I recently ran a poll of friends using social media about what they looked for most when booking a massage session. The reason for the poll was to inquire of what is more important and why. When booking a session, was the location of the office or spa important? In these tight fisted times when one must be careful and a bit choosy of what they pay their hard earned dollars for, was the massage rate a dominant factor? Did the number and variety of services offered have an impact on consumerism? I also wanted to know just how big of an impact “Daily Deal” services like Groupon and Living Social had and were they a deal-breaker. Did people account for therapist ratings or reviews when booking a session for the first time with a massage therapist? Lastly, I wanted to know if therapist experience mattered. Would some be more apt to go with the more experienced therapist over a less experienced therapist?
I had an interesting cross section of responses from people of different social and economic backgrounds as well as locations. My informal poll revealed a few things along the way as well as had some preconceived notions verified. Most shocking of all, was that of all my responses, not one gave “Daily Deals” any influence in their decision-making whatsoever. This surprised me since I receive daily phone calls from daily deal companies that seem to spring up on a daily basis asking me if I want to lower my prices sixty percent to be featured on their site for a week while they take half of what I sell or earn. My responses are typically “No thank you!” and I was pleased to learn that one-hundred percent of my responses from this poll were the same. I guess there just are a few things in life, i.e. getting a massage, which people will purchase regardless of price.
Another response that was surprising was how much sway the location of the therapist has on decisions. Among some of my responses were:
“In LA, driving a couple of miles can take forever, so I like to stay close.”
– Hollywood Actor-
“For me, it’s location (don’t want to drive too far after a relaxing massage – just want to get home and take a nap!)
– Houston area Principal
“I travel 45 minutes for my girl, but agree if I wasn’t addicted to her, distance would be a factor.”
–Florida Cosmetologist –
“I will pay more and go a farther away if I can rely on a good quality of service and environment.”
– NYC Actress-
What I took away from these responses was that perhaps in a congested area like Los Angeles, one may not want to travel very far at all to get a massage. In fact if you are a licensed massage therapist that practices in a large city, it may reap its own rewards having an out-call practice that travels to other people’s homes and offices. However, if you live in an area where travel is easy or where public transit is easily accessible then the quality of service factors in how far or how little you travel for your massage. Bottom line: if the service is good, it is worth the travel and the cost does not matter as much. When we find a massage therapist whom we love, much like our hair stylist, we are apt to stay loyal and not venture out of that relationship. Hence another reason “one and done” daily deals are not as effective to a massage practice as those companies would have us believe.
However, we do live in tougher economic times so the cost of the massage should be taken into account, judging from the majority of poll responses. Hand in hand with cost nevertheless was therapist experience and service.
“Cost and service – could care less about reviews. I guess therapist experience or specialty matters too. I once got an hour massage from this guy who works mainly with athletes. I wish I had known that before. I was sore for 2 weeks”
-DFW area School Teacher-
“I also appreciate little extras. For example a mug of tea or a little hot towel foot cleansing during the initial “what are we doing today convo” Those little things go a long way toward making a client feel really special and that their business is appreciated.”
While ratings or reviews were a consideration, a therapist rating had little impact on choosing to purchase the massage. In fact, referrals from a friend or acquaintance held more water than anonymous reviews on a ratings site. The reason is that people trust word of mouth from someone they know and trust then from something that they read from someone they do not know. Also, some review sites can be “stacked” with ratings from friends and family members. Not unlike a testimonials page on a personal website, these reviews are what they are and provide a nice glimpse into what a therapist offers, but WOM holds more credence. This is why most massage therapists appreciate the referral over a tip.
I learned from this poll that we do not need to give our work away. If most people like the massage that they were given, they are more apt to return and they will travel the distance required to do so. I also learned that an outcall business will thrive in any environment, rural or large city, if the service is good. While we are not discounting our services to ours and the profession’s detriment, we have to understand that we cannot overcharge for our services either. Not much was stated about the cost but it was listed near the top of responses of factors people consider when choosing a massage therapist. I can conclude though that if the service is good, return rates are higher regardless of price or therapist experience. As we have known forever, service is everything. Take that to the bank.
Kip Yates, LMT was trained at the Swedish Institute in New York City and is New York State and Texas State licensed. He is owner and operator of Massage Refresh in New York City where he provides Swedish wellness and recuperative Deep Tissue massage that encompasses myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Kip lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children and also practices at Physiofitness Physical Therapy in Soho.