 AM.
By allowing your customers to book when it’s convenient for them, you may see your bookings increase. After all, you don’t know how many potential clients you may be missing by requiring a phone call. With a massage booking software, your potential customers can book with you 24/7, 365 without you having to worry about a missed call or an email delivered to your spam folder.
2. Utilize emails
After your customer books an appointment, send them a confirmation email. This follow-up may seem simple but provides confirmation of the appointment and ensures your customers feel valued. As a bonus, some email service providers will automatically add information from appointment confirmations to your customers’ calendar, meaning fewer no-shows for you.
Marketing automation tools can even send appointment reminder emails (or text messages) to remind and confirm your customers’ appointment time. That simple reminder will save some heartache later, and your customers will thank you for it.
After the treatment is complete, send a follow-up email to your client with anything you’d normally tell them as they leave the therapy room. This will allow you to send them on their way in a post-session bliss, rather than with harried reminders to drink lots of water, that they may feel strange emotions, or book their next appointment.
3. Use the power of an intake form
While intake forms are necessary for bodyworkers to treat your clients, sitting in a waiting area filling them out can be frustrating. Try digitizing the process and sending your forms via email before the appointment. Changing this process will show your customers that you value their time, and, in return, they may give you more of their attention when they fill out the form.
This will also help you know exactly what to discuss with them and how to address it before you ever meet them in person—you won’t have to read a form while they wait and you’ll know about any allergies, pregnancies, or other important information before the customer walks through your door. You’ll be prepared, and they’ll be impressed.
4. Listen to your clients and remember what they say
Every customer is different—some will enjoy the quiet of treatment and some will want to chat throughout the process. When a customer talks, they are confiding in you—that trust should be rewarded with your attention. For example, imagine a customer is training to run a marathon. They’ll likely tell you the date of their big race, and, as it approaches, you have the opportunity to recommend a longer appointment or upsell a custom treatment package for physical healing the week after the race. While it will drive more revenue your way, it will only work if you remember what they’ve told you during previous appointments.
It might seem daunting, but here’s a little secret: if you use massage management software like MINDBODY, you can log all of those conversations in one place. Block a few minutes between sessions to write a few notes about what you talked about, and go back to your notes before their next appointment. Those logs not only help you refresh your memory each time your client comes in, but it also helps them feel valued, respected, and heard. Over time, those logs may even show treatment patterns that you can use to help them achieve better results and healing, ultimately leading to a healthier life.
Overall, there are a lot of benefits to being more compassionate and empathetic in the way massage therapists approach their customers—it can help you build stronger relationships with them. Plus, it can save you time, earn you more money, and help you retain them long-term. Building empathy throughout your booking, intake, and post-treatment practices doesn’t have to be overwhelming; start by focusing on one part of your practice over the next few months. Over time, you’ll notice a meaningful difference, and your customers will thank you.