[Originally published in Massage & Myotherapy Australia Journal, Dec 2021]
Have you noticed how everything in a Covid world seems to take longer? Going to the bank, post office, supermarket… there’s the check-ins and hand sanitiser. Returning a book to a library… even the books have to quarantine! Doctor’s appointments… you have to wait outside of the clinic to avoid people congregating.
Even now, a couple of years in, the environment is still changing and feeling unfamiliar and unwanted – I’m sure no one had this up on their vision board 5 years ago!
But just like we are doing our best to deal with the circumstances, so are our clients.
And in a world where things change and people feel unsettled in general, it is important to be a point of confidence, calm and reassurance. Showing your clients that they can trust you helps them feel safer when they interact with your business and makes you stand out in an uncertain world.
Your behaviours will help them feel that trust just as much as your words. Which is why part of getting clients back after covid is being able to communicate regularly and clearly with them, so they feel confident in who you are.
I’m going to share here a few ideas of what you can talk about at different stages of your community journey with COVID, and how to connect with your clients at each step.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit” Aristotle
So let’s talk about how we can have excellence in any circumstance: in a lockdown, on the other side of one or even if you’re not in a lockdown state. In any case you can create “excellence habits” and share them with your clients.
If you are currently in a Lockdown or dealing with a COVID situation in your community:
Build strong connections and community with your clients so you can help them fight feelings of isolation. And be transparent with how you are feeling and what you are doing to make it through so you can model healthy mental and physical action when needed.
Sometimes, honestly, we can be enjoying lockdown, enjoying the gift of time or space. And sometimes the opposite is true, we might be feeling disappointed, frustrated, scared or overwhelmed. You might even be in a State that has not been affected much but perhaps you’re going through a different challenging situation at this time.
Firstly, know that you are allowed to have your own experience of this. Just because we can see that other people might have it tougher (or easier) does not mean we have to minimise our own feelings.
Being transparent with your clients doesn’t mean complaining or moping openly to them in a way that might increase negativity or fear. There are other places to get that kind of support when you need it.
But sharing openly does mean acknowledging your struggles and talking about how you’re travelling through them. This builds a strong connection and may validate the experiences your clients might be having and encourage them to be honest with their own struggles too.
When it comes to the practical application of this I would suggest you focus on what you are doing during your days or weeks, and stories or education that might help people work through their own challenges.
Ideas of what you can share:
- What you have been up to during the day
- Stretches they can do at home
- Foam roller or spiky ball tips
- The benefits of drinking water and a healthy diet
- Pets or plants you have and the fun they can be
- Apps you have found that are helpful
- Even cooking recipes you have found and tried
If you have other training that you can use to run something while online that can be a great way of connecting clients into a community as well. For example online meditation or exercise classes might be free or paid, but either way they’ll help clients feel connected and mean they have a positive experience of you that they’ll remember when the doors are open again.
Social media or email would be the easiest ways to be sharing this type of connection.
Whatever your chosen communication channels are – this is the time to be talking to your clients.
When you know you are heading back to work:
When you do start heading back to face-to-face work with clients, you should celebrate and promote the opportunities to book a treatment and continue to build trust and alleviate any fear by showing them that you are doing what is required for their safety. So promote your opening date and that you have cleaning polices and a Covid-safe plan in place.
This should be done more than once and explained in a few simple bite-size pieces rather than a long legal style document. I recommend making a social media and email plan that might span 4 weeks of posts and messages that celebrate re-opening and inform people of your safety measures.
It is important to remember to keep everything you can in very respectful language, especially if you’re posting about a topic that might be controversial for some people. I saw a beautiful post on Facebook the other day asking for people to share if they had been vaccinated – which is a potential nightmare to ask on social media right now – but this post said to only mention it to them if the client had been recently vaccinated because of how it affected care. The incredibly respectful tone of the post meant it had an almost entirely positive response.
So if you know what your road map to re-opening looks like, use some time to plan how you want to communicate to your clients in the best and clearest way possible.
When you are back face-to-face:
Is it important again in this phase to help your clients feel safe and share with them what you are doing to keep them that way.
This means showing your cleaning practices and safety gear etc like we mentioned above. And it also means being regular and kind in how you communicate. Consistency can build confidence because you’re seen often and when each communication lines up with what people have come to know of you already then it reinforces that trust each time.
Which also means it’s okay to NOT talk about Covid all the time! It can be an emotionally exhausting topic to keep returning to anyway. An idea I was chatting about with some therapists last week was to make your clinic room a “covid-talk-free zone”. Meaning you communicate your expectation of them before they come into the room (check-in, masks etc) and have a sign on the door that says all the things you are doing to keep them safe – but once they come in there is no talking about covid so that you can both have a break from the stress of that.
You might find the same in your social media posts or email as well. Yes there are some safety things that need to be said, but after a few weeks of being open most people will know the gist of that and you can focus more on topics that will help your clients in other ways.
And a hot tip for social media right now: videos are really effective at the moment. Film yourself cleaning your table or clinic or setting up for the day on a time lapse setting. Show some common stretches or how to use a foam roller. Do a tour of your clinic room and show them around. Whatever the topic is, video will get seen more than other content in your social media feeds. And yes I know some people aren’t comfortable with video yet but remember that your clients already love who you are, and they already they know what you look and sound like. Videos can set you up as an authority and help you to realise how much you actually do know.
Earlier this year I read “The Resilience Project”, a book by Huge Van Cuylenburg in which refers to three incredible principles for building our muscle of resilience. He calls them GEM Principles, an acronym for Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness, and he shares profound and insightful stories and research about how these lead to an improved ability to live and thrive through difficult circumstances.
“Gratitude to me,” says Hugh, “is the ability to pay attention to what we have got and not worry about what we don’t have.” Empathy is our ability to walk in someone else shoes, and mindfulness refers to some form of mindful practice like meditation, yoga, prayer or even stillness.
Personally, what I have loved about practicing these principles is how well they have helped me navigate some of the tough challenges in my life and business in the last 18 months.
When I am able to put myself in a place of experiencing gratitude, empathy or mindfulness it’s easier for me to feel more self-assured and calm despite external factors, and I can continue practicing them in any circumstances. This has helped me to keep momentum in the things that I know will drive my business forward. It’s not always easy, but it’s something I know I can return to when I need to.
You may have seen some of my story if you follow me on social media. Coming from a place of challenge and momentum, I have shared some of my tough times and some major breakthroughs – with a goal of encouraging and connecting with my community. What I have seen as a response is people inspired to keep going through their circumstances, connect more deeply to themselves, and accept growth. And as a natural, incredibly beautiful, by-product they can then connect more deeply with their clients.
So I encourage you to turn your experiences right now into your story that will uplift and encourage your clients. Not only will it help them – but you might find yourself with a new connection to your purpose too.