Advocating customer loyalty
By Vivienne O’Keeffe A.A.D., P.E.A., C.I.B.T.A.
Published in Spa Management magazine’s February 2003 issue
The fundamental aspiration of every spa operation, whether it be day, resort or destination spa is to grow a strong and healthy business. With the boom in the spa industry – and the increase in spa facilities nationwide – has come a comparatively transient trend in the spa-going population, sampling and experiencing various spa treatments and locations on seemingly uncorrelated impulses. This inconsistency in spa patronage and occupancy certainly creates challenges in day-to-day operations and inevitably the bottom line. Considering this, the question is raised as to whether true customer loyalty is a possibility in today’s spa market.
Is your customer base full of high-maintenance clients who, because of competition elsewhere, inevitably lower your profits, and despite all your costly efforts vanish to the competition without warning or the slightest hint of regret? You are not alone. Many spas are encountering similar operational issues, where client loyalty appears to be a lost virtue of the past.
Generally speaking customers are willing to begin a relationship and remain loyal to your spa. However before they commit their loyalty, they want, expect and need something from you: today’s customers need to find you worthy of their trust. For the irresolute customer, who has yet to find a spa facility where they feel most at home, or a spa which provides that intangible ethos which they have been seeking, this can be the only way to secure their long term patronage of your business. The way you wish the spa to be publicly perceived through marketing, the character of your product, staff delivery and the overall infused ambience of the business are all involved in creating the appropriate circumstances to build and sustain a potentially substantial client relationship. Consistent delivery in a standardized and refined client handling system will result in the customer experiencing no unnecessary surprises that can have them query your operation.
But where does it all go awry? There are many possible ways breaches of delivery can occur in our industry, testing the consumer’s initial choice to build a relationship with you. Once that trust is broken, as in any professional relationship, it is very difficult for a business to regain the customers faith as the majority of today’s time starved, educated and informed customers would rather flee than fight.
Intelligent business practices can both physically and emotionally augment the benefits of spa treatments to the client, caring for them externally and, in a psychological sense, internally. Credibility is implanted in the mind of the customer when all components of the spa environs and spa team are shown to work harmoniously. Generating an operation that effortlessly applies an appropriate philosophy and delivers on the implied promises of the spa’s promotional materials can be an intimidating task if not approached systematically and with understanding of the potential challenges involved. Succeeding in this however, will ensure a confident delivery of your services to the client, with the spa’s operations in reality doing nothing to detract from the facility’s credibility.
An honorable, ethical and transparent delivery of the spa experience which is directly, and indirectly, conveyed to the client is the essence of building trust. The resulting opportunity should be grasped to inspire the customers’ underlying need to have faith in the services that are being provided, and can only be built up by providing a consistent experience, this consistency resulting from standardization through-out the spa’s treatment delivery procedures and the training the spa team receives. Guaranteeing this to your customers can only come with confidence in your operation, from the initial reception a new customer receives coming through the door to the format of policies and procedures promoted at your facility. The establishment matching or exceeding claims in its promotional literature secures for itself an esteemed and valued status among its clientele community. Satisfaction is not confined to the client base. Staff morale thrives on the satisfaction of excellent service rendered and the compliment of buoyant referral rates.
Customers yearn to relax both in body and mind, but in order to do so they have to find trusting environments. By giving your customer a place they can have faith in they return the gifts of commitment, consistency, loyalty, high profits and low maintenance. The customer would love nothing better than to relax and breathe a sigh of relief to have found a business that consistently delivers what they said they would. The business’ owner and staff would love nothing better than to serve a loyal customer base, which is less stressful for all involved. Resulting from this consistency will come low maintenance clients whose loyalty will be absolute and who will, without reservation, refer others to you, (the number one method of hearing about a spa is through word of mouth, according to “The American Spa- Goer Survey” by Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown).
Today’s consumer of the spa experience expects you to earn his or her trust by delivering what it is you said you would deliver, by treating every customer with respect, by pricing your branded retail in line with the recommended retail, by standing by your product in the event of a return and consistently being congruent in all facets of your businesses. The implied promise in your advertising should be carried through from reception to treatment in a seamless spa experience.
Vivienne O’Keeffe, A.A.D., P.E.A., C.I.B.T.A., President and CEO of Spa Profits Consulting Inc., has earned an international reputation as an expert in designing successful spa concepts. She specializes in working with owners to create profitable spas. As an international consultant she is highly skilled in developing unique product and treatment lines, as well as training programs. Vivienne has studied and trained extensively in the beauty and well-being arena and is a member of ISPA, Leading Spas of Canada (for which she won an Outstanding Achievement Award in 2012) and the Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA). She is also a published author, having written a wide range of articles on developing and running a successful spa. Spa Profits Consulting Inc. is the only SpaExcellence certified consultancy in North America, and is committed to setting the standard for quality, successful spas on a global level. For more information call 604.921.6245 or email