Focus on the customer… profits will follow
By Vivienne O’Keeffe, A.A.D., P.E.A., C.I.B.T.A.C.
Published in Spa Management magazine’s May 2003 issue
The spa industry in North America is a fledgling industry which has in the last five years experienced exponential growth. It varies from the traditional European spa industry, as it is supplying services and products to a distinctively different market. In Europe, spas are seen more for wellness (Kur), even to the extent that in some countries spa visits are considered an integral component of government medical services. Here in North America spas are catering to different lifestyles and needs, and focus more upon “pampering” the customer. Bearing this in mind, and understanding the fundamental motivating force in consumer needs, can affect the way your business will perform. Many people in the spa business perceive outstanding customer service as an expensive principle, with excellence in customer service being still hailed as the exception rather than the norm in North America.
Growing up in the skin care /spa industry in Ireland, where our main marketing efforts were spent on developing relationships with our customers (with the exception of the odd print advertisement in the local newspaper or glossy magazine), it is curious to see so many spa businesses ignore the basic essentials of customer care in the pursuit of profitability. In reality, the customer driven approach is at the root of profitability. Many spa operators pay lip service to the concept of customer service, making decisions with their own needs, current business or facility capabilities in mind. They effectively put themselves before their customer, their priorities are focused around the profits that come in the short term, rather than on the long-term dividends that can result from a continuing customer relationship.
Customer service is a core commitment which requires determination on behalf of an organization to try to see things from the customer’s point of view. Its usefulness is based on one simple principle alone: it is far cheaper to retain the loyalty of the customer who already frequents your spa, than to try to get new customers in through the door.
To attract the customers to your establishment involved a large commitment of time and money. Retaining these customers’ loyalties requires a lot less. Sometimes just listening carefully to your customer and questioning them as to their general satisfaction with the level of service your spa offers, can be enough for you to implement minor changes that can have major beneficial effects on the long-term occupancy rate of the spa. Customer appreciation forms are another, perhaps less intrusive, form of information gathering. Be open to healthy criticism. For every customer who voices a complaint, ten customers will leave without saying anything – to you. They will however, pass along their findings to some of their friends and this is bad news for your business. On the other hand, a satisfied customer will react differently. Being quietly pleased with the service, they will do exactly what it is that you want – return to repeat the experience.
Our industry demands a high level of customer service and the customers expectations are evolving daily, as competition increases awareness in the market. Remember, customers are people who have wants, expectations and needs – which they are entrusting to you to fulfill. The customer comes to your spa to surrender their worries at the reception, and expect to:
- Be acknowledged,
- Have their needs fulfilled,
- Be treated with dignity and respect,
- Be appreciated,
To be customer driven is a huge commitment and requires that the key decisions be based on an overriding wish to serve the customer better and give the best possible service. Every member of the spa team should see serving the customer as the essence of their business. From my experience, the customer driven approach pays off as it builds on solid delivery and fulfillment of the customers’ needs, and creates a desire within the customer to return to the spa.
Becoming customer driven is not easy, it requires you look at what part your business has to play in the equation, like a kind of relationship, where both parties are consciously aware and committed to moving forward. It is the most dynamic and challenging way of doing business and keeps you on your proverbial toes. Customer care is the key to sustained growth and profitability. To emphasize the point, repeat business should not be seen as a bonus, rather it should be perceived as an ideal norm.
Vivienne O’Keeffe, A.A.D., P.E.A., C.I.B.T.A.C., President 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 Industry Service Award in 2001, 2005 and 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