Soothe, Zeel, Urban Massage, Refresh Body, Life Booker these are all apps for a new trend called Out-Call On Demand Massage. Never heard of this? Back in 2015 several Industries started to take note of the success of Uber and Lift and their ability to create a market using app based technology. One of those industries was massage industry and slowly the spa industry. I thought it might take a moment to help people get up to speed on this topic as well as to provide them some insight from my point of you.
So let's briefly take a moment to discuss the current state of the spa and bodywork industry in and it states and how it is currently divided up. There are two main branches of massage there is the relaxation portion and the therapeutic portion. Many of the relaxation aspects of the massage industry are things that people would call spas. The other branch would be the more therapeutic side and that would be health spas and clinics. As a side note, here I would like to clarify something that Massage Envy has done for years which is to call their spas clinics. This is not the correct use of the terminology. Massage Envy has an extremely regimented protocol for each service and for legal reasons chooses not to allow their therapist to work in any therapeutic capacity whatsoever. This would be more properly turned a spa. In my opinion this is a deliberate distortion of the term in order to low customers into a false sense of confidence in the professionalism and knowledge of their therapists. The relaxation branch of massage is the one most people know. These massage are intended to be relaxing with no real focus where people tend to pay more for the soft music and pleasant environment. There are usually two budget categories within us that of the luxury aspect which massages tend to be done and very large elaborate spas the other tend to be done in more confined budget price ranges that would be places like Massage Envy. Therapists are typically those out of school with no therapeutic skills whatsoever other than the necessary to prevent harm. These therapists and spas tend to be open on nights, weekends, and holidays. Continuing on with the second branch that would be therapeutic massage the sessions are strictly focusing on health and different aspects of the massage that can enhance your current health through the use of tried-and-true techniques. Most of these practitioners work with and chiropractic clinics physical therapist offices or other medically based office settings. This also means that they work more 9-to-5 type of jobs and do not except tips but in some cases do take insurance (Insurance companies are slowly pricing out these services).
So as a point of full disclosure let me discuss where I am within these two branches and why I am choosing to be there. That will give us a framework for discussing these new massage on-demand apps. When I started out in the massage industry back in 2009 all I wanted was to get a job (and it really did not matter to me where). Being a male in the industry right after an economic downturn jobs were sparse to begin with. Slowly over the years I received advice from a number of people including other therapist who had been in the industry longer one of the things that was brought to my attention was the fact that clients find you and you must examine who they are. So overtime I found that people came to me to feel better physically not necessarily to relax. As people would come to me with, and aches and pains I realize that their perception of me was not so much that I could help them relax but I could help them feel better through helping them with pain. I slowly started to go off into the branch a massage that was more therapeutic in nature and therefore did not do well in spas. Today is most of you would recognize me in the therapeutic realm many of you may not realize how particular of a therapeutic technique I use which would put me off into a very small subset of the therapeutic massage world. I continue to choose this as an option because it tends to gravitate the most clients towards me as well as excites my interest. The human body is an extremely complex machine and there's just too much there for one person to fully understand.
So let's not get to the point of discussing what this new technology is and how it fits into the relaxation and therapeutic realm. Massage on-demand app services have only been around since 2014 and only popularized in 2015 and 2016. What it provided you is the ability to at any point in your day from almost anywhere in the world find a qualified massage therapist for your needs (as of right now relaxation needs) who will come to you. Some of you might say that this is simply an out call service which are pretty common. The added twist is the use of the apps to dispatch people to you. Like taxi services and Uber there are some differences between outcalls and these apps: Out calls are set by the provider directly not the customer. The provider is typically pay directly and I'll call versus an app where they receive payment electronically. And the apps take limited responsibility for local laws and ordinances regarding days and times of a sized can be received or as service providers doing out calls must know those regulations and must obey them (this means like Uber drivers they are simply working at there our risk and sometimes against the law) (* special note here, in Minnesota it is illegal to work within cities without a permit and these apps do not take that into account and do not force the provider to provide those permits as required to them to verify their skill set and background checks with the individual cities that would be affected. Within the Twin Cities area and app services could send someone to as many as five cities in one day all of which we have different licenses and permits that the therapist may or may not choose to receive in order to do massage legally).
But here's what the apps will provide for you. Depending on the app you can get the profile of an individual therapist who may or may not be fully qualified to serve you anytime of the day or night to come to your home or office and provide you with a service. All the services would be for a set price and you only have to pay the service provider you don't have to pay the therapist directly which means that you'll always pay one price. I've actually had the chance to meet a number of people who are receiving the services and that he'll provide the services and each of them has their own unique feedback. The most common when I hear from the clients receiving services is that the services can be either very good or they can be just plain. From the providers point of you it gives them the opportunity to make money without having to work for somebody else which in the younger generation seems to be a very important thing. I will say I have yet to find a therapeutic service provider who chooses to use these apps because they do not typically offer features that allow you to adjust prices for a particular skill set (these are typically prenatal massages or cupping services or other types of massage that require particular certifications and education).
So where does this leave you the client? I think it leaves clients in a unique situation in that you're taking a very intimate service and you're bringing it into your home. For some people to neutral ground of a spa or clinic seems to help them separate certain aspects of their life and in some ways up them relax. In another sense to provide you the opportunity to create a brand new convenience that like with many other apps provide enhance a certain aspects of your life. I believe like many of the other app based services that have come out over the last few years there will be many bugs to work out that will take years to work themselves out. I believe that many of the budget spas and high-end spas on the relaxation side of the industry really do have some problems ahead if they choose not to adapt. I believe at that freedom of choice there will be a large segment, that will choose as therapist to work for themselves and that means perhaps some of the best service providers will go to app services and not traditional spas.
Where does that leave therapeutic service providers you might ask? The simple answer is we don't know yet. Because so many therapeutic service providers in a number of states rely on the licenses of medical doctors, chiropractors, and others to take insurance the ability to create an app is there but the willingness on the part of the industry may be much different. I believe the biggest obstacles will be with her insurance companies will be: to allow billable services to take place on location (similar to a CNA) or could the liability for certain types of therapeutic procedures be too high. Also the availability of fluctuating rates depending on the specialty and needs of the client or the qualifications of the practitioner. Personal trainers are dealing with the same issue and I must admit I'm watching their industry very closely. The other issue is time consolidation because some of these services are come to you services. .The number of appointments people can take is very limited and when you add in long commute times could make it much worse. This could mean that some therapeutic procedures and equipment that is required to produce the results necessary could be cost prohibitive and therefore limited to a higher price point which might be out of the price range of some clients who need it.
Lastly, there might be a few of you wondering what I plan to do as a result of this change in technology. For the moment I feel I've taken a neutral position for several reasons: the first being that because almost all of my work is therapeutic a nature in the industry has not quite figured out what to do with it I feel like I have some time to learn. I'm trying to meet most clients halfway when it comes to physical accommodations for therapeutic needs. As many of you know I work in an office that is on the second floor of building that does not have an elevator. As some of you may also know I will do all calls by request with some notice to allow me the opportunity to get the necessary equipment and timeframe needed to perform the service. Because at present these service request or not very often made I do not charge extra. This is completely counter to the rest of the industry. As a caveat of course unlike the rest of the industry I will only do out calls right now for those individuals who cannot physically get to the second floor of the building or it might be too given their current medical condition. I can of course change these policies based on many different factors but I would like to think that I've tried at least at this point to find a happy medium. I believe defining yourself as a practitioner is a very big part of setting the expectations and what role you can fit into peoples lives.