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Features Management Operations
Practice Management: Spring 2002

In his book, “Customers Are for Life,” Carl Sewell discusses the importance of having systems in place for a business to operate properly. Mr. Sewell states, “Systems are 80 per cent of providing good customer service.” If we consider our favourite medium, the body, we can observe that it requires properly functioning organ systems in place to handle its needs, or it will easily fail.


September 15, 2009
By Donald Dillon

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In his book, “Customers Are for Life,” Carl Sewell discusses the importance of having systems in place for a business to operate properly. Mr. Sewell states, “Systems are 80 per cent of providing good customer service.” If we consider our favourite medium, the body, we can observe that it requires properly functioning organ systems in place to handle its needs, or it will easily fail.

Each practice ideally will have a system for the intake of new patients/ clients, bookkeeping and appointment systems, promotion and documentation systems, systems for how therapy will be applied, etc. In this article, I will discuss the importance of a customer education system as it applies to our relationship with our massage therapy clients.

A systematic process will build your practice faster, educate your clients to be more “intelligent” consumers of your services, and increase long-term retention of clients in your practice. Higher retention makes good sense. The U.S. government did a study and found it takes five times the money to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. The more proficient you are at educating your customers, the less it will cost you in the long run.

Here is the process we use at our clinic. The intention is to share concepts, rather than give a menu here. Readers should feel free to pick what is appropriate for them, and insert and delete as desired.

The first step in the education process is the intake. This includes the information new clients receive upon calling for an appointment. Consider having succinct answers to common questions like: “Can you treat X condition, What do I have to wear, and How much does it cost?” Make sure everyone answering calls for your business is well-trained and familiar with the answers to commonly asked questions.

As soon as a new person is in your office, he or she begins to form an impression about you. We provide a one–sheet, easy-to-read description of the initial assessment and treatment plus our fee schedule and short bios of our therapists. The person may also review a brochure before treatment. Education about the scope of massage therapy has begun.

The second step is the report of your assessment findings. You can use charts, analogies, and kinesthetic/auditory/visual examples to help the person understand why they feel discomfort, how it probably arose, and what massage therapy can do to alleviate it. The report of findings is reiterated several times during and at the end of the course of treatments. This can make all the difference for the customer in understanding the underlying cause of the problem.

The third step is helping the customer build self-responsibility in the therapy process. This includes a discussion about how performing the assigned exercises and other self care recommendations, as well as
following principles of good health, will speed up the healing process. In addition, you can provide short written descriptions of how to take an Epsom salts bath and what to expect after a massage therapy treatment. I would also recommend a phone call within 24 hours to ensure there was no ill reaction to treatment.

Step four is building your scope of practice in your clients’ minds. I suggest a mailing within two weeks
of beginning treating a new person which is a one-page, interesting piece that may include your scope
of practice and a succinct description of the services your clinic offers. We’ve used clip art and colour to make this enjoyable to read.

Another scope-building tip is to print on the back of your appointment cards that you can help a certain condition. You can use your computer and some simple graphics to feature a different condition each month. For example, when the person checks the date and time of their next appointment on the card, above your writing would say “Have you been in a car accident? We can help.” By cycling the conditions monthly, you can introduce people to 12 different conditions per year that they may not have known you treat. And, you can bet that if they don’t suffer from that condition they know someone who does.

The final step is to keep in their thoughts on a regular basis. A newsletter is an excellent vehicle for this. A newsletter allows you to announce new therapies you offer, fee or address changes, updates on research or other interesting facts, and tips to help enhance health. All you need is a double-sided standard page, some colour and clipart, and enlightening material and you can stay in touch with your customers. For more elaborate productions, contact your local printing shop, or use one of the standardized newsletters offered in the massage therapy market.

Keep in mind that a good customer education system provides clients with considerable information about their individual conditions and about the scope of what massage therapy has to offer, but it does so in regular digestible amounts. In this way, clients appreciate the information and the contact, and the massage therapist’s practice is built on forming good long-term relationships. And … the whole profession benefits when people become more intelligent consumers of massage therapy.


Donald Quinn Dillon is a massage therapist in practice for over 10 years. He is a past president of the OMTA and has presented a number of workshops at the OMTA Hands Together conference and across Ontario. Don resides in the Niagara region with his wife, Cheryl, and two children, Noah and Gabriel.


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