We hope you have all been enjoying our "Ask The Muscle Whisperer" series. This month we asked the UK massage industry's top thought leaders to share key tips for massage therapists to help their massage therapy businesses navigate no shows and cancellation as we face the inevitable rise in clients neeeding to cancel due to Covid-19!
You can watch the full video with all the specialist's answers compiled together HERE.... or watch each specialist's answer individually in shorter snippets below underneath their name!
How you handle no shows or cancellations can be very personal to you, so I will share what I do but of course you will pick and choose what best suits you. However, there is one suggestion that everyone should do, you need to have a cancellation policy that you consistently stick by and ensure your clients are aware of prior to their appointments.
At the moment I do not expect to have a surge of cancellations due to Covid as many of my clients have not seen me for a while and are desperate for a treatment. However, I have made it clear from the start what my cancellation policies are. I have posted it on my website and I remind them in the conversation while booking their appointment, I reiterate that they need to give me a 24 hour notice if they are feeling unwell in order to avoid any cancellation fees.
I also check with my clients the morning of the appointment, at this time I do a Covid assessment prior to them coming in, either in the form of an email with the reiteration of the procedures they need to follow or by calling them. I have also posted on my website an explanation about any changes that have been made due to Covid, what to expect and what they need to do to ensure a minimal risk to both of us.
If any of my clients are at high risk of cancelling, I will try to book them at the end of the day, firstly this allows me time to fill the slot if they cancel in the morning, but also if I cannot fill the session then I have a shorter day, I usually take advantage of the extra time and go out for a long nature walk.
You also have the option to incorporate a booking system online that accepts a deposit for the appointment or captures their credit card details so if they do not show it still takes payment. I am not one of those high-tech people, I am a bit old school and take appointments over the phone, so I generally put new clients at the end of the day. If they don’t show and have not called to cancel, I will put them on the naughty list and if or when they try to book again, I will remind them that they owe for the previously missed appointment (this goes for all my clients).
Covid is not the easy option for cancelling, it follows the same principles of any condition that entails poor health. My clients respect my time and value the treatments hence I generally do not have any problems.
If you make it clear what your policies are from the start it will circumvent future hassles and minimize the time you spend negotiating cancellations.
Watch Susan answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!Susan Findlay
For Emma it is so important for massage therapists to have clear terms and conditions including a cancellation policy displayed on their website and / or emailed to clients before booking their massage treatment. Emma asks for 48 hours notice and charges the full amount if someone cancels within that timeframe but for Emma whatever you decide to set your cancellation policy as you need to be realistic and stick to your guns! Having respect for your time and skills as a massage therapist is crucial in order to run a successful massage therapy business and attract the type of clients you want to have.
Due to Covid-19 Emma is asking people to pay in advance which has removed some of the issues around no shows and cancellations. If however a client is displaying symptoms of Covid-19 we obviously don't want them to come into our massage clinics but you don't want to be out of pocket. Working out your honest costs for that hour including hiring a treatment room, childcare, parking etc and asking your clients to cover those costs at the very least is perfectly acceptable if you are communicating clearly with your massage clients. Depending on the area you are living in you could have lots of cancellations due to Covid-19 so you need to be realistic about your business costs and how to cover those during this time. Another option is to waiver the cancellation cost if they rebook within a certain time. Whatever you choose just make sure your cancellation policy is really clear and hopefully you can build a client base who is respectful of your time.
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Watch Emma answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!
For Earle, when he started his career in massage therapy he spent lots of time chasing clients who didn't show up to their massage appointments. What he learnt along the way is to be smarter with how we make our bookings especially at the moment as some clients might be anxious to return due to Covid-19.
So when a new client reaches out for an appointment Earle explains his processes, what they can expect of him as a massage therapist and what he expects of them as a client. He then refers them to his online booking conditions page, they need to acknowledge that they have read these terms and conditions by ticking a little box before they are taken through to book their massage appointment. At this stage they need to pay a non refundable deposit and they reminded that they will need to pay in full if they don't make their appointment or cancel within 24 hours. Earle stresses that is it important that we navigate this process carefully so that our clients do not think we are simply taking their money, but that they understand they are paying to reserve our services.
Earle then sends a text message to confirm their appointment at the time of booking to ensure the client understands the cancellation policy. Making sure your wording is really clear is crucial and it's possible to have some flexibility if our clients have a good reason for having missed their massage appointment. Our booking process and cancellation policies is something we need to constantly be working on and tweaking as things change for our massage therapy business. There is a wealth of software out there to help us but it is also important that we set expectations with our clients and show that we are serious about our services and massage therapy business.
With Covid-19 clients might be anxious about returning for their massage. Keeping your website, social media and processes updated will build trust and don't be afraid to talk about your health and safety procedures and your expectations! For returning clients we can be more flexible but we need to make sure we are still clear about what is expected from them. Earle also recommends selling vouchers offering a discount for a series of treatments when paid for in advance as another method of reducing no shows and cancellations for massage therapy businesses.
You can find more details on Earle's latest book 'Muscle Testing – A Concise Manual' by clicking the images below or find out more details on the next Hands On Training courses by clicking here.
For Sunita if you have maintained good relationships with your clients during the Covid-19 pandemic that will go a long way as we return to work hands on. It shows a lot of respect from you towards your clients which will hopefully in turn be returned in them showing respect towards your massage therapy business. When we have these good relationships with our clients we can be more flexible when it comes to enforcing our cancellation policies as massage therapists. Those clients may have a good reason for why they didn't show and we should give them a chance to explain. If that isn't the case, for example with new clients or existing clients who are in a bit of panic mode due to Covid-19, it's important to have boundaries. For Sunita you need to minimise the effect on your massage therapy business, you can't operate professionally if you are having a high percentage of no shows or cancellations.
The obvious thing you can do is to send out reminders a couple of days before their massage appointment. Sometimes clients simply forget their appointment or write it down wrong. This also gives people a chance to rebook as well. You can also introduce financial penalties and enforce this by taking people's credit card details at the time of booking. You need to make sure this is clear to your clients and you need to pick a level of penalty that you are comfortable with.
Ultimately if you are seeing a high rate of no shows and cancellations it might be worth looking through your client base and your processes. Are you attracting the wrong kind of client with your marketing? Are you getting your skills and services across in the right way online? Levelling up your marketing and messaging can be a great way to demonstrate you are a serious business worthy of people's respect.
Watch Sunita answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!To check out all Tri-Dosha has to offer, including Sunita's newsletter, give them a follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Susan Findlay
For new Muscle Whisperer Nikki Wolf as massage therapists we need to think about whether we are seeing a lot of no shows and cancellations? If we are we might need to assess why? Our clients need to respect our time and our business and if they aren't we might be attracting the wrong type of client. If you are only having a few no shows and cancellations the key is to make sure your massage therapy business has a clear cancellation policy. This cancellation policy needs to be really visible, send it out via email and lay out your boundaries to both new and old clients. In this policy make sure you include timeframes and penalties. You can choose whatever feels right for your massage therapy business and once this is in place you have the ability to be flexible!
Depending on the circumstances you can decide whether or not you charge your client for missing their massage appointment. Maybe you feel like their reason was genuine and you can let them know that on this occasion you will wave the fee as a favour. Some massage therapists let all first time offenders off the hook but its entirely up to you!
Having a clear cancellation policy is step one in how you can handle no shows and cancellations as a massage therapist but often enforcing it can be a little trickier. This is where Nikki recommends using a booking system that requires clients to pay up front for their massage appointments. This removes so much hassle both for you as the therapist and also for clients who can head straight off after their massage treatment. This saves you needing to chase money and gives you more control over the cancellation process. If they wanted to pay on the day and then cancelled you have a right to enforce your boundaries and ask for the money when they come to see you next time. If they don't come back, you don't want them as a client anyway, simply black list them from your books and focus your energy on your wonderful clients who respect your time and pay you for your skills.
With Covid-19 we will need to be more flexible as massage therapy business owners as we do not want people with suspected symptoms coming into our clinics. It doesn't make sense ethically or financially to risk it. We can end up with our massage clinic being closed for weeks and be even more out of pocket, yet alone the impact we could have on our clients. Setting up a cancellation list is a better way to keep your spots filled than risking clients turning up when sick because they don't want to pay a cancellation fee. It makes more sense to add a clause to your cancellation policy that removes the fee in cases that are Covid-19 related. Yes you will get some clients who lie to you but hopefully the majority will understand and respect you and your massage therapy business. Just keep in mind that sadly some things are just out of control but this won't be forever!
Watch Nikki answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!To find out more about Orchid Massage Academy, click here or find more details on Nikki's mentorship program, here. Alternatively you can follow on Facebook here
For new Muscle Whisperer Jayne there are 3 points of view when it comes to no shows and cancellations. Firstly a business point of view. Secondly from the point of view of our massage clients and thirdly from our own point of view. We are in unusual times at the moment with Covid-19 so Jayne's advice for the time being is to let clients cancel, even if it's last minute. It's just simply not worth the risk to you, your clients or your massage therapy businesses' reputation.
So from the client's point of view, life does happen! Kids get sick, cars break down and things just get in the way. For a lot of our clients they want to work with us to shift some tension and emotional baggage they have been holding on to. But sometimes as their massage appointment approaches they change their mind and are not quite ready to take that step. Jayne finds especially women find it hard to put themselves first and often time they put aside for some self care falls by the wayside to other priorities. From a therapist's point of view we need to try and be empathetic and find out why they weren't able to make their massage appointment. Perhaps we can send them some resources to help them and tempt them back. After all they have done the hard work, they booked the appointment and we don't want to lose them now!
From the point of view of the therapist we need to keep in mind that no shows and cancellations are not a reflection on you as a massage therapist. Do not fall into a spiral of self doubt, you are not a push over if you let people cancel. Being empathetic doesn't mean you treat your business as a hobby. But that brings us nicely to the business point of view. You need to keep a business perspective in mind as no shows and cancellations are a drain on your massage therapy business. But there are techniques you can use to avoid them.
You need to be always be clear on your messaging. Jayne ensures new clients pay up front for a few massage sessions. After dealing with their main aches and pains she gets them onto a schedule, usually a monthly appointment for maintenance, which they are invoiced for on the first of each month. Jayne always books her repeat clients into the first week, they then have time to reschedule if need be and Jayne has time to handle onboarding new clients during the rest of the month. Jayne's final tip is to always have something with you in clinic that you can do to use the time wisely if your client doesn't show. That could be paperwork but you could also use the time for some much needed self care!
Watch Jayne answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!Click hereto find out more about Jayne Burke Holistic Therapies or you can follow on Facebook, Twitteror Instagram.
Thirdly don't get cross! Lots of massage therapists don't have a cancellation policy or are not clear with their clients about what their policy is and then are cross when their clients cancel at short notice. Be clear what your policy is and tell people verbally, don't hide it a>way in small print on your website. We are going to have to be more lenient due to Covid-19 but this takes us to number 4!
JING's fourth tip is to have a back up! If you let people know from the beginning in their consultation that due to Covid things might be different you can switch people over to an online wellness appointment. If this is the first time you are considering this JING can help you develop an online program for your massage therapy business.
The final tip is to stick to a 3 strike rule! If a client cancels 3 times, let them go!
Watch Rachel and Megan answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!
For our latest Muscle Whisperer Caren switching to an electronic diary really revolutionised her massage therapy business! Caren recommends Acuity but her students have also used Clinico and some of the other fantastic options on offer. What Caren has found is that having an electronic scheduling system has substantially reduced the amount of admin work for her massage therapy business. Her system allows clients to rebook directly, removing the need for them to speak to Caren. This makes life easier for her clients and frees up time for Caren! Acuity also automatically sends reminders to her clients 24 hours before their appointment. This helps reduce no shows amongst clients who might have simply forgot their massage appointment in the past.
The system also takes payment for the appointment at the time of booking, the clients cannot take the slot without paying for their massage in advance. For Caren this has removed a lot of the awkwardness around trying to enforce a cancellation policy. Rather than having to chase money from a client you have already been paid for the treatment and it is up to the client to get in touch and make their case for a refund. It is also possible to block clients cancelling their massage outside of the time you permit in your cancellation policy.
However with Covid-19 Caren thinks we need to be flexible to stop clients coming in with symptoms. Caren recommends having a standby list of clients who are waiting for a massage treatment or who would like to be fitted in sooner if possible, so that if you have a cancellation you can try and fill the space. Sharing your cancellation policy and the amendments for Covid-19 online and on social media is a great way to inform clients and start a conversation. Plus you can also share any last minute slots that free up! Caren's system also alerts her if any clients have been displaying symptoms of Covid-19 so that she can get in touch and reschedule with them before their massage appointment, another great feature that frees up lots of admin time for your massage therapy business!
Watch Caren answer your "Ask the Muscle Whisperer" Question below!Click here to find out more about Caren's work supporting therapists with their businesses or you can follow The Well School on Facebook or Instagram Susan Findlay
Massage tables comes in many different shapes and size. It can be confusing for you, the customer, to choose the right one but we are here to help!
A lot of customers call us up after they have bought the wrong size massage table elsewhere and we would like to help you avoid this mistake. It normally goes something like this; they like the look of a picture of a massage table on a website, they like the low price and then they check the carrying weight is ok. If the carrying weight fits their needs they click add to cart and the new massage table turns up at their doorstep in a few days. They unfortunately assume all massage tables are pretty much the same width and size.
The standard size of a massage table is 28 inches wide (71cms) and 73 inches (185cms) long. One of the reasons many "lightweight" budget massage tables are so cheap is because
Make sure the massage table is the right size for you and your clients as the narrow massage tables at 61cms can be very uncomfortable for anyone who isn't petite and many clients cannot relax with their shoulders and arms unsupported.
Almost all therapists choose the standard 28 inch wide massage table. All our massage tables are the same length so it is only the width and shape our customers need to decide on.
Your massage table should be wide enough to cater for the wide variety of shapes and sizes of your clients. It needs to be wide enough to comfortably accommodate your treatment style, while being narrow enough to ensure you don’t have to strain your own back during treatments.
Each therapist's postural training and ability is different, so only you will know what massage table width you can handle. We have spoken to therapists who are five feet tall and get the wider 30 inch massage tables, and we speak to six foot therapists who have back problems and go for a 25 inch wide massage table. Everyone is different.
Generally speaking, if you are of smaller stature, you may do better with one of the narrower 25-inch massage tables. If you're quite tall, or are particularly keen to offer your clients a very spacious experience, a 30-inch massage table might be more suitable.
If you are in doubt, see if you can go into your local training college and see whether the massage tables there suit you. However, there is another way to get a feel for what will work of you don’t have access to a couch when you are deciding:
Cut out a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of both sizes you are deciding between. Put it on top of the kitchen table and lean over it. Visualise a client lying there, and see which width will suit you and your client best.
Make sure you can get close enough to the table that you can pivot at the waist and have your shoulders squared to the clients hips, with your hands parallel to the clients' spine. Working in this position will ensure an injury-free career, so it's an important factor in your decision.
The most popular massage table widths are 28 and 30 inches. We sell 25-inch massage tables but you should really only choose this width if you are shorter in height and having a wider massage table might put your own back at risk over the course of your career.
You can also choose the 25-inch if you want to have the lightest massage table possible. By reducing the width of the massage table, the weight is also reduced. Now, this can mean a trade-off of some client comfort, but this trade is often worthwhile if you are a fully mobile therapist and use public transport frequently, where saving a kilogram or two will make a difference to you over time.
Nowadays, almost all portable massage tables come with height adjustable legs. Whichever massage table you choose should come with a large height range to accommodate you, and to cater for a broad range of therapies.
A common height range of massage tables is between 60 to 80cm, and this height range should cater for everyone. To check which height you need your massage table to be at follow this rule of thumb:
1. Stand up straight with your hands by your sides. Clench your fists.
2. Measure the distance between the floor and your knuckles
3. This distance should equal the height of your massage table.
4. Add a few inches in height to allow for the body of the patient on the massage table.
The height of a massage table is usually only adjusted when different therapists are using the same massage table, or if you have a client that is outside the average size you normally treat. So for example, if someone with a lot of body depth comes for a treatment after an average size person, you may need to adjust the height a notch or two.
You should be able to adjust the height of a massage table in just 2-3 minutes. Even though you mightn't adjust the height very often, the faster the better when you do have to!
There are 2 types of height adjustment mechanisms found on modern massage tables.
1) Twisting knobs (found only on wooden massage tables):
If you are working with a wooden massage table, it is better to have two knobs on each of the four legs for greater strength and reliability. When buying online, make sure to check how many knobs are on the legs. Cheap massage tables often only have one knob, and when you raise the legs to the highest heights they are less stable and have been known to snap.
2) Telescopic push-buttons (found only on aluminium massage tables):
The mechanism to adjust the height of an aluminium massage table is much the same as the push-button method on aluminium crutches. It only takes a few seconds to adjust each leg, and the mechanism is very reliable. Check out the video to see how it’s done.
The following are the different shapes of massage tables on the market.
1. Rectangle shaped with square corners
This is the traditional shape of a massage table and the one you are probably familiar with seeing. Our Combi-lite 3 in 1 and Affinity Portaflex are shaped like this.
2. Rectangle shaped with rounded corners
Same as no 1 above in every way except the corners are rounded. Does not affect function in any way, just a different design/look.
3. Hour glass shaped with gradual gradient
A fabulous massage table innovation in recent years, which solves a lot of the problems around choosing the correct width is the hourglass shaped massage table.
This style of massage table is wider at the ends, and tapers somewhat at the middle. This provide a spacious and comfortable experience for your client (as the shoulder and feet area are 30 inches wide) without compromising your own posture and health, as the middle of the couch where you lean over is a much narrower 26 inches wide.Having recently upgraded to one of these hourglass massage tables myself, I can vouch that my working days are much more comfortable, and many of my clients have commented on the extra comfort from the wider shoulder area.
The name says it all! There are no corners on the massage table. Therapists normally choose this for one of two reasons. They simply like the look of this massage table and it is aesthetically more pleasing in their treatment room and/or they find it easier to move around the massage table during the treatment without having to side step the corners. This is particularly handy when space is limited in your treatment room.