First impressions: a client's perspective of your professional image
Recently, a client commented on her positive feelings regarding our client/therapist relationship. She shared this story with me:
"The therapist greets me with a huge smile, on the verge of laughing. She explains she just finished a humorous discussion with co-workers, and I am unsure how to respond to this. I get the impression that she is reluctant to focus her attention on me during the client intake. She is clearly distracted and I feel that I am fighting to make my intention for the massage known. I am already feeling more stressed out than when I walked into the building.
The beginning of the session feels rushed and hurried. I'm worried that she will feel my stress level rising, and the 'elephant in the room' might get bigger. The ties on her scrub pants are tickling my arm, and I can't hear myself think over the 'jingle-jangle' that her earrings are producing. She asks me if everything is ok, and I say yes, because I don't want to hurt her feelings. She has not been rude to me, so I am struggling with my feelings of resentment and irritation. Half way into the session, I start to relax. She really is good at what she does. The massage ends. I pay her. I never go back." What happened?
Your massage therapy clients can see and analyze the following - your physical appearance, your communication skills, your marketing materials, and the safety, comfort, and professionalism of your place of business.
The manner in which you greet your client can affect the client/therapist relationship in a positive or negative way. Your body language should be warm and open, without being overly friendly. An air of professionalism is preferrable to an overly bubbly greeting. Smiling is important, while giggling is inappropriate, and can make the client feel uncomfortable. Greeting the client, by name, with a handshake is a great start. Remember to make eye contact while you are speaking in a soft, but clear voice. When your client arrives, you should be ready for their session, without distraction of any kind. Table warmers, towels, client intake forms, etc., should be prepared and ready to go.
Your massage therapy uniform is extremely important to your professional image. Wearing scrubs one day, and a low cut shirt for the next session, can be confusing to your client and send mixed signals. Massage therapists should wear a uniform that sets them apart. A therapist's clothing should neither be too tight or too loose. Female therapists that choose to wear makeup and jewelry should choose subtle shades and noiseless accessories. Neutral colors with an embroidered logo or company name can be a beneficial marketing tool. Basically, your visual image that you are portraying to your clients should be professional and non-distracting.
How do your potential clients get in touch with you to make an appointment? Do they reach you by your personal cell phone? If so, do you have a standard ring tone? Downloaded music used as ring tones are popular in today's world, but totally inappropriate for clients to listen to. Your greeting that prompts clients to leave a message should be brief and easy to understand. An unprofessional phone greeting can leave a client guessing, and result in them taking their business elsewhere; before they have even met you!
Creative business names are wonderful and can attract a diverse clientele, but, make sure the wording on your business cards and advertisements are clear. Using questionable words (such as, "rub") can mislead potential clients about the type of services you offer.
Consistency and professionalism should be at the top of your list. Your clients should not have to guess what image you are going to present that day. Clients expect, and should get, the same "you" every session!
About the author: Kristi Nelson Waltrip is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Instructor with her own practice in Jennings, Louisiana. Visit her website at www.massageinjenningsla.com.