Lessons Learned from Negative Feedback
Understanding Client Feedback
As massage therapists, we depend on feedback from our clients. The non-verbal cues can be just as significant and telling as the verbal feedback clients provide. This helps us customize the session to meet the client's specific and unique needs as well as the more broad applications to our practice in general.
The majority of our clients leave the session feeling better than when they first arrive. This brings a tremendous sense of job satisfaction and validation our work changes people and their quality of life. The instant feedback gives instant gratification, and instant inspiration to do more and better.
What happens when a massage client is unhappy with your therapy session?
How do you trouble shoot along the way? How, if possible, do you rectify situations where clients are so dissatisfied the end the session early?
Real Life Example from the Trenches
One such situation happened to me a couple years ago. While booking the session over the phone she says “I want deep tissue. Deep, deep, deep, deep, deep.” She goes on to explain she had experience with Rolfing and is no stranger to deep tissue massage techniques. She also informs me she once had a very light massage, was so irritated in session that she should have terminated the session early so she knows the importance of feedback and communication between client and therapist.
This was a rather lengthy phone booking/consult but I was excited to work with a new client who was so well versed in massage and knew what results she wanted from the session.
I schedule extra time with new clients so I can have a comprehensive initial consult and still give the client 60 minutes of hands on time. In her initial consult we recap much of the phone conversation and go into more detail regarding her specific issues and needs. She repeats her preference for a deep pressure and even says “Gimme all you got. You can’t hurt me”.
I leave the room for her to disrobe and I feel very confident about the session. I reenter the room and begin my work. Throughout the session I check in with her and make sure pressure is where it needs to be. She lets me know as I go along what pressure various areas can tolerate and I adjust accordingly.
With 20 minutes remaining in her session I am working on her IT band in the prone position. She gasps, pulls her leg away from me and clenches the sheet at her chest. I immediately ask if she is ok. After a moment she says “No one has ever touched my leg like that” as tears begin to well in her eyes. I ask her is she is ok and what I can do for her. She decides to end the session. I respectfully exit the room, and meet her in the reception area. She says to me “I don’t know what that was, but it was NOT a deep tissue massage”. I was speechless. This was the first time a client had such a negative experiences they ended the session early.
Fast forward to a couple days later. An anonymous review of my business pops up online. I knew it was her because of the very specific details she provided in her massage review. Turns out, she enjoyed absolutely nothing about her experience with me. The office was difficult to find in the plaza, the lighting in the reception area and treatment room was not right, the music was not appropriate for massage, I use lotion and she prefers oil, my technique was so poor she questioned my credentials, education, license status. And she repeats the “I don’t know what that was, but it was NOT a deep tissue massage”.
Humbled and ego bruised. I thought I actively listened during the pre-session consult. I repeated back her goals, preferences and boundaries. I made sure I checked in throughout the session. Either I was wrong; or there was a mutual misunderstanding.
What I learned from this session is the need to listen to and consider negative feedback. Because I am never the client in my own office space, I do not know what the ambiance is from the client perspective. I reevaluated how I do pre-session consultations and added more specific inquiries on my intake form. I learned I cannot please everyone. And the most important lesson learned not every client is the right client for me, and I am not the right therapist for every client. My massage practice is better, and I am a better therapist for not letting personal feelings or ego disregard valid concerns clients have.
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Article written by:
Owner & LMT
Advanced Therapeutics Massage and Body W
[ Get More Information on Author Donna Wilt ]