“Can or Should Day Spas Guarantee Their Services?”

RosemaryAbout 12 years ago, while I was researching whether I wanted to venture into the Day Spa business, I came across 2 very important mentors that helped to influence my decision to become a day spa owner and, more importantly, shaped the brand name we are today.

Hannelore Leavy, the Executive Director of the Day Spa Association, provided me with a wealth of information about the potential and dynamics of the Day Spa industry. Noelle DeCaprio, owner of Noelle The Day Spa, and a renowned pioneer in the day spa industry, provided me with the basis for The Brass Rose brand. I owe each of them a great debt of gratitude for their guidance and for sharing their vision of the uniqueness of the Day Spa industry with me. Both mentors helped me define the difference between the conduct of business for a local Day Spa and a Resort or Destination Spa.

As is the way with all students, I took the best information from my mentors and included it into my business implementation plan, and opted to ignore or modify what suited my personal vision.

One glaring cautionary tale from Noelle was “NEVER DISCOUNT SERVICES”. Her philosophy was that discounting services was tantamount to diminishing the value of the service. She operated on the principal that it was far better to compensate a discontent client with a product, rather than a service.

For some time, I abided by Noelle’s principal. However, after a very short time, I realized that most client complaints or concerns arise from the service or the associated spa experience, not the product that was used in the service. Clients did not value a free product in lieu of their complaint about a less than satisfactory service. Product compensation did not satisfy the client, nor achieve our goal to assure that the client would return to us for another service. Our goal, from a customer service viewpoint, was to get that client to trust us enough to come back and receive the same service they had and to experience it at a level that not only met, but exceeded their expectations, and to garner their loyalty to the Brass Rose. The only way to do that was to compensate the client with a discounted or free equivalent future service. In my view, that is the only way to demonstrate that the adverse client experience was a “fluke” and to insure that they give us a second chance to demonstrate that we are worthy of their continued patronage. To this day, we owe the success of our customer satisfaction policy, and our brand/reputation to our adherence to this philosophy. Clients know that The Brass Rose “guarantees” that we will meet or exceed their expectations. It distinguishes us from other day spa providers in our area. In today’s marketplace, this is a significant factor in how consumers choose which day spa to visit. How many day spas “guarantee” their services? Do you?

As Harry Beckwith, noted author of “Selling the Invisible”, best puts it, in the service industry, we do not have a tangible item that can be felt, touched or tested. The average consumer, purchasing a service, makes their decision, on faith, to use a particular service provider based upon their perception that the service provider will meet or exceed their expectations. How then can we guarantee the client expectations for day spa services?

For the client in the day spa arena, it’s all about the “experience”, not just the service, per say. The experience includes many intangibles, such as how the client was received at the desk, the temperature of the room, the aromas associated with the service and whether or not they felt “connected” to the therapist, etc. Unless you are extremely confident that your spa culture embraces every aspect of that client experience, you will never be able to promulgate a “guarantee” to your prospective clients that their experience will meet or exceed their expectations.

How do you guarantee your client expectations? We’d like to know.

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“The Role of the Day Spa Owner”

RosemaryI’m sure that most of you have attended many seminars and educational sessions during your career. If you’re anything like me, you always come back from the sessions full of hope, great ideas and motivated to make changes or improvements. Yet, when you get back to the spa, somehow, you never get around to implementing those great plans you had when you were sitting in the audience. You get busy again.

So, what are you so busy doing? What would prevent you prevent from implementing a great idea that would improve your business bottom line and profitability? If, as a spa owner, you are also a fully booked service provider, you already have a full time job servicing clients. That’s what keeps you so busy. So who has the job of operating and managing your business? If it’s also you, now you have two jobs, each requiring different skill sets, each with different responsibilities and accountabilities and more work than can be accomplished in a normal work day.

According to the 2007 Day Spa Magazine Spa Owners Report, 50% of spa owners and directors are fully booked service providers. Another 25% are booked for services for some portion of each day. That is logical because the majority of spa owners are practitioners that decided to open their own spa business. They have a passion for what they do and trained long and hard to acquire the skills to be the best at what they do. However, how were the skills acquired for running a business? Most spa practitioner training includes very few hours of business education, yet, as a spa owner, you need a very high level of business skills to be profitable at what you do.

A great number of spa owners are in the position where they have to make some hard choices. The first decision is where your primary personal goals lie. If your primary goal is to be the owner of a profitable spa, then you need to acquire business education and the skills to run your business in a productive and profitable manner and let go of the full time, hands on service role. If your primary goal is to continue to practice your professional skills on clients, and still own a profitable spa, then you need to recruit and hire a business professional to fulfill the very important role and responsibilities for achieving productivity and profitability for your spa.

In order to own and operate a profitable spa, the organizational structure must include, at a minimum,

one full time equivalent for each key area. The key areas include (1) Spa Owner = Marketing, Sales, Public Relations and Strategic Planning, (2) Spa Director = Professional Staff Management, Training and Education, and (3) Operations Director = Finance, Human Resources, Support Staff Management, Training and Education.

If you are thinking…….who can afford to do that? The answer is……..a profitable day spa. The reality is that you cannot afford not do it. If you bury yourself in a treatment room, on a full time basis, your business is at high risk of financial failure due to neglect and the failure to implement sound business practices.

How do you see your role as a spa owner?

“Are You Famous?”

RosemaryDid you ever read an article about a Day Spa and think……….. “We do that” or “We do that better”?

So how did that spa get in the article instead of your spa? The answer is public relations.  PR, as it is commonly termed, is not advertising.  Rather, it is part of a strategy to get the word out about your spa to both the general public and the trade press.

What is the value of your spa being seen in print or on the worldwide web?  The #1 reason is capturing the attention of your audience.  In this day and age of information bombardment, potential clients take shortcuts.  They read headlines and click on key words that peak their interest and bypass most of the advertisements that all say or promise the same thing. 

Who develops the information or copy that is required to get in print?  You do!  I can already hear the universal groan from overworked spa owners.  You’re too busy.  You don’t know how to write.  Get over it.  If you want to succeed in a very competitive marketplace, your spa has to stand out and apart from the crowd.  You can’t possibly be too busy to take a phone call from a trade magazine or local newspaper that’s doing an article about day spas.  You don’t have to write the article.  The writer will write the article.  All you have to do is answer the writer’s question and provide accurate information.  Who knows your spa or the spa business better than you?

So, how do you get that phone call?  My first phone call, from a trade magazine, came as a result of a referral from the Day Spa Association.  Did you know that when requests are made from editors and writers for potential interviewees, the Day Spa Association refers the writer to spas that are Accredited Members of the Association?  We are a DSA Accredited Day Spa and have first hand experience at the value and benefit of this status.  After that first interview, the writer and the editor put The Brass Rose Spa in their rolodex for future reference.  Now we’re on their short list of people to call. In addition, the writer has also recommended us to other writers as a credible source for day spa information.

As a spin off to appearing in a major trade magazine, in our monthly newsletter, we made sure that our clients found out about it.  We have a regular feature called “Brass Rose in the news”.  We list every article or news item where we were either quoted or featured.  Our clients love it and view us as experts and celebrities, just because we appeared in print.  They also view it as validation that they are very smart to be associated with such a well known quality spa.

To get your spa in print, you can’t just sit back and wait for that call from a writer or a magazine editor.

You have to be proactive to seek out local opportunities to get exposure for your spa.  Your local newspapers, especially the small weekly community papers are always looking for material to fill their pages.  They particularly like stories and news about local events and businesses.  This is your backyard.  This is where your customers live.  From the very beginning, including the time before we opened our business, we started sending press releases to our local papers.  We always try to send along a photograph for that perfect visual about who we are.  This is an effective marketing tool and is free advertising for your business.

What have you done to help your spa become famous?  We’d like to hear about it.

“The art of listening”

RosemaryOur Day Spa recently had the privilege of being included in a major magazine feature article about Day Spas. It was not the first time this had happened to us, nor do I expect it will be the last. The primary reason we were selected by the writer and the editor was because we are a DSA Accredited Day Spa. Once again, I was grateful for our DSA membership and the wisdom we had to apply for and be granted DSA Accreditation. In these economic times when consumers are particularly discerning about where and how they spend their money, I was grateful for the opportunity to showcase why and how we are distinguished from our competition and why they should choose us from amongst the many Day Spas in our area.

The second revelation came during the photo shoot for the magazine article. At that time, while the photographer was in the treatment room, the writer was interviewing one of the clients she had selected, from a list of five volunteers, in our spa lounge. I excused myself, to allow them privacy. However; I went around the corner to remain out of sight, but still remain in ear shot of their conversation. To my amazement, not only did the targeted interview client respond to the writer’s questions, there were other clients, resting in the lounge, which overheard the writer’s questions and spontaneously chimed in. What they had to say was amazing and extremely revealing!

The clients said things like “I love that the treatment beds are heated…… it’s so warm and cozy”, “the Chai Tea is to die for and I really look forward to that comfort drink every time I come here …one time the Chai machine was broken and I was really bummed out”, “ I am not an overly modest person, but I appreciate the way that they respect your modesty during the service really impressed me”, “all of the staff are so warm and friendly from the minute I come through the door”, “when I was in the bathroom, I was thinking that it was clean enough to eat off the floors….not just because you’re here, today, but every time I come here”, “ I love the emails….I get discounts and the first shot at their new services” “if I ever have a problem or concern, I have the confidence to call the owner or the spa manager and know that they will take care of it without embarrassing me or firing the staff person involved… I know they care about what I think”.

The lesson……..listen to your clients and pay attention to details. We all think it’s about the technology, the latest treatment or a competitive price for the service. Wrong! It’s about the details and listening to what our client values most. It’s the small things that contribute to the entire Spa Experience that matters most, and will keep them coming back to your spa.

How do you listen to your clients? Don’t wait until a magazine visits your spa. We survey every new client. We ask them to simply rate their experience with our professional & support staff. The choices are simple; (1)on par with other salons or spas (2) met or exceeded your expectations (3) did not meet or exceed your expectations….if not why? We use the survey results to “fine tune” who we are and how we do our job so that we can be better than “on par with other spa or salon services” We also have a desk procedure to document both Client Compliments & Client Concerns. We use both forms to educate staff and give them client feedback and improve or modify or policies, procedures and techniques.

What do you do to listen to your clients?