How to Set Your Spa Apart From the Rest

By Casey Olsen Owner, Spa Sources | June 15, 2010

Having "been there" in the beginning and having operated what was the largest spa in the world at 65,000 square feet, 42 massage rooms and 38 facial rooms, it was tortured into my staff by me that service is our only mantra. No matter what the guest requests, we will do what ever they wish if it is at all within our power, but what really want to achieve is that no guest needs to request a thing from us, we have already catered to their every need and beyond. Certainly, at the minimum, my staff was there to care for our guests at every turn. For example, when a guest exited one of our 12 individual whirlpool baths, a staff member would be there to help them out, have a warm dry towel ready to drape over their back and gently rub their back dry and having their robe at the ready. Yes, I had a staff of over 150 able to perform such personal attentive action. You might think that my payroll costs were immense, however, my spa was the largest revenue producing department in the whole property with a net departmental profit of 50%, generating over $4 million annually, which is still unprecedented in today's spa realm.

So indeed, that old fashioned philosophy of real spa pampering is equitable to your spa facility, both new and old. Having visited what is considered one of the top 10 spas in the country recently, I was stunned at the unbelievable lack of attention that I received, especially since my spa services bill was close to $500.00. I had made my appointments in advance and arrived at the spa in plenty of time to relax prior to my appointments. Having never been to the spa I was excited about having a true day for myself, and telling myself not to look at this as work, since spas are my business, but just enjoy the experience. That, unfortunately, was not possible at this particular spa.

I entered the spa lobby, staff all giggling and paying no attention to my presence. I had to politely interrupt their conversation and tell them that I had appointments and ask where I should go from here. One of the staff members just pointed to a door. After entering through the door, I encountered two more staff members chatting. I told them that I had appointments and they handed me a locker key and said the locker room is right over there.

So, imagine spa queen Casey, trying to ignore the logistics of a spa operation at this stage, not easy to do. I walked into a cavernous locker room and searched for my locker number. No staff in site. After an extensive search found my locker and upon opening found paper shoes, yes, I said paper shoes, and a robe. I changed and started searching for the steam and sauna. A very nice lady who was wiping down the counters showed me the way. Need I continue?

OK, so maybe I'm from the old school a bit, but I think that the absolute bare minimum was not accomplished on my visit, and certainly anything resembling service was not at all present. And what is most disturbing, is that many of today's spa guests have little or no idea of what they are not receiving. Imagine if the guests of that spa had sampled just some my previous description of guest service and personal hands on attention. No matter the size, the marble on the walls, the amenities or the ambiance, if they had been pampered even half as much as my staff did in the "olden days" rave reviews would have followed and return guests would abound.

Another area that can set your spa apart from the rest is attitude. Now all of what I have written so far is not news, but when this does not occur, it becomes news. I am all too aware of how difficult it is to find reliable happy employees, but is it really. I know that I love my consulting work and I also know that when I was the Spa Director of 3 different luxury spas, I had the most incredible staff possible. It's not because I got lucky, because believe me, they did not all come to me that way, but what they did discover about working in my spas was that work can be truly enjoyable.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.