Strengthening your core
Your loyal clients are your bread and butter. But are they being served?
By Vivienne O’Keeffe, A.A.D., P.E.A., CIBTAC
Published in Spa Canada magazine’s July/August 2016 issue
Ever get flyers in your mailbox offering sweetheart deals for new customers? Maybe 50% off high-speed internet for six months, or a 2-for-1 fitness club membership?
How do you feel if you’re already a loyal customer of these companies and excluded from the offer?
There’s no doubt that loyal repeat clients are the bread and butter of most businesses. In the very personal spa industry, we need to guard against unwittingly insinuating that our core client base is less valuable to us than new customers.
Remember, it’s your best repeat customers who provide your solid positive cash flow (and year-end results). When effectively cared for, well satisfied clientele will cross-pollinate into all aspects of your revenue stream, maximizing your operation’s success and net profits (provided you have properly set up your business to win, of course).
Here’s a case in point. Customer Constance Faithful comes several times a month to your spa to enjoy a manicure, pedicure, facial and waxing. She usually also buys products and a gift certificate, and seems well satisfied with the service she is receiving.
But don’t be deceived. It’s all too easy to misinterpret a guest’s friendliness or even declared satisfaction with your spa product as a long-time commitment to keep returning. Just because this client presents as easy-going and relatively undemanding doesn’t mean she doesn’t expect the best service. Your worst mistake would be taking a valued customer for granted, making less effort on her behalf and allowing your attitude to become indifferent. Good service means consistent, reliable service that never slacks off.
Some repeat clients may not feel comfortable expressing dissatisfaction with service standards – and it is precisely for these clients that the spa’s best resources must be (and continue to be) marshalled to please. Spas that have the good fortune to retain such clients and still realistically aspire to steady development and growth in turnover, cash flow and profits owe it to their best and most loyal clients, and to themselves as professionals, to avoid taking any customer for granted.
Over-dependence on a familiar relationship with a repeat client can lead to inappropriate action during unexpected, unprepared-for or otherwise disorderly situations. Don’t fool yourself into thinking Ms. Faithful won’t mind waiting while (for example) you cash out a new bridal party – a group of 20-somethings excitedly requiring attention so they can meet their friends for cocktails in the hotel next door. Observing her husband double-parked outside your door, waiting to whisk her off to the airport, she patiently tries to curb her rising frustration and anxiety – while you attend to the bridal party’s questions about their bill. Whoops.
It’s human nature to focus on the group at the expense of the individual. Don’t.
Another common experience might be Ms. Faithful having her massage cut short by 10 minutes because the massage therapist is running late. Some time later, while reviewing your client frequency list, you notice that Ms. Faithful has not come to your spa in quite a while. You wonder where she’s been and as time passes, the thought of making that necessary telephone call to ask her that very question grows more daunting by the day.
Result? The relationship ends because you forgot that people hate waiting and hate being taken for granted.
In our very challenging industry, there’s a fine line between familiarity and friendliness. And it’s easy to forget why most of your frequent customers are there in the first place: because they yearn for a quiet oasis away from communication and interaction. Even though deeply personal or probing questions may seem harmless, it’s important to educate your staff not to ask them. Instead, up-skill your team in methods of reading a client’s needs and body language. Encourage them to find ways for the guest to set the topic of conversation.
Allow me to digress and make an observation about first-time guests. Of course it’s natural for your therapists to want to initiate conversations with newcomers in order to overcome what they may perceive as a disproportionate sense of responsibility for keeping a conversation going. But doing so risks nullifying the restorative benefits of silence and non-interaction that most clients seek. On top of that, nervous people tend to reveal too much, and may later be embarrassed about what they disclosed. And these embarrassed customers may search for other spa facilities.
Much depends on the personal disposition of the therapist. Above all, I believe, clients want confirmation in their choice of spa service. When they encounter an environment of calm restraint and serene demeanour, with quiet, confident professionals concentrating on their current treatment, they find that confirmation – and likely the conditions for a repeat visit.
Likely but not certain. In a world where service is deemed to be only as good as it was during the last visit, client loyalty can never be presumed.
Well trained staff have the emotional intelligence to accurately assess various customer situations. Front-line staff can easily interpret a repeat client’s friendliness to mean that she is informal and easy-going – when in fact she has very high expectations of the service she is about to receive.
Staff also need to know how to help clients make educated choices about the spa experience or service most appropriate for their needs. You can help staff improve this education process by monitoring and gently guiding their communication skills – everything from tone of voice to body language and general presentation – to help them come across more professionally to your most valued customers.
At the end of the day, your repeat clients are the ones who put food on your table. Your repeat clients trust your professional commitment to keep providing them with treatments that are as good as, or even better than, they received on their first visit.
They know there are lots of spas out there offering the same services as you, and still they have chosen you.
Don’t let them down.
- Never take any customer for granted – particularly a loyal repeat client.
- Retain your repeat clients by training your staff to evolve the therapeutic programming and recommit the repeat client to the treatment progression.
- Get staff to understand they are ‘on stage’ and avoid recounting details of their personal lives, which most clients probably don’t care to know.
- Focus on the client’s needs and preferences. Concentrate on and work towards anticipating these needs.
Create certainty and consistency for the client.
Vivienne O’Keeffe, A.A.D., P.E.A., CIBTAC, Founder 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