How to build and manage strong client relationships
Thai massage has many benefits, but you need to know how to manage your clients to be a successful Thai massage practitioner. Client management is the core of providing and advertising your services to those needing them.
Before anything else, the best thing you can do for your client is stay healthy. By consistently practicing self-care, you will create a thriving business with higher client retention rates and better word-of-mouth referrals. Self-care reduces stress and burnout, enabling you to have a sustainable practice.
Time management is essential to Thai massage. Respecting your clients’ time will improve their experience, increasing your retention rate and bottom line. Here are some important considerations to help you become more efficient by structuring your time thoughtfully.
Accurately Estimate How Long Things Take
You need to know precisely how long it takes to perform a particular service or task. This knowledge will inform every aspect of your business, from your pricing to your ability to decide how many clients you can schedule without fear of disappointing them. You need to know how long each Thai massage treatment lasts to avoid disappointing your clients with a chaotic massage therapy appointment due to poor time management.
Plan For The Unexpected
Always add time to sessions to balance what clients think you need to work on with issues you discover during a Thai massage treatment. Once you know what your client hopes to achieve, you can plan the appointment based on what you anticipate finding based on their intake form with the amount of time your client has booked. Knowing what you can and can’t include in a session will allow you to make recommendations and help better inform your clients of what they can expect in that amount of time.
Never Arrive Late to An Appointment
You should never arrive at your clinic after your client. Being late to scheduled appointments makes clients feel like you are wasting their time, decreasing their confidence in your commitment to Thai massage therapy. There will be times when you need to push or reschedule an appointment, but it should be the exception to the rule. The more you respect your client’s time, the more likely they will want to return for another treatment and recommend you to their family and friends.
Balance Client and Administrative Time
While a full schedule can be profitable over the short term, other sustainable business models exist. Regardless of where you work, allow time to complete tasks unrelated to your clients. Cleaning and purchasing equipment, restocking supplies, calling vendors, and everyday tasks like maintaining client records and accounting are some areas needing your attention. Ignoring these areas of your business will eventually impact your clients and your profit line, so always maintain a healthy balance between you adminstrative duties and your appointments.
You can improve your reputation by keeping your clients happy, as they will want to return for more sessions. Always work hard to avoid client disappointment whenever possible. You will not please every customer, but you can manage their expectations by following a few simple rules.
Be Honest with Yourself and Your Clients
There are many benefits to Thai massage. It can improve flexibilyt, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle soreness, reduce stress, and improve breathing and posture. But always remember what Thai massage cannot do. Never exaggerate the benefits of Thai massage or promise your clients something that you can’t guarantee. Always be honest and thoroughly explain to a client what they can expect from a Thai massage.
If you know how to manage your time, you will know exactly what you can and can’t do with your schedule. If a client tries to squeeze in a last minute appointment and you don’t have enough time before and after the appointment for your additional tasks, refuse their request. It is better to refuse a single treatment than lose or disappoint a client. If you schedule full, you don’t need to apolgize. Be open with your client and offer them a time slot that fits your schedule.
The biggest frustrations arise when there are misunderstandings between you and your clients. Keep everything about your service upfront. Clients do not want to feel you tricked them into paying money they didn’t expect. And they don’t like being surprised by receiving something other than what the expected. Always be truthful and take the time to answer your client thoroughly if they have questions or concerns about your treatments.
While it is essential to be professional, it is equally essential to be authentic. Do not pretend to be something other than yourself. People who come to treatments often feel vulnerable and will respond when they know that you are also making yourself vulnerable by being true to yourself. Let you clients get to know the real you, and they will feel genuinely cared about and connected to you. This connection will make them want to return for more sessions.
Prepare for Difficult Clients
Thai massage is rewarding to the practitioner because you have the sense of helping people and making them feel better. But there will always be clients who are challenging and contentious no matter what you do. Highly emotional situations can make you or your clients feel a sense of panic or anxiety. If unchecked, this anxiety might deter a customer from returning, or make you hesitate to expand your business. Always know your boundaries, and know what to do if a client crosses those boundaries. If you prepare yourself for these situations, you can prevent yourself from becoming flustered in the moment. If you encounter a contentious client, remain calm, stay in control and maintain authority.
Before a Session
When clients arrive for a session, you should ask them how they feel. Inquire about their physical condition, if they have any tension, pain, or soreness, and how it came about. Footwashing gives you the perfect opportunity to ask these questions.
If your client has previously told you about an emotional or psychological issue that they are struggling with, you may respectfully enquire. But be careful not to pry or invade your clients’ privacy or tell them what you think they should do. You are not a counsellor but a Thai massage practitioner trying to serve your clients more holistically.
During a Session
During a typical Thai massage session, it is common for physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues to arise. So, focus on keeping your client comfortable during the session. Thai massage is most effective when the client is fully relaxed, with open energies, deep breathing, and a strong sense of trust and confidence with the practitioner.
Work at an appropriate level of pressure
Maintaining even, steady pressure through point work, palming, thumbing, compressions or stretches is imperative. As you work, look at the person’s face regularly and listen to their breathing. It may seem challenging, but it is an excellent exercise in focused compassion. Watch for signs of physical discomfort such as wincing, raised eyebrows, or other facial expressions or body movements. Or listen for involuntary grunts or gasps. You don’t want to give an overly soft session, but you never want to make your client uncomfortable with your pressure or movements.
Working at a level just below the client’s discomfort threshold is best. Usually, you will get a good sense of the right amount of pressure within the first ten minutes of a session. But always ask your client how they feel and inquire about the depth of your pressure. Once you establish the correct depth, continue uniformly in this fashion, but remember that various body parts can withstand more pressure than others. Watch and listen to your client throughout the session, and ask whenever you are in doubt. This way, you’ll have a good indication of how your client is receiving your pressure.
Don’t cross boundaries
Boundaries are physical, emotional, sensual, and psychological. Watch your client’s face and body language to see how they respond to your techniques and body contact. If a client tenses up unexpectedly, it could mean physical discomfort, emotional uneasiness, or both. If you sense that you are violating that person’s private space, you should immediately stop, or at the very least, you should ask the client if you can proceed. If they say all is fine, then you may proceed with caution.
Be aware of your boundaries as well. Sensual triggers work both ways. Don’t allow your mind to be drawn into lustful thinking when working. If you find yourself sexually attracted to clients while working on them, immediately calm yourself and refocus your energies. If you ever encounter a case of sexual stimulation, whether initiated by the client or by yourself, it is best to cease physical contact with your client immediately. If the stimulation came from you, you might excuse yourself and leave the room for a moment to compose yourself. If you sense that the stimulation comes from the client, move to another technique or body position, stop your work, and discuss the issue before continuing. In severe cases, you should terminate the session without accepting compensation.
Try to be as silent as possible during a session, and don’t engage your client in conversation. Encourage your client to relax and focus on their breathing.
Sometimes, clients can be chatty at the beginning of a session. Avoid answering them conversationally and allow the nervous tension they manifest in conversation to subside. If it becomes necessary to calm your client down, ask them to take a few long, deep breaths. You can even ask them to take three deep breaths simultaneously with you.
Allow for a bathroom break when necessary
Some people are shy about having to use the toilet. After you finish working on the lower torso, and when you’re ready to begin on the abdomen and upper torso, you might gently ask if they need to use the restroom. If you need to use the bathroom, excuse yourself and do so.
Cultivate good flow
Flow is the fluidity you move from one posture to another as you work with your client. True mastery of flow is when we support our clients’ bodies as we work and integrate breath, good body mechanics, rocking movements, and effortless transitions from one posture to another.
Graceful movement helps to maintain focus during a session. It can also help conserve energy and keep the session moving comfortably. Each one of your graceful movements transfers directly to your clients. Having one’s body moved gracefully feels good, and feeling good encourages relaxation and well-being.
Try to integrate more rocking and alternating movements as you work. Thai massage is a healing dance that we perform with our clients in many ways. Stay loose, but stay focused as you work. Allow your inner self to move and sway, and make gentle rocking movements as you apply pressure. Pivot and rotate from your belly and lull yourself (and your client) into a delicate healing movement and pressure dance.
You can add rocking movements to most techniques using palm presses or thumbing. If you keep your body rigid as you apply pressure, the muscles in your shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands will work harder than necessary. But if you allow your body weight to sink into your client’s body and use gentle rocking movements, the pressure will require less pressure and feel better to the client.
Develop easy transitions
The transitions from one technique to another can profoundly affect the session’s outcome for both you and the receiver. Try to maintain physical contact with your client as you move from one posture to another. Don’t abandon one part of the client’s body whenever possible until you contact another area. Be creative, and structure your sequence based on easy transitions. Use your body – whether your hands, arms, chest, legs, or feet – to move your client into the following position flowing and gracefully.
Lock your clients in place
An essential skill you should learn is the importance of gently locking your client in place against your body before executing certain maneuvers. Stay aware of ways to keep your client’s appendages and body gently interlaced with your own body before you perform a specific technique.
Support your client as you move
Client support is essential in all four body positions: supine, side-lying, seated, and prone. Support your client’s body as you move from one place to another. Making contact with an extra hand or a foot can help the client relax and stay open to movements and energy flow. When you release a client’s arm or leg to the mat, support the elbow or ankle with your other hand as you let it down softly.
After a Session
Ask first-time clients to contact you a few days after their first session. Have them tell you how they are feeling and if they’ve noticed any changes in themselves due to the treatment. If they forget to do so, you can send them an e-mail or leave a phone message inquiring about their health. This follow-up shows that you care and encourages the client to contact you for another session. If the client reports a strong response, whether favourable or unfavourable, add it to their session notes for future reference.
If you let your clients know that you are there for them, they will often volunteer information to you that can be helpful for future sessions. Many people will not offer feedback if you don’t ask for feedback.
An essential element of holistic healing arts is the underlying concept of self-care. The treatment does not end when a session concludes. You can recommend certain activities or exercises to clients or encourage them to think of activities that interest them. For clients who consistently exhibit tension in certain areas, suggest Reusi Dat Ton exercises or stretches that could help the client alleviate this tension. For people with lower back problems, offer activities or stretches to strengthen their core. Clients with shallow breathing might benefit from breathing exercises.
If you are knowledgeable about diet and herbs, suggest that they modify their eating habits in a way that might benefit them. However, be careful only to recommend or suggest things that lie within your scope of practice. You may also refer clients to acupuncturists, specialized bodyworkers, or Chinese and Ayurvedic doctors if they can help. Ultimately, it is our responsibility as Thai massage practitioners to encourage and help our clients maintain optimal health.
Always maintain a professional rapport with your clients. Avoid becoming close friends with your clients or socializing with them frequently outside your services. When that happens, the professional relationship and boundaries between your client and you can quickly alter, adversely affecting the therapy.