Expert red flags: How spas lose valuable clients and talented staff
Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Owning a spa business is an exciting and wonderful career opportunity. Clients are always coming to you to feel relaxed, beautiful and pampered, and staff enjoy being on the cutting edge of the beauty industry.
Goodness knows, there is no perfect business model, but looking out for these eight red flags will guide you in the right direction.
1. Long-term discounted promotions
The great thing about Groupon, Living Social and other discount, online promotional platforms is that they give great exposure to your spa business and offerings. However, in exchange for promotion and targeted, local advertising, spa owners receive only half of what they would normally collect for their services.
The trick to using Groupon is to convert those heavily discounted client services as quickly as possible to full-priced client services and build from there. If you cannot convert those clients, then you may run the risk of your clients only seeing you as a discounted establishment and never wanting to pay full price.
At the same time, employees who are putting in the work to provide a quality service do not want to consistently take lower commissions and feel they can only service clients looking for a discount — it can be frustrating for them. Coach and inspire your staff to see the full value of their skills and the services they are offering so clients will be busting down the door for an appointment.
2. No professional written protocols
Professionally designed and implemented facial protocols are the foundation of a great spa. Protocols are the recipes that create beautifully executed treatments — much like a chef prepares a signature dish in a restaurant.
Protocols ensure that a spa owner can track metrics like how much backbar product is required for each treatment and how much inventory is needed on a monthly basis. These protocols should be given to every employee to be memorized, practiced and tested before servicing clients.
Protocols ensure consistency and proper execution of your treatments. Spas run into trouble when estheticians and technicians are allowed too much wiggle room when it comes to the timing, products used and techniques of the service. Clients get upset when services vary depending on which esthetician they see for their service, so protocols must be designed and carried out congruently each time.
3. Lack of effective leadership
The most successful, high-end spas have this important attribute in common: a strong, professional and knowledgeable spa manager. In many cases, these leaders are estheticians or massage therapists themselves who have been promoted to a managerial role or someone who has studied spa management.
Just like having a fabulous chef in the kitchen and a cool, calm maitre d' in the front of a restaurant, a spa manager embodies these two roles in the spa. Spa managers should be able to thoroughly explain every service on the menu as if they perform it themselves as well as manage the financial, PR and HR duties of the spa.
Spa management is a big job and must not be confused with being the spa owner's personal assistant. Spa staff look to their spa managers to set the tone and pace of the work day. Spa managers should be a kind and compassionate source of support and inspiration to the staff as well as a trusted liaison between staff and owner.
4. Subpar dress code and sanitation standards
As we all know, first impressions are crucial, and we only have one shot at them. A clean, pressed uniform (or a spa jacket, at the least) is highly recommended to ensure your staff looks clean and professional.
When a dress code is not enforced, clients can have a hard time identifying a staff member, thus creating frustration when they are looking for assistance. Name tags are also a great idea especially if they include the title that the employee holds printed beneath the name.
A clean, bright and dust-free facility that adheres to all state and federal laws is a must. The cleanliness of your bathrooms and waiting room is just as crucial to maintain as they are a reflection of the cleanliness of the entire facility. To ensure that your spa has top-notch sanitation, make sure that all staff members are assigned specific duties and a professional cleaning service is employed to deeply clean several times per week, if not every night.
5. Uninspired staff
When a receptionist's voice drops when she or he answers the phone and/or staff members do not bother to look up and greet clients who walk through the door, chances are you have an uninspired spa staff on your hands. This is a crucial mistake to fix because it is obvious to clients — especially new ones — while it may not be apparent to spa owners.
As a consultant, I act as that fresh pair of eyes that comes into a spa and interacts with staff members to get a feel for their level of competence and enthusiasm. When I feel there is a certain level of staff apathy and a generalized "negative energy," I know it is time to intervene.
Keep in mind, clients will go to a spa for a good service, but they will return because of exceptional customer service. Clients remember how you made them feel when they visited your business. Clients want to come to a place where they are greeted with a smile, acknowledged as soon as they walk through the door and treated as if no request is too small or too large.
When staff members lack a positive presence, do not smile and generally have an attitude of not wanting to be bothered, then the spa industry may not be right for them.
6. Technology that is behind the times
Without a doubt, the most successful spas in the industry have professionally designed websites, efficient appointment-booking software, a bullet-fast payment acceptance system and a well-organized, multiline phone service.
But these are just the basics. Social media participation is now the standard for the spa industry. Do you have an updated blog? Can clients book their appointments online? Do you have a self-check-in option for clients to maximize flow of service? Furthermore, clients need to see an updated Facebook page, beautifully displayed Instagram photos and videos linked to a company YouTube page.
Prospective clients look for and expect all of these mediums to give them confidence that you are on the cutting edge. You could have the most beautiful spa in the world — offering wonderful services — but if clients can't get a feel for that when they Google you, then chances are they will go elsewhere.
7. High staff turnover rates
The first people affected by high staff turnover rates are the clients. Nothing screams instability to clients like seeing new faces every time they come for a spa service. Clients depend on staff to be there for them and to take care of their needs. Long-term staff members have a way of developing a special rapport with clients; making them feel like family.
If your spa business is constantly hiring new staff for reasons beyond business expansion, then it is time to assess why that is happening. Staff typically leave a spa because they do not feel valued. Whether that value is derived from their pay or their feelings of being appreciated and developed properly, it is important to find out what is going on.
Additionally, when I encounter a management hierarchy that seems to rule based on fear rather than trust, encouragement and responsibility, staff starts to dwindle. Be sure to have a competent and compassionate spa manager in place, an employee handbook with clear rules and regulations, plenty of team building and incentivizing programs and engage in active listening.
The best way to keep staff around for years and years is to invest in them as people and professionals. Staff want to feel like they have a career opportunity at your business, not just a job where they punch in and punch out.
8. Outdated spa decor and menu offerings
Chances are, if your spa decor looks like a time capsule opened from 1992, then your clients will believe your technology and methods are outdated as well. Remember, the spa industry is under the larger umbrella of the beauty industry. Clients come to you to look beautiful and more youthful, so be aware that your decor is a reflection on the quality of your service offerings.
Dusty silk plants are out — opt for fresh flowers and live plants. Stained carpets are a huge turn-off and should be replaced with wood floor or tile. Heavy, dusty, window dressings are out — modern shades and flowing fabrics are in. Furnishings like couches and chairs should be clean, inviting and plush. There should be no clutter, dust or expired products out on display.
Create a luxurious, private and chic place for clients to enter and relax. Bring in a feng shui expert to enhance the energy flow of your space. Invest in an interior decorator to maximize the beauty of your business and create an impactful esthetic.
In these times, less is more. Modern, clean spa spaces are what clients want to see to feel comfortable and confident that they are getting the most up-to-date services available.
At the same time, be sure to stay on top of the trends in the industry. Clients are extremely savvy and want the treatments that the celebrities are receiving. Obviously, stay aligned with your spa vision and brand mission, but be aware that the beauty industry is evolving on a daily basis and that if you are not keeping up with the trends (or don't even know about them), your competitor will.
Be cognizant of these red flags in your spa business. Small changes can have a huge impact and bring great success and prosperity to your spa business.
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