Massage therapist massaging older woman’s back representing dealing with difficult customers and massage therapy complaints

How to Deal with Difficult Clients as a Massage Therapist

Hey, massage therapists: Have you heard these common complaints before?

  • You used too much pressure!
  • You didn’t use enough pressure!
  • Answering the phone? Not okay!
  • It smells bad in here!

These massage feedback examples are familiar for a reason: Everyone has experienced (or will experience) dealing with difficult clients. Whether you’re new to the massage therapist industry or winning medals like Chaz Armstrong, working with difficult clients is part of the job.

What would you do if your client was unhappy with the outcome of the massage? Would you have the zen to listen without getting angry? Do you have an idea of what you would say?

If you’re in knots about a recent run-in with an unhappy client, or you’re looking for tips for dealing with challenging customers before negative feedback strikes, this article will help you work out the kinks. We’ll answer questions like:

  • What problems do massage therapists face when dealing with difficult clients?
  • What strategies should you use when communicating with difficult customers?
  • How do you handle a spa complaint?
  • What do you do if your attempts at managing difficult customers don’t deescalate the situation?

Let’s jump in!

What problems do massage therapists face when dealing with difficult clients?

Complaints, shmplaints. If you’ve got thick skin, is it worth worrying about how to deal with difficult clients?

Even if you let negative client feedback roll off your back, the unhappy clients who give it may stick around, causing more problems later.

Consequently, failing to address massage therapy complaints can lead to disgruntled clients:

  • Writing bad reviews of your massage therapy business on social media, Google, and Yelp.
  • Discouraging their friends from using or visiting your massage therapy practice.
  • Reporting you to the state licensing department or the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Demanding a refund.
  • Filing a claim or suing you for damages.

When you consider the potential consequences of not adequately dealing with difficult clients, you realize that understanding how to handle upset customers has a HUGE impact. Indeed, responding with professionalism in massage therapy directly impacts your success. It can curtail scenarios that scare away potential customers, prevent costly lawsuits and claims and even turn that unhappy client into a recurring happy one. (That is, if you still want them.)

What strategies should I use when communicating with difficult customers?

Ideally, dealing with difficult clients begins before they become difficult. It happens on your website where they learn about you, on the phone when they book, on the massage table, and before they leave.

What are we talking about? Communication!

Communication happens when we exchange information with your clients. Information, like what a client should expect and how to ask for adjustments, can help them feel comfortable and have realistic hopes for their service.

But good communication isn’t just what you say. It’s what your client says, too. So ask them:

  • What pressure do they want?
  • Did they say certain areas are more sensitive than others?
  • Do they want you to avoid or focus on particular muscles?
  • Are there any smells they don’t like?

While clients express many concerns verbally, they may also give unspoken cues. The Massage Business Mama tells masseuses to watch out for these four signs of discomfort on the table:

  • Twitching.
  • Labored breathing.
  • Tightened muscles.
  • Requests for different pressure.

Despite all your best efforts to communicate, you may still end up with an unhappy client. In such cases, know that understanding the complaint makes you better equipped to handle it.

Therefore, employ these basic strategies when communicating with difficult customers:

  • Listen to your customer’s complaint openly and objectively.
  • Empathize and acknowledge why they’re upset.
  • Don’t admit fault.

How do you handle a spa complaint?

If someone’s complaining, they’re asking for a solution. What they want varies from person to person, and from situation to situation.

“We assume everyone wants a discount, and sometimes they just want to know it won’t happen again,” writes DeeDee Crossett in a blog post for Skin Inc.

When dealing with difficult clients, ask your client how they would like their complaint resolved. If their request is reasonable, go with it. However, if their suggestion seems unfair, propose an alternate solution, suggests Kate Barrington in her article for

If you’re not sure how to respond in the moment, buy yourself time. Thank them for their feedback and tell them you’ll be in touch. Sometimes, having that additional time to ponder can help you create a better resolution. Just don’t wait too long to get back to them. Waiting longer than a couple of days can lead to escalation, Barrington explains.

Sometimes, dealing with difficult clients means compensation. Compensation can come in the form of a discount on their next massage, a credit for a future service, or a refund of the complained-about service.

To determine if compensation is the way to go, the Massage Business Mama requests taking a gut check. If you want to maintain relationships and safeguard your reputation, compensation may be appropriate.

Get help when you rub someone the wrong way.

What do you do if your attempts at managing difficult customers don’t deescalate the situation?

Let us knead your troubles away with our bodywork insurance. Here at WellnessPro, we give our clients the full treatment with professional and general liability coverage. Our policies are affordable and powerful, packing the punches to fight claims from your most difficult clients. Apply for coverage today.

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