Smart Tips for Creating Your Own Treatment Protocols

STEP BY STEP concept with pen and arrows pointing to steps
Proper protocols, systems and processes can create clear treatment experiences, manage costs and provide a standard for a consistent client experience.
By bluedesign -

Whether you are a solo service provider/business owner ready to hire another therapist, struggling with consistent client experience, or find yourself re-training your team over and over, it’s important to have the right protocols in place for spa treatments.

Many employers desire to have their team of service providers deliver treatments just like them. However, many do not have treatment protocols written down to train and create expectations efficiently and effectively.

Common roadblocks to creating protocols are time, being unsure how to create one or, in the case of solo practitioners, feeling that it’s not necessary since they are the only ones providing the services. But creating protocols, systems and processes can help foster clear treatment experiences, manage costs, provide a standard for a consistent client experience, and act as a point of reference that providers can quickly reference.

Taking on the Task

Creating a protocol is not easy, especially when you’ve been providing a specific treatment or experience for so long that it’s just second nature to you. Your brain may be on autopilot as you gather all the materials and resources you need to provide the treatment. During the treatment, you are critically thinking and making adjustments due to your client’s needs and preferences.

How do you start putting that into words that make sense for someone else and expect them to provide a similar experience? And, how do you create guidelines that allow for certain service expectations or modifications?

It’s difficult! You must slow down, analyze and address what you actually do in treatment. Think about what the extras and exceptions may be, and list the rules of what needs to be done in each treatment.

Loose protocol guidelines are “okay” when it’s only cutting into the solo owner/practitioner’s profit. However, if four therapists are using a $25 cream, serum or oil in every treatment, that can quickly add up. You can lose money after labor costs, operations costs and unaccounted-for product use.

Creating protocols allows you to set expectations of service and product costs, which in turn allows you to make accurate revenue projections, accurately price treatments and appropriately compensate your team.

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Writing Your Recipe

Think of creating a protocol like writing a recipe. First, you need to gather all your ingredients and break down the step-by-step sequence of actions that occur during the treatment.

Be as specific as possible when breaking down each step. For example, there are many ways to provide effleurage—hand over hand, flat palms together, soft fists, forearms/elbows, etc.—and they affect the intensity and treatment experience. So, any specific movements, products or tools that are essential to the client experience should be included in the protocol you are creating.

If you are using a certain product, tool or hot wet/dry towels, be sure to include that detail in the appropriate step as well.

During this process, you may find yourself feeling that a step is important but it’s more of an exception, or maybe it requires certain circumstances. In this case, put it at the bottom of the protocol as an option. As you test the protocol’s efficacy and integrity, if you find yourself hardly using this step, eliminate it. Alternatively, if you use the step often, include it in the protocol.

If your treatment has any contraindications, make sure to include it in the protocol, as well, and screen for those contraindications during intake.

Communication Matters

When you train your team, you may have to adjust your protocol for communication purposes; how you understand a word or direction may be different from the individuals you are training.

For example, the protocol step may be: Fold a towel and place it behind the client’s neck for additional support. It seems clear, simple and direct, but there are many ways to fold a towel.

Customer feedback may reveal that the treatment was amazing, but the towel under their head felt unnecessary or uncomfortable. If client feedback is usually otherwise positive, you need to find out where the inconsistency happened: the protocol, the training or the individual’s memory.

Maybe the true protocol step is to fold the towel in half lengthwise, roll it loosely and place it under the client’s neck for additional support. Or, perhaps the specific technique wasn’t demonstrated during the provider’s training.

In terms of memory, remember that receiving training can be overwhelming and it can be difficult to remember all the steps—which is why having a thorough and detailed protocol is an important resource. However, if the protocol does not clearly state the treatment steps, you may run into inconsistencies and customer service issues.

Creating protocols can provide clarity, standards of expectations and valuable resources for employees to reference independently. It’s truly important to dedicate time to this endeavor, as it will ultimately prevent continuous team training and treatment inconsistencies.

It also empowers your team of service providers to deliver stellar treatment experiences. You can even use your written protocols when auditing your practitioners to ensure they are consistently and accurately performing services, which will be important for further training. Protocols are well worth the time it takes to create them.

Jamerie Michalek is a massage and spa business coach with a passion for helping others. She has more than a decade of experience as a massage therapist and spa manager, and now helps other spa professionals run their businesses with confidence and strategy.

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