What is "client handling"?
"Client handling" is a term to describe all your interactions with your clients that aren't the hands-on massage session itself. They are mostly face to face during an appointment with a client, but also could be on the telephone, by email or other indirect contact.
Client handling encompasses a myriad of tiny details - and done well leads to your client deciding that you are an organised, dedicated professional, who has their interests and wellbeing at the centre of everything you do. Customer (or client) service overlaps to a great extent with client handling; we are not just in the massage business, we are in the service industry too. If clients don't like what we do, or how we do it, they will go elsewhere to find a therapist who does give them what they are looking for.
Why are client handling skills so important?
As massage has become more mainstream over the last 5-10 years, and massage clients have become more sophisticated "consumers" of massage, they have come to expect excellent customer service as well as a great hands-on treatment. In a very competitive marketplace, the extra mile that you go to provide outstanding client service may well be the thing that sets you apart from other therapists Â? and be the deciding factor when it comes to clients rebooking with you.
Exemplary customer service is an attitude Â? it's not just what we do, but how we do it, and we can't just pretend to care, we genuinely have to care. Clients will then feel listened to, respected, cared for and, above all, valued. A client who feels valued becomes a regular client. Great client care is one of the easiest and cheapest of ways to build a devoted following of loyal clients. You have worked hard to get new clients - it makes no sense whatsoever not to work equally hard to keep them
What are the key client handling/client service skills?
A client-centred attitude: your clients should feel that they are getting 100% of your attention and interest, and are at the centre of everything you do, from the moment they walk in through the door, to the second they walk out again. To achieve this requires you to be meticulously prepared and organised, but will reward you with satisfied clients and many repeat bookings. Putting the client at the centre of everything we do makes them feel valued Â? and they will value us and what we do for them in return.
Communication skills: Excellent communication skills are at the heart of good client handling. Explaining what you are doing and why, and letting clients know in advance how the session will proceed will put clients at their ease, build their confidence and trust in your expertise and abilities, and generally ensure that they have the best possible massage experience.
Attention to detail: there is no one big "secret", no "one" thing that we need to know or do to get lots of clients, and keep them coming backÂ? A great client experience relies, rather, on you paying attention to numerous tiny details, which together all add up to quality and excellence. Fantastic customer service is unobtrusive and unfussy, but makes the client feel that their needs have been anticipated and effortlessly met; combine this with a fantastic hand-on treatment and you have the winning formula for repeat bookings and numerous referrals.
Individualise your service: one way to make good service great is to treat your clients as the unique people that they are, and to make sure that you are doing all that you can to tailor your time with them to their own individual requirements. Making notes of their preferences regarding things like room temperature, music, oils, areas to be avoided etc will enable you to give them personalised service which they will truly appreciate and value.
Go the extra mile: always under-promise and over-deliver. A top quality treatment and exemplary service means that we can confidently charge a premium price. However, for clients to feel they are getting value for money, and to be happy with regular price increases, we have to put consistent and constant effort into maintaining standards of excellence. Don't just meet expectations - always strive to exceed them; surprise and delight clients with extra touches that cost no more than a little time and effort, but demonstrate your commitment to quality and excellence.
Put things right quickly and gracefully: "A criticism is a gift" (although it seldom feels that way at the time!). If a session hasn't gone well for some reason, then offer some recompense. You can always ignore the problem and take the money and run, but that leaves an unhappy, dissatisfied client who probably won't come back, and will tell all their friends about their experience into the bargain. If you offer money back, or a discounted or free treatment next time, they will feel that they have been heard, and their views respected, and you (very probably) will have kept a valuable client. We all get things wrong from time to time - it's how we deal with it that's important.
That said, there will always be people whom we can never please, regardless of what we do, and also do bear in mind that good customer service doesn't mean ignoring professional boundaries; unreasonable and inappropriate behaviour has no part in a healthy therapist-client relationship and should be addressed accordingly.
Helen Hunter has been a massage therapist for 17 years, and also a massage teacher, workshop leader and mentor. She set up mentoring for massage success, in response to the many stories she heard from therapists struggling to build their massage practices, particularly in the first year or so after leaving massage college. Mentoring provides therapists (at any stage of their massage career) with information, support, guidance, encouragement and motivation in all aspects of their practice building.
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