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James and I both work with allied health clients often. James and his wife Elicia, run Massage Champions, a business coaching program for massage therapists.

We met each other because I have a dedicated analytics offer for businesses who use the Cliniko booking software where I hook Cliniko up into analytics and then create a lead generation dashboard and a couple of other key reports that show a clinic where their bookings in Cliniko are coming from. James thought it was a great idea so he interviewed me on his podcast and since then I have gone on to help several clinics who wanted to track their paid campaigns to get more online bookings.

I thought James and Elicia are so great at what they do, and do amazing things for their clients (everyone raves about them) so I asked him if he would contribute a story about his business or a business he helped. As it turns out he had not one, but two major business “events” that shook Elicia’s massage clinic before they started Massage Champions.

This story is the first one, James calls it “The Great Bookings Disaster”

The Great Bookings Disaster

Story by James and Elicia Crook of Massage Champions, written by Frances Williams

Like many businesses “back in the day”, Elicia used a paper diary to record bookings and client information. Eventually, she switched to an expensive booking software system. However, cloud software wasn’t so common back then, so the system itself wasn’t backed up. This is how “The Booking Disaster” came about, as they now call it.

The software was based on the desktop computer, and was ticking along nicely, as it seemed. Client records, information and booking history were all stored on the computer itself, without a backup.

James’s techie background came into play and he mentioned to Elicia…”you need to back that up, right? That’s important information. You need to back it up.”

Following James’ advice, Elicia brought a tech person in to install an external harddrive to perform daily backups. Great. Done. James went about his business, focusing on getting “hands on backs”.

One day, the computer just got too old and it crashed. It died, as computers do. The hard drive in the computer just completely fried. “The thing wouldn’t turn on, it just wouldn’t do anything”.

Elicia muttered “oh,” and a few swear words under her breath. “What are we going to do now?” Panic mode, panic mode. “Oh, at least we’ve got that backup.” She gets the backup drive out, they bring it home and plug it into one of their computers and they realize that the backup drive has been running for years. Backing up the My Documents folder on the computer.

But the software?

The software didn’t actually save the data into the My Documents folder. So despite doing a great job at backing up every word document ever created, the most important data, the bookings, (essentially the lifeblood of the business) were not backed up.

It wasn’t just a couple of weeks’ worth of bookings, it was for months ahead. Every single appointment was lost.

One positive was that they had paper notes for every client, tucked away in filing cabinets. These notes contained their details such as phone numbers and addresses, but not their booking history.

This “booking disaster” was a blow to Elicia. “She totally freaked out. She lost it”. James remembers her bringing up the tech guy that had installed this hard drive and “just being so angry”. While they knew it wasn’t his fault, there was a little blame associated there, but it was pushed aside and dealt with quickly.

That afternoon, Elicia pulled herself together. James recalls her attitude as “right, I’ve got to look at how I can actually move through this and create a solution from this. Like what are we going to actually do? Freaking out is not actually helping.”

An emergency staff meeting was called. They sat in a circle and put their memories to work, figuring out; “who do we think is booked in and when?”, “well this week I know I’ve got this shift and I remember that guy must be about due”, and they penciled bookings in one by one. Together, they pieced together as much as they could.

Using pure memory once again, they thought “well, who should be due for an appointment that we haven’t seen for a while that may have booked one that we just can’t remember?”. From there, a big list of clients was created. Luckily, each therapist had their own client base they see regularly, so it was easier on Elicia to gather the information.

From there, they went down the massive list of clients and simply called them, explaining; “Oh my goodness, we’ve had the bookings disaster. I think your appointment was at 3:00 p.m, Thursday, is that right?”. Total honesty. The bookings were sorted out and written out in a paper diary, as before, simple and clear. The phone calls and manual diary got them about 80% of the way there, regaining most of the lost bookings.

To have a plan in place for that last 20% of lost bookings, the team made up little packs of chocolates and treats. If anyone turned up expecting an appointment which hadn’t been remembered, the team explained the “booking disaster” and offered them a treat pack. Only a few were needed in the end, as it turned out that their proactive approach had salvaged more bookings than they initially thought.

As it turned out, they actually ended up with more bookings than what they had before the disaster happened. Because they took the time to call each and every person who could potentially have a booking, they put themselves in the forefront of the client’s mind.

The call went a little something like: “Hey…we had this booking disaster, we just literally lost all our bookings. I know it’s been a few weeks since we saw you and I just don’t have a record of when you’re booked in it. Do you know, did we have something booked in?” And the client would say, “Actually we don’t, but you know what, I really need a massage. My hip is super sore.” The team were really pleased with this outcome; “oh, more bookings. Who would have thought?”.

They also put a message on their Facebook page and sent emails to their entire client base saying, “Oh, you know, appointment disaster. Sorry if you’ve got an appointment, you just need to check in with us to let us know when it was”. Honest and upfront. From this, clients would click the link and book in, even if they didn’t have an existing appointment.

It was a lot of work. It was a lot of stress. It was a lot of panic. But despite all of that, they took the action they needed to take. They calmed themselves down after the initial panic, so they could act fast. The end result was that the issue was reduced and made much less important than it could have ended up. If things had really gone to hell in a handbasket and they simply panicked and hadn’t acted, the outcome of this story would have been tragically different.

What’s clear here is that they took action and worked methodically, focusing on what they could do, not on what they couldn’t change. They were open and honest with their clients and didn’t turn to excuses or blame. It shows the importance of keeping in regular contact with clients and customers so the business and services are always present in their mind as an option for the future.

Another clear lesson which James passes on to his clients is; “just make sure your backups are actually working. Just because someone says this is backed up…the only time you know if a backup is actually working is when you need to restore it. So even if you just need to do a fake restore of a backup just to check if it’s working, do it. That should be part of the test for any kind of essential system backup that you’re running”.

Isn’t that so fortunate that Elicia managed to recover all her bookings after The Great Bookings Disaster! I am so glad that they recovered and are now helping other therapists to prevent these types of dramas (or at least deal with them in a positive way like Elicia did).

If you’d like to get in touch with James and Elicia here is their contact info:
Elicia and James Crook, Massage Champions
Elicia and James are passionate about helping other therapists to create their dream business as they support their communities, and to seeing the industry moving forward.

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