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Read a story of a DIY sensory-friendly transformation at a massage therapy practice. These changes have helped to attract more customers and garnered greater positive reviews from returning customers.
Creating a sensory-friendly experience does two important things for businesses of all types, it:
- Helps to attract more customers
- Improves the experience of current customers
Sensory-friendly solutions can be no or low cost
This is a low-cost example of sensory-friendly changes. Becoming sensory-friendly does not have to take a lot of time, money, or resources.
Later in this blog post, you can also download a sample sensory sensitivity questionnaire. It is an example that can be used with clients for businesses who offer individual or personal services. You can also easily adapt it to other healthcare practices like the dentist, doctor, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, psychologist, or any other location that provides a personal service to a customer such as a hairdresser, salon, or spa.
Creating a sensory-friendly experience to attract more customers to access your services can be simple. Ask potential customers what their sensory preferences are and then match them as best you can during service delivery.
Becoming sensory-friendly attracts more customers
Here is the story of Kerry Legere Jenkins, a Registered Massage Therapist in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada and the sensory-friendly transformation at her massage therapy practice called Got Your Back.
Kerry’s practice is on the lower level of her home and she is a solo-practitioner. While the business and personal space in the house are separate, it has a different look and feel because her professional space is in her home.
Another key point was that nothing new was purchased as part of this project. DIY sensory-friendly changes were also made on the spot where possible. You too can attract more customers without making large and costly changes.
Kerry first thought about the usual clientele she sees for treatment in her massage therapy practice. Of the list of underlying conditions known to contribute to sensory sensitivity, she identified the following as most common: people with anxiety, concussion, hearing loss, a highly sensitive person, myalgic-encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and vestibular disorder.
Below is a sample questionnaire Kerry to use when she assesses new clients or during re-evaluation. A part of being ready to attract more customers is understanding the needs of current or incoming clients.
Sensory sensitivity questions for customers
- Do you like music playing during your treatment?
- If yes, what type/s of music do you prefer?
- Also, what type/s of music do you not prefer?
- Do you like more or less light in the room during the treatment?
- Would you like your eyes shaded? With a warmed shade?
- If so, would prefer a warmed and moist washcloth over your eyes?
- Alternatively, would you prefer an eye mask?
- Do you like ice water or room temperature water, or warm/hot water?
- Do you like lemon or plain water?
Note for the service provider: Have a glass of water available for clients when they come out of their treatment session to encourage hydration. You can offer hot or cold water.
- Do you like scented or non-scented oils?
- Do you find scents relaxing? If so, which scents?
For the service provider: Essential oils may be enjoyable.
Note for the service provider: Be mindful of scented products, scented detergents, and scented cleaning products, and so on, if scents are bothersome to your client. If scents and smells are a problem, scent-free odour absorbers may help.
Touch and Temperature
- Do you like light touch or deep pressure during a massage therapy session?
- Do you sleep with lots of blankets or just a sheet? (This is an indication of whether the client likes the weight of blankets or not). Consider using a weighted blanket too if the client enjoys the added pressure.
- Do you like moist heat or a hot pack?
- Do you like cold packs or icing?
- Are there movements that are difficult for you?
- Do you like to stretch?
Note for the service provider: Incorporate movement into the massage therapy treatment session if that is a preference of the client.
- Do you experience dizziness?
- If yes, when?
Note for the service provider: Provide a sturdy step stool for clients to climb on/off the treatment table if needed. Some medical step stools also come with handles. Include an assessment of getting on/off the treatment table as part of the intake assessment for safety.
Interoception: internal body sense
- How is your body feeling today?
Note for the service provider: Invite clients to use the toilet before and after treatment. Ensure that they feel comfortable interrupting treatment to use the toilet if needed.
In the massage therapy treatment room, Kerry had a beautiful large beach scene painting that was hidden in a corner. She moved it to a wall that clients would see immediately upon entering the treatment room. This created a more calming space for clients. Surprisingly, many clients asked after the transformation if it was a new painting.
Kerry also angled the massage therapy table and moved all of the supplies she used to the same corner in the room. This made it easier for her during treatments and helped the room appear less cluttered.
She removed a table from the room and placed it in the corner of her waiting room for her printer to make more space overall. So at one end of the room, she created a client space and at the other end of the room, and she created a therapist space with the massage therapy table in the middle. Putting all of the things Kerry uses in treatment together means that she walks around less during treatment sessions. Walking around is more work for her and massage therapy is a labor-intensive job. Accordingly, Kerry walking back and forth across the room can also be disruptive for some clients during treatment sessions.
Space should be sensory-friendly for the employer
One of the biggest changes made in the waiting room was moving Kerry’s desk. She moved it so that she was perpendicular to the window which is important to decrease glare and also to better see outside. Exposure to nature is important for the health and well-being of people at work. Including this sensory-friendly feature was equally beneficial for her and her clients.
Additionally, she reorganized the seating in the waiting room to make it appear less cluttered. Also, she placed a chair for clients directly in front of her desk.
Kerry has a collection of meaningful décor, gifts from clients, and things she has picked up over the years. Sometimes all those personal mementos can make spaces feel cluttered. Therefore, she grouped “like” things together, such as all the plants in one spot, and created some uncluttered and clear spaces too. Sometimes people like to look at things however, sometimes it is beneficial to have some blank space as well.
Kerry has a water cooler and also offers her clients hot beverages. Having these options on-hand is important for the sense of interoception too. In other words, keeping clients well-hydrated is a good healthcare practice!
A part of being sensory-friendly is movement. That does not mean only the movement of clients. Kerry has started using a laptop stand to help that is the same height as her screen so that she no longer has to scrunch over it.
Attract more customers by making changes for a sensory-friendly space.
Did you know that you have more than five senses?
You have at least eight: vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste, balance, movement, and interoception. Interoception is your internal body sense, telling you if you are hungry, thirsty or in pain.
Download the Sensory Friendly Solutions Sensory Friendly Interview Room for free! No email required. It is a resource to help you attract more customers. Additionally, check out this research, “Sensory Scouting: An Analysis of Supports for Sensory Needs of Children in Local Businesses” by Alison Whitman (2022) on the sensory experience in different businesses and strategies to become sensory-friendly 1.
Are you looking for more sensory-friendly ideas as a business or organization? Read these blogs:
- Make virtual meetings sensory-friendly.
- Create a sensory-friendly experience at virtual or in-person trade shows.
- Take care of your mental health at work.
- Love your workspace, by making it productive.
- Rethink your co-working space.
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Christel Seeberger has worked in health care for 30 years, including helping people with sensory sensitivity who experience sensory overload. Christel has a hearing disability and experiences sensory sensitivity and sensory overload herself. She founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016 to make the world more sensory-friendly, accessible and inclusive.
- Whitman, A. (2022). Sensory Scouting: An Analysis of Supports for Sensory Needs of Children in Local Businesses. University of New Hampshire. https://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1683