When a customer is booking a massage, the last thing they want is a stressful experience. But the truth is that even just booking self-care services can be stressful. Waiting hours on the phone to book an appointment, wondering if you’ll feel comfortable with the staff or safe enough with the business’s COVID-19 protocols—it can be enough to turn a customer off entirely.
“During the pandemic, I really needed massages. I missed getting them,” said Yelp reviewer Swati S. “I was trying to find some place that I felt was safe, following COVID precautions, and I wanted one in the city. I read it was a woman-owned place, and it was LGBQT friendly, and I’m all for supporting women-owned places. So I think just from looking on Yelp, I found it.”
The gem that Swati discovered was Nola Bliss Massage in New Orleans, an independent massage studio that focuses on massage therapy that’s customized to each client’s needs. Owner Sara Albie has figured out how to help her clients relax from the moment they begin booking an appointment.
“The number one thing we do is provide great massages and great service,” she said. “But then the second component is communicating with our clients and providing that great service in all of our communication.”
That extends from Nola Bliss’s online booking system to its prioritization of diversity and inclusion. Below, Sara shares lessons for streamlining the customer experience and ensuring that each client walks away feeling comfortable and satisfied.
1. Get customers in the door with a ‘quick and easy’ experience
Great service starts long before a customer walks in your door. Between review sites like Yelp and your online presence, potential customers can thoroughly check out your business—and your competitors—before making a decision. By providing an online booking option that’s intuitive and low-lift, Sara ups the chances that they choose Nola Bliss.
“We have found, especially just over time, more and more people want to book and communicate online,” Sara said. “They want an easy and quick experience. We love our online booking system. It is so easy to use, simple and fast. They can book at two in the morning in their pajamas, which actually a lot of people do. And it’s also very simple—it is very user-friendly.”
2. Empower your team to do their best work
While many businesses overwork and overbook massage therapists, “churning and burning” through appointments, Nola Bliss stands out in the industry by offering longer services and longer breaks for therapists.
“They have 30-minute gaps between each client, which we have learned over time, really allows them the opportunity to connect with their clients,” Sara said. “First of all, [they] have time with the client and feel empowered to really tailor that massage. And they really get to talk with the client and find out what’s going on.”
Making more room in her therapists’ schedules is one way Sara empowers her team to do their best work. Streamlining the service menu is another. Nola Bliss offers massages only—no other spa treatments—and trains therapists to customize the service to the style and intensity of their client’s choosing.
Pro Tip: When a team member gets a great review on Yelp, share that positive feedback and use it to inspire your team. “We have a wall of fame up in our office that has some of the great reviews that different therapists have gotten,” Sara said.
3. Create an environment that is inclusive of everybody
For Sara, running a business in New Orleans means her staff should be as diverse and vibrant as the city in which they live. “It’s important for us to have a team that reflects the city we live in, whether that is race, sexual orientation, or religion,” she said. “We really create an environment that is inclusive to everybody—clients as well—so they feel comfortable.”
Customers are paying attention to how your business fosters an inclusive environment. For example, learning that Nola Bliss is a safe space for women of color was a major draw for Swati.
“We need to support those smaller, minority-owned businesses, whether they’re [owned by] women or people of color or just minorities in some other way,” Swati said. “A massage salon like this, that is woman-owned and caters to minorities—I was like, ‘You know what? They’re thoughtful. They’re conscientious. They’re not just oblivious to the concerns of their other clients. So they will hopefully be respectful of me.’”
Showing that you take diversity and inclusion seriously—not only in the care you provide customers, but in the support you provide to your team—is crucial. Think about the ways you model inclusivity as a leader, from employee policies to your marketing.
“We are in the south, and we do a lot of couples massages,” Sara said. “So we still get questions sometimes from gay and lesbian couples to make sure that we’re welcoming and to make sure that that’s okay. And we really try to express that it is a welcoming and comfortable environment, and we see people of all backgrounds, sexual orientations, and genders.”
Editorial contributions from Holly Hanchey
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Sara and Swati, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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