Client Communication Skills
Our verbal and communication skills are just as important to the success of our massage practice as our hands-on massage skills. We need to learn how to “craft phrases” – choosing the words to use, and how to say them – and practice delivering them until they becomes second nature – just like we learn and practice our hands-on massage skills.
In fact, we should consider “crafting” and practicing all of the key phrases or “mini-speeches” that we use regularly during our client interactions as they are instrumental in building – or demolishing – client relationships. Our communication “toolkit” can also be called upon in more social situations where we are, in effect, marketing ourselves and our business; saying the right thing can make the difference between gaining a valuable new client – or putting someone off the idea of massage for life!
The reason I suggest practising our communication skills until they become second nature is because they are usually required at particularly stressful or pressured moments, e.g. when a client arrives late, when a cancellation fee is due, or during a rebooking conversation. These are all situations where massage therapists tend to feel the least confident and assertive; ill-judged, clumsy, inappropriate or confusing comments can undo all the good work of the massage session, or derail a previously good client relationship.
We also need to ensure that our tone of voice, facial expressions and body language are congruent with the words we are speaking; if not we will be sending clients very mixed signals and may leave them feeling uncomfortable and confused as to what we really mean, or how we really feel about a given situation.
These are some of the most common scenarios where excellent communication skills are vital:
Client handling situations: effective and assertive communication during these interactions is essential for developing and maintaining a respectful, harmonious relationship with our clients and for maintaining strong, clear professional boundaries. Possible scenarios include:-
– Phone call from a prospective new client
– Client arrives late /chronic lateness issues
– Client cancels – cancellation fee due
– Telling client cost of treatment/advising of fee increases
– Client dissatisfied with treatment
Client education: this is a vital component of our Referral and Rebooking Skills but will also give clients greater understanding of their bodies, how massage can help them, and encourage them to change habits where necessary in order to get the best possible results from their massage. Common questions from clients are:-
– “What are “knots” in muscles?”
– “What are those grinding/creaking noises?”
– “Why do my joints click?”
– “Why do my shoulders/neck feel so stiff/sore/burning?”
– “How often should I come for a massage?”
Informal marketing situations: these can occur anytime we meet someone new and the conversation turns to what we do for a living:-
– “Elevator speech” the 30 second – 2 minute description of what you do
– What to say when asked “What do you do?” (Tip: the answer isn’t “I’m a massage therapist”)
– “Party speech” – what to say when strangers, once they know you’re a massage therapist, start telling you all about their ailments and asking for advice (or even for on-the-spot treatment!!)
The following is a particularly useful link from a US massage school’s website about how to craft your elevator speech:
So, think about spending some time putting together sentences, phrases, and short “speeches” that cover the above scenarios. Ideally, get together with another therapist, or a friend, and practice delivering them with confidence and conviction. As with all skills, they really only do improve with practice. Good luck, and have fun!