Measuring Employee Productivity in the Hotel Spa

By Peggy Borgman President, Preston Wynne, Inc. | October 28, 2008

Or are they? Not all "stay" spas are the same. A business-driven hotel will actually have high repeat clientele. Spa utilization may run toward a single treatment, such as a massage or a manicure, rather than all-day indulgences. A resort may attract the same guests year after year, especially if they've had a memorable and satisfying experience. These guests may visit the spa more than once during their stay-a form of retention that is little acknowledged. The distinction here is the visit interval-not whether a guest returns, but when. Understanding typical guest behavior can enable you to create realistic measurements of guest retention by spa employees.

For example, a hotel guest enjoys a massage during their visit, and decides to book a pedicure for the following day. Is this actually customer retention? You bet! If the guest had a negative experience with their massage therapist, they are much less likely to enjoy another treatment. So "retention" measurements should take into account how often a guest who works with one technician, also returns to the spa for additional appointments.

The hotel spa employee is a part of a complex and multi-faceted guest experience, but the spa experience, it's been shown, is one of the most impactful elements of a stay. This shouldn't come as a surprise; after all, there are few other situations in which a guest will be in such personal and physical contact with an employee. As well, there are few situations more fraught with expectations and intimidation than the spa visit. Guest expectations are incredibly high, and at the same time, they're concerned that they may not be "worthy" of the services they're receiving. Spa guests routinely fret over their physical appearance, in a way that restaurant guests do not. Seldom does a dinner guest apologize to a waiter for the burden of having to serve him, but that's exactly what happens when that same guest gingerly places her feet in the hands of a pedicurist. This self-consciousness can also manifest itself in over-sensitivity to imagined slights. So a successful spa experience is far from the slam dunk that we often imagine it to be. The "moments of truth" in a typical spa appointment are endless.

An article in Harvard Business Review in 2004 reported that a link between customer satisfaction and bottom line profit is measured most accurately by a very specific question. In the study cited, many different forms of customer satisfaction questions were posed, but the one that showed the most precise correlation with profitability was this:

"On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to refer someone you know to our company?"

The study showed that scores of 9 and 10 were indicators of healthy profit, but that scores of 7 or below meant serious trouble: even a score of 7 indicated that a customer was an "active detractor," energetically badmouthing the business.

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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.