First Impressions and Setting the Tone

Hello and welcome to the let’s-beat-a-dead-horse subject! Okay, okay. I am just kidding, sort of. It just seems to me, that each time I talk about this to a class, someone still isn’t going to understand how important first impressions are. They don’t understand that the impression someone gets is when they first see us and shake our hand. It’s such an easy concept for me to understand but I do sometimes forget that not everyone has had to actually take that concept and put it into practice in their lives and careers.  This may be their first time in a career that is going to put them face-to-face with a client that will take their appearance into consideration when deciding to book an appointment again or not. I used to be one of those people. Most of my jobs just wanted a warm body that could show up every day and work. I didn’t always deal with people face-to-face. I loved being in the back of a business so I didn’t have to deal with that.

Unfortunately, for massage therapists, you have to have face-to-face contact with each and every client.  My students are working on their dream massage rooms this week. Part of what they are learning while coming up with their concept is how their rooms set the atmosphere and mood for our client’s massage.  Our rooms should say something about what type of massage we do and also set either a relaxing, “hello let’s get work done”, clinical or deep tissue issue mood immediately. But that is only part of our picture.

I don’t want to come at this from a career perspective. I want to come at this more from a therapist’s point of view and a client’s point of view. I know that when I walk into a practice or meet my therapist for the first time, I automatically make a snap judgment based on how they look and act. I expect my therapist to be wearing a smile and to be appropriately dressed. If they look like they just got out of bed and rolled out the door with a coffee in hand while forgetting to dress in clean work clothes and comb their hair, well, let’s just say I would probably prefer to immediately walk back out their front door. They can have the nicest room, set up to be very relaxing and beautiful, but it’s hard for me to get past that first meet and greet.

If I make it past that first impression, meaning they passed and yes I want a massage, then I worry about that second impression which is the rest of their practice. I don’t always consider the reception area if that therapist isn’t the sole person responsible for cleaning it. That being said, I personally wouldn’t want my clients being grossed out or freaked out because the reception area looks unkempt at all. So for me, most times, that second impression is that therapist’s room or work space. I look for the colors, the lighting, the smells, and any other little thing that catches my eye whether it’s good or bad. The room will totally tell you about your therapist. Even if they work in a spa that chooses how their room will look for them. Right down to their linens. As a therapist working in a space chosen for us, that therapist is responsible for how clean the room looks. The worst offense is a full wastebasket and therapists that can’t take the time to properly make a table up neatly. It puts me off so much so that I won’t even want to get on the table. I actually have to grit my teeth. It takes a short minute to make our rooms and our tables look inviting. My hope is that they are an awesome therapist. Even that won’t buy my next ticket most of the time. I’m thinking of booking alright, booking it right out the door!

So when my students are creating their dream rooms this week, I hope they are also considering how they give that very first impression. I hope they are considering what they intend to wear each day and thinking about how their hair looks, are the guys shaved, etc. It’s huge to me. I may be a little strange, and I may be a little picky but I’m telling you that the first impression is an important one to pass. Not just with me, but with all of your clients. Whether the room is chosen for you, or your ultimate dream room that you hopefully decorated and painted with taste, it won’t matter. It’s the second impression.  Not the first.

I hope some of you will chime in here and give your worst experiences when going to receive a massage.  Tell us if your therapist didn’t pass the first impression and why. Then tell us about a room that may have put you off in some way if you have a story to share. This part is always a struggle for some therapists and I would love them to have someone else’s take on it besides just mine. I always make my opinions abundantly clear — imagine that!

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