Top 5 Complaints Guests Have About Massage Clinics — and How to Address Them

The demand for massage therapy has been on the rise over the last few years as more and more consumers wake up to its benefits. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of massage therapists is likely to increase by 21% between 2019 and 2029 — more than any other occupation. 

However, as a massage clinic owner or manager, it’s crucial that you employ the right people for the job, or else a 60-minute relax-and-rejuvenate session can quickly turn into prolonged agony for your clients. 

It’s also a good idea to be aware of the top complaints that clients have about massage clinics so you can be well prepared to address them. This article takes a look at some common pet peeves people have when visiting massage places and how you can overcome them. 

Let’s get started.

1. The therapist didn’t understand my needs 

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One of the most common complaints clients have is that therapists don’t pay enough attention to their needs. Most often this translates to a massage therapist applying too much pressure during treatments or not nearly enough. 

As a massage clinic owner or manager, you’re likely to come across a wide array of clients. While some may be looking to de-stress and relax after a hectic workweek, others might want some relief from chronic joint or muscle pain. So, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it. 

The problem, however, is that most clients tend to hold back from letting their therapist know if they’re uncomfortable. They are likely to complain to others about the experience afterward or worse — find a different clinic.

The best way to address this is to conduct thorough client consultations to ensure that you and your team fully understand their needs. 

Alison Angold, a fully qualified massage therapist and founder of Beauty Taming the Beast says, “a client consultation is one of the first activities that should be carried out prior to the massage and is one of the most important elements to a body massage.”

According to her, a consultation involves having the client fill out a form with their personal details, medical history, and allergies, among other things. From there, the therapist should ask questions about their needs. 

“This all determines if the client is suitable for the treatment and the treatment objectives. That’s why I always carry out a consultation with every single client that comes to me and am amazed at how many of my clients say they have never been asked any questions about anything medical when visiting other massage clinics,” Alison says. 

She continues, “Not doing a consultation can be dangerous to the client and is highly unprofessional of the therapist.”

So, make client consultations a key part of your process. Always take the time to gather information and ask questions prior to the treatment so you can determine the best way to address the client’s needs.

Also, train your staff to actively seek the client’s feedback throughout the session. For instance, instead of asking if the pressure is fine, have them ask if it needs to be deeper or lighter. You must also ask them to pay close attention to any areas that may be sore or tender. 

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In addition, make sure that the temperature is appropriate so that clients don’t feel cold or uncomfortable during therapy. It’s a good idea to keep warmed blankets ready in the room and to ask clients if they need more than a sheet. 

2. The therapist talked too much

A chatty massage therapist happens to be a pet peeve of many — especially someone who talks too much during sessions. 

However, not many therapists truly understand why communication during sessions should be strictly kept at a minimum.

Massage therapy aims to help the human body to switch over from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic one. Most of us unknowingly stay in the sympathetic (fight or flight state) way too long which creates stress. This then finds its way into our bodies as pain, stiffness, or soreness. 

The goal of a massage therapist should be to allow the parasympathetic system to do its job — to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. However, conversing requires people to think and make an effort which is counterproductive in the treatment room. 

“As a mother and business owner, massages are my go-to method of relaxation and stress relief. My biggest pet peeve is getting a massage therapist that talks too much during our session,” says Leticia Romney, owner and editor at The Write Hand, LLC.

“Normally I’m a very friendly and talkative person, but the purpose of a massage for me is to slow down my brain. Trying to hold a conversation during this time of relaxation just keeps my mind stimulated and my brain moving. It defeats the purpose for me.”

So, as a massage clinic owner or manager, you must encourage silence during sessions. Once the session starts, therapists must keep the communication to a minimum except to check if the pressure is adequate and/or the client is comfortable. 

Finding site issues is good. Fixing them is better.

3. The therapist was unprofessional and/or not properly trained

Many clients complain about unprofessionalism in the treatment room — therapists rushing through treatments, cutting them short, or being rude. 

“I believe a therapist who is in a hurry to treat me is a big NO. I go to a massage clinic to relax, not to have someone treat me rapidly without any concern for my comfort,” says Jacob Hubbard, editor at TheGoodyPet.

On Yelp, several negative reviews for large massage clinics chain center around similar themes:

“You feel rushed, however, coming in and out,” writes one client. 

“Different receptionists came and went, each was rude,” writes another. 

Much of this can be avoided by establishing some procedural standards and training your staff to follow them diligently. Therapists need to be trained on managing their time effectively between appointments so that clients receive their full treatment while others aren’t kept waiting. 

Train your staff to educate clients about any potential side-effects (like fatigue or soreness) they may experience after the massage and what they can do to alleviate them (stretch, drink more water, use heat or ice, etc.). It’s also extremely important to conduct training sessions from time to time to help your staff perfect their techniques or learn new ones.

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4. Bad staff hygiene and dirty surroundings 

Believe it or not, bad staff hygiene, dirty rooms, and messy bathrooms in massage clinics are more common than you think. Of course, it goes without saying that any of these can pretty much ruin the customer experience. 

Hubbard recalls an instance when he went to a massage clinic that had unhygienic conditions. A therapist was treating another patient prior to Hubbard, and when it was his turn, he said the therapist didn’t wash their hands. 

“I didn’t visit that clinic ever again and I do not recommend them to my friends either,” he says. 

Remember, massages require a therapist and a client to be physically very close, so it’s extremely important that therapists have excellent personal hygiene. That means clean hands, no soiled uniforms, no strong perfumes, no body odor, and no stale breath. 

It’s best for therapists not to smoke before treatments because the odor tends to linger and can cause some discomfort to clients. They must also make sure that their hair is in place, nails are neatly trimmed, and hands are washed (with warm water) and dried before starting a treatment. 

As a massage clinic owner or manager, you must also establish certain guidelines about cleanliness and make sure that therapists follow them. Before a client enters a treatment room, make sure that the table is steady and dressed properly, lights are dim, music is playing, and the room smells nice. 

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5. Disorganized and impersonal experience

Another common complaint people have about massage clinics is the disorganized way in which they communicate and set appointments. 

On the consumer advocacy platform and review website, massage clients often report unexpected appointment cancellations, unauthorized credit card charges, and poor communication from the business. 

As discussed earlier, effective time management and employee training are key to avoiding these issues. Emphasize the importance of excellent communication and customer service when training your team. 

Also, ensure that your clinic has adequate staff to meet demand, so appointments don’t need to be canceled and clients aren’t kept waiting. 

If you already have enough people on board, encourage them to block out times in their day so they can go over their schedule, check messages and/or emails, return calls, etc. This way, they won’t need to cram them into their schedules and take their focus away from their clients. 

It’s also a good idea to contact your clients the day before their scheduled appointment to confirm their availability. This can help you minimize “no shows” and better manage your schedule.

You should set aside time to discuss with your staff what to do or say when a client calls or walks into the clinic. It’s important for them to be able to make your clients feel comfortable and to be committed to providing an exceptional customer experience. 

Final words

If you look closely, you’ll notice that most of the complaints mentioned above can be managed or avoided by training your staff properly and conducting regular audits to ensure that operating standards are being maintained. Here’s where audit software can help you. 

Audit solutions from Bindy provide inspection checklists to help you enforce regular maintenance of equipment, sanitation, staff training, and other operating procedures. You can even attach photos and documents to demonstrate best practices and get everyone on the same page. 

Audit software can also help you make sure that your staff adheres to the dress code and conforms to every customer interaction standard, so you can protect the customer experience and take your business to newer heights.


Refer to the Clinics, Gyms, Spas and Studios category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for the clinic, personal fitness, and spa industries.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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