Economic Slowdown Shows Impact on Massage Therapists, But Adapting Practitioners Find New Opportunities

Trends observed by My Receptionist indicate positive benefits with a broader business approach

EAU CLAIRE, WISC. - The flagging economy has taken its toll on small business owners nationwide during the last year, and massage therapists appear to be no exception, according to call volumes observed by My Receptionist. A front office support partner specializing in call answering and appointment scheduling, My Receptionist also noted that practitioners willing to adapt have seen benefits to diversifying their business, as well as their approach.

Serving more than 400 independent and multi-therapist practices, My Receptionist has noted a 12-month drop in call volume of roughly 9 percent for massage therapists, according to Jeff Noe, the company's president.

"Like many industries, the last year has been more difficult for many massage therapists," said Noe. "While our call volume doesn't reflect the entire industry, the drop in calls is certainly indicative that massage therapists are seeing some changes in their business."

My Receptionist also has observed some change in the reason for massage appointments - massage clients more often have been citing treatment of pain as the impetus for seeking massage, and less for the purpose of relaxation, Noe said.

"With nearly 15 years serving massage therapists, we're seeing a shift in customer motivation for booking appointments," Noe said. "Similar to trends we observed during the economic slowdown in late 2001, massage customers are placing a greater emphasis on restoring health, which typically means a stronger interest in modalities like neuromuscular and deep tissue massage."

An Opportunity to Re-Tool the Business
Despite the troubled economy, many massage therapists are using the current climate as an opportunity to re-tool their business approach and realize some positive benefits. In consulting with clients about business goals, Noe has seen an evolution to more of a business owner mentality, where clients place greater emphasis on protecting their investment.

"They're taking steps to start building value in their practice, to separate it from themselves as a practitioner," Noe said. "It could be as simple as a standalone practitioner placing business income into a separate bank account, but the benefit is that they're able to start associating a value with their business, as opposed to just a source of income."

Evolving business practices isn't just a matter of thinking differently; this approach often involves more substantial changes, as illustrated by some of the efforts of practitioners served by My Receptionist:
  • Expanding Payment Methods. Convenience can be a decision factor for consumers seeking massage therapy, and more practitioners are accepting credit cards to fit consumer lifestyles. Three years ago, few massage therapists served by My Receptionist offered credit card integration, but today, nearly four in five new clients offer this service. A similar spike has occurred with gift certificates sales, which My Receptionist fulfills via the Internet and over the phone.

  • Joining Together or Co-oping. In an effort to reduce overhead and create efficiencies, some practitioners are joining up with massage therapy colleagues under one name and location. Kneading Touch Therapeutic Massage Center in West Chester, Ohio is a cooperative of two massage therapists, each of whom offers different modalities and services. By operating as a partnership, the Kneading Touch Therapeutic Massage Center is able to be efficient with resources, while still maintaining their independence and separate business entities.

  • Diversifying Service Offerings. Many massage therapists are going beyond their typical service offering to identify complimentary services to massage. Berkana Massage and Bodywork Therapies, a massage therapist in Londonderry, New Hampshire, has offered acupuncture and esthetician services to customers, based on requests for service. The result is greater convenience for the customer, but also more opportunities for a practitioner to offer in-demand services.

  • Tapping into new media or social media. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter provide an opportunity to connect online with consumers, and more specifically, advocates. Creating a social media presence for your practice can lead to a more genuine forum to communicate key service benefits and promotions. Massage Garage, a massage therapy practice in San Diego, California, has used Twitter to notify clients of last-minute appointment openings at http://twitter.com/massagegaragesd.

  • Leveraging Outside Resources to Create Efficiencies. With so much to manage, independent practitioners often struggle with returning phone calls at the end of a busy day. Tapping into a front-office support partner like My Receptionist allows massage therapists to stay focused on serving clients, without letting sales slip away due to missed calls. As a 24-hour provider of call answering and appointment scheduling, My Receptionist ensures that practices are always responsive, but at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.

About My Receptionist
My Receptionist is a national front office support partner, specializing in 24-7 call answering and appointment scheduling. Answering more than 2 million calls annually, My Receptionist serves a variety of entrepreneurs - from massage therapists to acupuncturists to chiropractors. Named one of the country's "fastest growing companies" by Inc. Magazine, My Receptionist is committed to helping small business owners simplify their business life - by securing sales opportunities, growing business and ensuring their companies are always responsive. My Receptionist is headquartered in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with a satellite office in Vero Beach, Florida.