Favouring the repeat client
By Vivienne O’Keeffe A.A.D., P.E.A., C.I.B.T.A.C.
Published in Medical Spas magazine’s April 2004 issue
Many businesses focus on bringing in new customers by offering incentives such as: “20% off for first-time customers to Spa Asturias!”. This may send a very strong message to your loyal repeat clients who may perceive such a commercial strategy as a threatening proprietary policy-change, showing favouritism towards new clients (at the expense of the established repeat-client base). As an industry we need to guard against unwittingly insinuating that our core client base is less valuable to us or our business than new customers, where in reality it is the top repeat customers who provide our solid positive cash flow, yielding maximum yearly revenue and net profit. If cared for effectively, a current well-satisfied clientele will cross-pollinate into all aspects of your revenue stream maximizing your operation and hopefully your net profit – if you have set your businesses up to win. For example, Ms. Weekly will have a manicure, pedicure, facial and waxing, purchase product and buy a gift certificate, returning several times within the month.
However, it is very easy to misinterpret a guest’s friendliness, apparent relaxation and declared clear satisfaction with your spa product. On occasion, the spa practitioner may be operating under the delusion that this client, presenting as pleasant, easy-going and relatively undemanding, may not need or expect a truly quality service. Worst of all would be a potentially commercially fatal mis-judgement that such a client may not note an economy of attitude and effort in the treatment. A repeat client’s tact, sense of delicacy and sensitivity for the practitioner’s situation may preclude the client from expressing dissatisfaction with standard of service. It is for precisely such a client that the spa’s maximum and best resources must be (and continue to be) marshalled. Should the spa have the good fortune to retain such clients and still realistically aspire to steady development and growth in turnover, cash flow and profits, we then owe it to loyal clients, to ourselves as professionals and to professional responsibility to avoid taking any customer for granted.
Over dependency on a familiar relationship with a repeat client is sure, in the long run, to be a disastrous method of fire-walling unexpected, un-prepared-for and disorderly situations: we fool ourselves into thinking they will not mind if we ask them to wait a minute while we cash out a new bridal party excitedly requiring attention to expedite re-joining their friends for cocktails in the hotel next door. We ask Ms. Regular to wait a minute; she stands by awaiting your attention while trying to arrest her signs of frustration and anxiety as she observes her husband double-parked outside waiting to whisk her off to the airport. The bridal party request specific information regarding their bill …you have to search to find the answers… while Ms. Weekly still waits on. It is very easy for us all to focus on the group at the expense of the individual. Another common experience might be where Ms. Weekly’s massage is 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. Weekly has not been to the spa in quite a while. You wonder, time passes and the thoughts of making that necessary telephone call grow more daunting by the day. People hate to wait and hate to be taken for granted – period.
Our industry is a challenging one. As it is so personal one easily forgets the fine line between familiarity and friendliness. In reality most frequent spa consumers are yearning for calm and wishing for a reprieve from communication and interaction. They seek quiet and contemplation. Educate your staff not to ask deeply personal or probing questions, which may seem harmless; up-skill your team in methods of reading the client’s needs and body language. Encourage staff to facilitate the guest in providing the topic for conversation.
With many new spa guests who have never had a spa experience before, there is a psychological and very natural tendency, on the part of these new clients to initiate conversation during sessions- as the client may perhaps feel a disproportionate responsibility for maintaining communication with the therapist. This nullifies the restorative effect which silence /non-interaction will have for the client. Furthermore, when people are physiologically nervous they may reveal too much and later regret such disclosure or are embarrassed about what they disclosed. This could backfire on retention rates as the embarrassed consumer may search for other spa facilities. Much depends here on the personal disposition of the therapist. Clients seek, in the first instance, the assurance of being confirmed in their choice of spa service. When they encounter: attributes of calm; restrained and serene demeanour; quiet professionals with confident certainty and expertise; concentration on the current treatment – conditions are more than likely created for a repeat visit. Even then, client loyalty may not be presumed – as a service or therapist is deemed merely as good, in the perception of the client, as the last visit’s experience.
In order to succeed today it is fundamental to have well trained staff that are equipped with the skills of reading effectively various different situations. Our front line staff can often misread a regular repeat client’s friendliness, accepting approaches as informal and easy-going. They need to be equally committed to be of service in facilitating a client in acquiring the necessary knowledge to make an educated selection regarding the spa experience / service most appropriate for their particular need and level of treatment. Small nuances may significantly affect the experience. The tone of voice, mannerisms and presentation all influence how our front line staff comes across to our valued customers.
It is the repeat client who generates a steady consistent cash flow. The repeat client entrusts you with a conviction, which must not be taken lightly as consumers of spa experiences today are becoming more discerning and will certainly shop around to their advantage – and find a spa that meets their needs.
- Never take any customer for granted –particularly a loyal repeat client.
- In order to continually retain your repeat clients, your staff must be trained to continually evolve the therapeutic programming and recommit the repeat client to the treatment progression.
- Get staff to understand they are “on stage” . Staff members should avoid recounting details about their own personal lives –details of which clients would truly not care to know about.
- 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., 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