Lip Service Versus Guest Service

By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | October 28, 2008

Consider the following episode which took place at a "full -service" spa. On the agenda: a manicure and a pedicure. When I called to schedule this pampering experience, I was told to plan for two and a half hours. Perfect. I had a three hour window and my toes already were wiggling with excitement. I asked the receptionist to confirm that treatments for me and a companion would begin exactly at noon and be completed by 2:30 pm as we had another engagement. She reassured me they would.

We arrived at noon, our feet already undressed. The receptionist noted our excitement, remembered our time window and let us know our therapists would be with us shortly (always be wary when anyone uses this nebulous phrase!). At 12:25, our therapists came out to greet us. My anxiety was slight at this point. I selfishly wanted all two and a half hours to pamper my feet and hands and knew we had just lost 25 minutes.

Nonetheless, we were led to a private room, seated in comfy armchairs, received herbal tea and water-but then had to wait some more. Our therapists still had to assemble lotions and potions to get the job done and at 12:45, the real treatments began. With increasing anxiety, we began to resent paying full price for the 45 minutes that did not involve our feet or hands.

Although flustered, our therapists reassured us we would be out by 2:30. At 2:55, with tissue still between our toes and polish still wet, we had to leave. Although everyone involved knew of our time restraints, our bill was not ready and had to be redone twice before we could finally leave.

The next day, the spa called us to tell us we owed an additional amount due to a billing error. Amazed, I returned the call and spoke to the spa manager. I relayed how upsetting our experience had been, how the time commitment had been broken during each step, how the service was not even close to satisfactory much less the expectations we were given and how surprising it was to learn that we had to pay even more because of a billing error.

Aghast with my comments, she told me that, in 20 years, no one had ever complained about service at this spa. Although that may be true (though I doubt it), I was not looking for a history lesson and certainly was not feeling any better about my first (and final) experience at this spa.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.