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In this Post: Learning from unhappy clients can be a humbling experience. But, if you are able to do so it will make you a stronger therapist!
Generally, in the massage industry, our patrons leave pretty happy. They are zenned out and completely relaxed. But on occasion, they leave less than satisfied.
I’m not talking about when we mess something up logistically, like when they requested a 90-minute, and we only give them a 60. Um oops, can you say embarrassing! Trust me, I’ve been there! No, I’m not talking about these kinds of mistakes. I’m talking about when they generally don’t like our work.
Learning how to handle these types of clients is a delicate thing!
As massage is subjective, it’s hard to say what caused their dissatisfaction!
One person may be elated with the exact same massage someone else finds dissatisfying.
Sometimes it is evident that a client wasn’t thrilled with our work, while on other more rare occasions, we might be given actual feedback on what lacked in our work.
I am going to suggest that as tough as these scenarios are, they very well could be one of the best things that happen to you as a therapist outside of school.
I mean come on, how often do we get candid feedback on our work?
Learning From Unhappy Clients
Typically there are indicators during the massage that the client may not be enjoying pieces of your work. When you can pay close attention to spoken and unspoken cues, you can largely mitigate their occurrences. These cues can and should be your guide to knowing that you are giving a massage that is being well received.
Signs that a client might not be enjoying their massage
- Labored breathing
- Inability to relax muscles
- Requests for different pressure
Before I start a session, I like to remind my clients, “If there is any part of the massage that you are not enjoying, please speak up, I would much rather have you say something than be unhappy with ANY part of the massage!”
It seems obvious to us that if they want anything different that they should tell us, but people get shy asking for changes and may not want to feel like they are criticizing us. It can be a very vulnerable feeling to be naked under a sheet with a power differential at play.
Reminding our clients that its okay to speak up if they want us to change anything about the massage is good, but probably not enough!
It is crucial that we check in frequently with clients, especially new ones, to be sure they are receiving the work they want and need.
Some people are never satisfied. I think we’ve all met one of those over the years. While other times our performance may be a bit lacking. When we are tired or are dealing with an emotional situation, we may be incapable of giving the same quality massage we typically do.
After honest reflection, if you are able to admit that maybe your massage wasn’t up to snuff? Now that we all have off days!
This is where grounding comes into play. It is essential as therapists to ground and create a protective bubble around our energy. Otherwise, we are going to give less than stellar massages! It’s just the reality!
While it is super humbling to receive this type of criticism, if you can hear these words with an open heart, it may be one of the best learning experiences of your career.
If you ever receive this type of feedback, try to be thankful. Sit with it for a while. See if there is any truth in what the client shared. An area where you can learn and grow. I’m guessing if you are able to be honest with yourself, you will see opportunities to strengthen your skills.
While I know it is hard to look at criticism as a positive thing, if you really want to have a successful massage therapy career, this experience is a unique opportunity to grow. One that we typically don’t receive outside of massage school!
Should refunds be given when the work was completed? A tough call and each case is different!
There are times when I would rather issue a refund than risk a poor online review.
While other times, listening to the complaint seems to do the trick. People like to feel like they are heard. And maybe the massage wasn’t terrible. There are just pieces they hope the therapist can learn from.
Truly, this is where intuition comes into play.
As solo practitioners, you probably won’t have to deal with as many of these types of complaints as someone who is running a multi therapist practice. It is a lot easier for clients to complain to managers than it is to the person who actually gave them the massage.
Sometimes you won’t receive actual verbal feedback, but you may not receive the tip you usually do, or you can just tell the client wasn’t happy. It’s important to reflect on these situations too!
In the end, know that not every client is going to resonate with your work. We cannot be everything to everyone-pure and simple fact. This is when having a vast network of practitioners to refer out to comes in handy.
Regardless of the cause of why the client wasn’t happy, it’s not going to serve you to wallow. Instead, dust off your britches, learn and move forward.
- Boulder College of Massage Therapy Graduate
- Nationally Certified through NCBTMB
- Colorado Licensed Massage Therapist
- Certified CranialSacral Level 1 through Upledger
- Certified Herbal Therapist through Nutrition Therapy Institute
- Certified Fujian Massage through Barefoot Masters
- Fort Lewis College - Majored in Art, Minored in Business Administration
- 6 Year Winner of Best Massage Therapist for "Best of The Boat" Competition
- Massage Business Owner Since 2008