resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
First Do No Harm?
There's no questioning the frightening nature of breast cancer, which strikes one in eight women in the U.S. – eclipsed only by skin cancer in terms of prevalence.
Spieth Thanks His Chiropractor After Historic Masters Win
Jordan Spieth didn't just capture the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide with his record-setting, wire-to-wire victory at the 79th Masters Tournament.
Professional Credentialing and Board Certification: An Ethical Faux Pas
Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care systems are coordinating care through accountable care organizations (ACOs) in order to reduce the cost of care and improve quality of care.
We Get Letters & Email
A House Divided? (May 1 issue) provoked significant response from readers. Here are several of the surprisingly similar comments we received.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
Rethinking Musculoskeletal Pain – A Public Health Perspective
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the world's oldest and largest association of its kind, founded more than 140 years ago and boasting over 25,000 members.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
ACA or ICA: Which Best Represents You?
Last June, I was honored to represent Texas ICA members as their representative assemblyman at the ICA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.
Green Tea Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects
Publishing their results in the journal Nutrients in May 2014, researchers showed that drinking the equivalent of 2-4 cups of brewed green tea (or bottled tea) daily improved cognitive function or reduced the progression of cognitive dysfunction in elderly subjects.
Our Biggest Challenges to Compete in Wellness Care
In the first article in this four-article series [May 1 DC], I made the case that chiropractors should either embrace offering lifestyle wellness in their practices or face the possibility of losing their place in the wellness care marketplace.
Giving Vets the Care They Deserve
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health care system in the United States.
Reducing the Autogenic Inhibition Reflex: Making Weak Muscles Strong
The autogenic inhibition (AI) reflex is a sudden relaxation of a muscle in response to excess tension.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
Leg-Length Inequality and Pelvic Fixation: A New Approach to the Negative Derifield (Part 2)
As we noted in our previous article, with a positive Derifield (+D), the doctor observes the reactive (shorter) leg in the prone position that becomes longer or "crosses over" in the flexed position.
January, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 01
When Your Clients Talk, Are You Really Listening?
By Ann Brown, LMT
In Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters: one for "danger" and one for "opportunity." As a massage therapist, any constructive criticism you receive should be regarded with a similar view.If you don't pay attention to the criticism, you risk continuing your massage practice in unsatisfactory and damaging ways, but if you do take criticism to mind with a conscious focus on improvement, you change criticism (and crisis) into opportunity.
Consider these two scenarios. You greet Client A as she enters your business. You cover your standard procedure of taking soap notes, covering the basics of what you need to know for today's massage service. Outside, the sounds of nearby construction rise and fall during the course of the treatment, but the client seems unbothered, so you don't mention it. You perform the massage and ask how the client feels when finished. Client A replies "fine," pays for the service, thanks you and leaves.
Client B arrives for her massage. You welcome her and go through the same intake procedure as you did with Client A. Client B says she is suffering from lower back pain and stiffness. During the massage, this session is similarly interrupted by the sound of construction outside your practice. You apologize for the noise when the client looks disturbed. At the end of the massage, you ask how Client B feels. Client B responds that the massage was uncomfortable and she doesn't feel the relief she wanted. She is unhappy with the noise interruption and disappointed with the overall service. You apologize again for the interruption and ask her to wait a day to see how she feels after the massage. She pays for the service and leaves.
As a massage practitioner, which client would you prefer to deal with? If you answered Client A, consider this – Client A never returns to your practice for a repeat visit because her first experience was "fine," but not a stand-out. She didn't complain, but went home and shared with her friends that her massage experience (one that she had been looking forward to for two weeks) was only so-so. While Client B leaves, you know that the experience was not satisfactory, and while no one likes to deal with unhappy clients, you are aware of the issues and have the chance to change that client's opinion of your service and practice.
Client feedback is only as useful as the intention we put into it. If you only ask how the massage was as a glib question, then you miss key opportunities to improve your service and practice and to create loyal clients that return again and again. Taking your interaction from routine to personalized and then showing the client you are listening, not simply asking, can boost your client return rate, improve your entire business model and help you increase revenue.
Before You Begin
Setting the stage for getting useful feedback begins before the massage. I've been to numerous day spas and single practitioners that miss out on capturing information at the start of the massage visit. In my last five massage experiences, the practitioner either didn't ask for anything or simply handed a waiver for me to sign. Many of you do take diligent notes, but as the consumer, I have to wonder – do they want to just give me a massage and say good-bye? Or do they want me to come back?
It doesn't matter if you are a 20-room spa or a one-man show. Your level of professionalism should not be based on your annual gross revenue. Go beyond the basics to show you care and to secure information on how to follow up, post-visit. Ask for clients' birthdays, email addresses, mobile numbers and if they prefer to be contacted via text. Set up ways to check in after the massage and create an ongoing dialogue with the client. Feedback takes on new meaning when it is not collected in a vacuum, but instead is part of your ongoing commitment to stay connected with your clients and respond to their needs.
It's important to note that you should be sensitive to your client when trying to get feedback. If the client is looking for a relaxation experience, too many questions while they are on the massage table will probably be off-putting. Likewise, for Client A, a question of "How was the massage?" immediately after the service was too close and personal to allow the client to provide honest feedback. A short survey emailed to the client after the massage, however, would have provided a safe opportunity for the client to relay important information to you about how she regarded the experience – and it opens up a channel of communication that didn't exist before. Using email allows for some distance, and if you prefer, sending out the survey via a third-party vendor might also help to reinforce your desire for a sincere and open response from the client.
Using Positive Feedback
If you have positive feedback from your clients, congratulations! But even if the response is positive, pay attention to the specifics and make sure you are getting detailed data. Instead of offering a scale of 1 to 5 for satisfaction, consider offering a scale of 1 to 7, so that your data becomes more reflective of the client's temperature concerning your business. The client who marked your spa as "average" on a scale of 1 to 5 may indicate "slightly above average" or "slightly below average" when given the opportunity, giving you better insight into your performance.
When feedback does reveal highly rated service and performance, note where your strengths are and what areas that the client appears to value the most. How can you improve your service offering or boost value to the client, as determined from feedback? For example, if you see that clients are consistently rating your technique and skill as high, but the facility is average, how can you improve the environment? Or vice versa?
Positive feedback is a great marketing opportunity. Where can you post testimonials from your cheerleaders? Put positive comments front and center from those that love you. Ask your VIP clients if you can share their comments on your web site and/or Facebook page, for example. Use your biggest advocates to your full advantage and develop a referral program if you don't already have one. Word-of-mouth advertising, coupled with an incentive to bring a friend, is golden! Keep up your communication regarding your referral program: Send out reminders to your clients so they don't forget the reward for making a referral.
Responding and Putting Negative Feedback to Work
In the opening scenarios, Client B immediately expressed her unhappiness to you. The first thing to remember is to listen to the client. Do not get defensive, but focus on respecting their opinion. Keep in mind the Golden Rule: How would you want to be treated as the client? Understand the value of the service you have offered. For most clients, they've looked forward to their massage appointment, so it's not just an issue of parting with money for an experience that didn't satisfy. The level of disappointment rises when the client has eagerly been anticipating the massage and carved out time for the appointment. One option for handling the situation, which some clients will demand, is to not charge the client for the treatment. The client goes away unsatisfied with the experience, but satisfied in the fact that she didn't have to pay for it.
Another option for handling the situation would have been to apologize to the client and offer a return visit at half-price or no charge, depending upon the situation. With this move, you both appease the client and create an opportunity to redeem yourself. When the client comes back and has a better experience, then you have likely turned someone who would have spread a negative impression of your business into a positive supporter. The case may arise, however, where you know you will be unable to satisfy a client. If their physical needs require a specialized skill, for example, you know that a return visit will not satisfy. Realize the importance of referrals and have a network ready. If the client will benefit from rolfing, know who to send them to. Focus on your strengths and communicate to the client where your expertise and skill lies, but also share the message that your number one concern is their health and wellness. When you are unable to provide the service they need, recommend who can. Your openness and focus on wellness should solidify your position and positive reputation in the client's mind.
If you receive negative feedback via a survey, a hand-written note goes a long way to ensure the client that you take their comments seriously and want to address their concerns. If the case warrants it, make a phone call to the client to show your dedication to creating a more positive experience. Make no excuses, but apologize and commit to righting the situation with an incentive to come back for another treatment within 60 days. Always, review your performance honestly after getting hard feedback. How could you have handled the situation better to avoid disappointing the guest? In the scenarios offered, a phone call prior to the treatments would have made the guests aware of the construction noise and given the opportunity to reschedule, if desired. You may also need to look at your intake questions. Are you asking the right questions to give you a clear picture of the guest's needs and expectations? The more you know, the more you can satisfy.
Good or Bad, Stay Diligent
A true commitment to improving your practice starts with creating a dialogue with, and listening to, your clients. Set up a system for monitoring feedback, responding and analyzing the overall data. Look at and respond to negative feedback as soon as possible, but also make a point to once a month and once a quarter look at the bigger picture of your performance. Some good questions to consider:
Collecting feedback but then setting it aside without really looking at it is an incredible waste of opportunity. Your clients are talking, so pay attention to what they have to say and focus on how to create a systematic approach to improving your business.
Ann Brown, a licensed massage therapist, is a member of the International Spa Association's board of directors and serves as spa director at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo. She also provides management consulting services through Spa Insight Consulting.
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