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Perception: Cheap is not always Cheerful!

As a massage professional, I am sure that you are aware of the growing number of massage stalls popping up all over the place offering cheaper alternatives to your services. I'm also sure you're aware that this trend for cheap massage is affecting the success of your business!

While these can be perceived as a cheaper alternative and appealing for consumers, we need to ask the questions; Are these places actually cheaper than our salons and day spas or only perceived to be? What is the quality of their products and treatments? Furthermore, are these "cheap" massages actually helping customers or are they doing more harm than good?

Expectation vs. Reality

Some clients want the best therapist, best products, and most lavish experience, so they are willing to pay top dollar. Other clients are more frugal and are looking for the cheapest option. The thing is, more often than not, the 'thrifty' customer's actually end up paying the same price they would at a salon, without even realizing. Instead of saving extra pennies, all they are actually getting is a much lower quality treatment and experience. It all comes down to perception.

For cheap massage stalls it's all about the draw card. People walk in for a quick 10-minute massage, but before they know it, they have somehow been upgraded to a 30-minute massage, with oil, that's now $50 (not much different to a salon's price). Generally the upsell is in a forceful manner, the employees at these places are very persistent and often won't take no for an answer. Once the customer is through the door, they know to put the pressure on. They also market themselves as fast and convenient as you can just walk in any time. But how many times have you dropped into a walk-in venue only to be made to wait 45 minutes before you have even laid eyes on your therapist? The key difference we need to remember when comparing services is not so much the price, but the quality and demeanor in which it's delivered.

Our industry is about repeat customers, that is what makes up money in the long run. We want our clients to feel pampered, appreciated and listened too. Not forced, pressured or rushed in and out like a fast food vendor!

Who's helping who?

Our bodies are precious; we only get one in a lifetime! So we need to make sure we look after our clients properly. Getting a regular massage to relive muscle tension, stiffness and pain is a particularly important part of overall health and wellbeing. I cannot stress enough the importance of having employees who are qualified in massage in your team. Someone who has been fully trained, and understands the human body, muscles and tension points. We need to ensure all massages are performed correctly and safely – something which cannot always be said in regards to pop up massage stalls.

Untrained massage therapists can be rough and may twist or contort the body in unnatural ways, which is very dangerous, they could pull a muscle or injure the client if techniques are not performed correctly. I know many people who have experienced a bad massage and as a result have needed serious osteotherapy and ongoing treatment to rectify the problem.

If a client has pain including stiff joints, numbness, sore trigger points, tightness or constant deep aching they need to be handled with care so they don't induce further injury. A therapist who is untrained in professional massage and has no depth of knowledge on human anatomy could further aggravate the pain, or do permanent damage!

No cutting corners here!

If a massage stall is offering services at a price that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While some are only perceived to be cheap, there are others offering outrageously low-cost treatments that we simply cannot compete with. How is it possible to offer treatments at these prices? At the end of the day they still need to be making money which means they are cutting costs somewhere along the line. The first place they are likely to cut costs is with the product. They will choose a cheap, inferior oil to perform their treatment instead of high quality oil designed specifically for massage.

High quality massage oils have many benefits for the client but also for the therapist. I always recommend oils that are fully water dispersible – they should wash off quickly and easily, like they claim to. They shouldn't feel thick or rubbery on the skin and should be made from the highest grade vegetable oils and ingredients. Look for an oil that is non-comedogenic so will not block pores, is Paraben free, and also have a nut-free option for those clients who are allergic. It is important for a massage oil to absorb into the skin after a treatment, so your clients skin is not left feeling sticky and oily.

Other ways in which costs can be reduced include skipping over standard hygiene practices to save a few dollars per client; this means not washing towels and disinfecting beds correctly. Cutting corners on product and procedures in order to lower the price is hindering the quality of treatments and putting the client at risk.

Businesses that offer insanely low prices can often cut more corners by paying their staff below the standard award rates. Not only is this unfair on the employee, but it's also unfair on other business owners who are abiding by the rules. They may also offer discounts for clients who pay cash, making it very obviously they are avoiding paying the required tax.

High quality products, skilled therapists and a relaxed environment will all lead to an overall exceptional experience and this will secure repeat business. Once a client experiences an outstanding treatment, they will continue to return.

It's a good idea to discuss all these points with your clients. We need consumers to be aware of the benefits they receive from seeing a professional, qualified, massage therapist, from a reputable business they can trust. When it comes to our physical and emotional wellbeing – As the saying goes, you get what you pay for!

Lilliane Caron is Owner & Director of Caronlab Australia. If you'd like to ask Lilliane for some advice on your own salon, email info@caronlab.com.au

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