Creating Delight Making Magic At The Spa

Making Art, Creating Delight: The Top Tier of Customer Experience

It’s time to talk about the final component of World Class CX: Art. The dessert. The frills. The fun stuff.

You can’t have a successful business without these first two ingredients:

1. Core Values: the “soul” of the business, what you stand for, your commitment to your customers

2. Structure: the “body” of the business: its muscles, sinew and circulatory system. The stuff that holds it together and makes it work.

Only when these foundational layers are securely in place can we turn our attention to the final layer, Art.

Art could also be called Magic. And magic happens when you anticipate a customer’s unspoken needs. Things they themselves may not realize they want or need. This is true whether your business is a highbrow spa or a local-color brewpub.

If you’re not psychic, the way that this happens is that you pay close attention to what your guests want and need, and you codify that as part of your system. So that when customer number ten thousand walks through the door, you dazzle her with small touches that elevate the CX to art.

Art is all relative. A friend and I were comparing notes about the warm blankets provided at the outpatient surgical center we’d recently visited. You’d think we’d visited the St. Regis.

Art is the level of CX where we “exceed expectations.”

As such, Art is a fragile flower. It only grows if it is fed by Core Values and protected by solid Structure. A lot of businesses want to skip right to Art, because it’s fun, the dress-up part of “playing store.” A lot of businesses think that Art means spending a lot of money decorating your restaurant or hiring pretty people. However, you can’t exceed expectations if you haven’t even met them in the first place. (No, you don’t get to skip to the head of the class because of your shagreen banquettes.)

We’ve all been in gorgeous retailers, where every effort and expense has been expended to dazzle you–yet it falls flat. You’re not greeted warmly. The staff doesn’t know their inventory. You walk out without making a purchase. Art, schmart.

Maybe it’s the new restaurant with the marquee-name chef, million dollar kitchen and the spectacular hostesses helming the podium. You eat there once and, though you can’t fault them for anything, you just don’t see a reason to return.

Art isn’t just for the high end–though it’s essential if you’re going to compete in the stratosphere. Art doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s not just about fountains or new signage or expensive floor coverings. In fact, much of what turns into Art in your CX is human-generated. And a lot of it is discovered accidentally.

Artful CX is generated by:

  • freshness
  • creativity
  • thoughtfulness
  • anticipation
  • ease
  • exploration
  • refreshment
  • authenticity

But if we are to make this tangible, let’s identify some of the best artful touches:

  • A sincere and prompt greeting
  • Remembering a customer’s name
  • Remembering a customer’s preferences
  • Acknowledging special events in a customer’s life
  • Hand-written thank you notes (or a phone call saying “Hey, we’ve missed you.”)
  • Invitations to special events
  • Regular “refreshment” of the environment, displays, menus
  • Staff members whose appearance expresses the brand
  • Opportunities to personalize and customize our experience
  • Immaculate facilities

If that list doesn’t look dazzling, there’s a reason. The best “magic” is human-scaled.

You can already tell that Art is a much more elusive quality than the two components we’ve already discussed. Not every business manages to get here. Not every business can provide its employees the freedom to create art…because art isn’t made with cookie cutters.

In the upper stratospheres of the marketplace, Luxury Consultants are making it harder to be magical. There is a lot of heavy-handed engineering of artful experiences these days, in the five-star world. While we appreciate the effort, it often feels just like that: effort. The creation of faux “rituals” is one trend that can be downright embarrassing. (Quasi-indigenous faux rituals are the worst.)

So where do you look for inspiration? The biggest focus groups in the world: online review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. Sure, there is a lot of information there about what annoys people who visit you and your competitors. But just as important, there is a lot of information there about what delights people, much of it small and affordable stuff.

Art isn’t made once and then permitted to gather dust. Art is “made fresh daily,” over and over. That takes energy, effort, and leadership. It takes good examples. It also requires supporting risk-taking by your front line and supervisory employees.

Many good Systems begin life as Art. When a “delighter” is discovered, it’s often worth codifying as a system. Back to our dinner at Shadowbrook and the question about whether we were celebrating a special occasion. That question was probably discovered by an on-the-ball server, who shared the idea with others, until it eventually became part of the System. Yet it still functions as Art, creating opportunities to delight guests, who feel that our needs have been anticipated.

Roots, Structure, and Art: put these three components together effectively and you’ll have a supply of loyal customers that lasts as long as you’re willing to Make it Fresh Daily.


Secrets Of Retention And Retail Of Treatment Professionals

Secrets of Retention and Retail for Treatment Professionals

Registration for this webinar has closed.  Below are the topics which were discussed.

Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.

Spa therapists are not always comfortable with recommending retail products.

This session will help service providers and their supervisors understand how to boost confidence and income with new strategies, skills and and tactics. Find out how effective home care recommendation, an approach that honors the guest experience, can actually improve guest satisfaction.

  • The Home Care Advisor
  • When treatment time is sales time: walking the fine line
  • The difference between professional products and mass marketed formulas
  • Understanding social styles, starting with your own
  • Mastering the meet and greet with new clients
  • Using the New Guest Profile
  • Surefire techniques for connecting with even difficult clients
  • Mastering the art of the client consultation
  • Finding out where it hurts: understanding your client’s deeper needs
  • Analysis and observation skills
  • Treatment “narration;” helping them understand the value of what you’re doing
  • Creating the desire to extend their benefits through home care and spa services
  • Finding out if it’s “okay” to recommend home care
  • Appropriate timing and opportunities for communication during different services
  • Why it’s hard to toot your own horn and what to do about it
  • Creating solutions for your client’s deeper needs
  • Setting priorities: understanding how much to recommend, and when
  • Integrating home care communication into a service
  • Optimizing your recommended program: the fastest and best way to achieve their goal
  • Extending the invitation: when, where and how
  • Visual presentation of home care: do’s and don’ts
  • Understanding and responding when clients don’t accept your invitation
  • Fun with Bumps
  • Do’s and don’ts of sampling
  • The crucial importance of record keeping
  • Follow up: when and how
  • How to grow the relationship with every visit


Live Education Spa Training

Clinical Oncology Esthetics Training

Registration has closed.  

Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.

Morag Currin of Health Challenged Esthetics literally wrote the textbook on Oncology Esthetics.

A true industry pioneer and visionary, Morag is returning to California with her three day program for estheticians. We’ve already hosted this once and I believe any serious esthetician or spa owner needs to experience this education–whether you choose to cater to cancer patients or not, you need to know how to safely treat them when they are in your spa. Even cancer survivors, post-treatment, have special needs and restrictions. Do you know what they are? I sure didn’t.

This program includes lecture, demonstration and hands-on practicum with cancer patients in the spa environment. You’ll also be educated by an outstanding oncology nurse, one of the highlights of the first seminar. Participants will leave with the ability to offer safe, beneficial treatments to clients with health-challenged skins, and with a thorough understanding of the issues facing clients undergoing cancer treatment, including side effects that impact skin and contraindications for treatment.

If you’re wondering how to expand your customer base, it’s time to look at marginalized groups who have a strong need for self care, as well as high levels of stress. These are customers you may have shied away from, for fear your treatments might not be beneficial. Customers who desperately want and need your treatments, but don’t know if they’ll be safe or effective, or if you’ll even understand their health issues.

These potential clients include cancer patients, as well as other people with health-challenged skin: organ transplant patients, people in recovery, and even people with severe sensitivities.

As the spa industry moves toward a more meaningful focus on wellness, we have a tremendous opportunity to reach out to groups we have previously ignored, out of fear or ignorance. I think the health challenged segment will offer our industry some of the most profound growth opportunities we’ve seen in years. But education is essential. This is your opportunity to be in on the ground floor of a new and exciting movement. Whether you practice in a clinical or spa environment, you’ll leave with an important new skill set that very few people in the industry possess.


Strategic Vision Sessions Planning

Spa Business Planning Made Easy

Registration for this webinar has closed.  Below are the topics which were discussed.  Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.

“A vision without a plan is a hallucination.”

Join us on Tuesday, January 18, for our first management webinar of the New Year, Spa Business Planning Made Easy. 

Planning is one of the most misunderstood business processes, and one of the most essential. Yet most plans don’t survive more than a few months.

If your spa doesn’t yet have a 2011 Strategic Plan in place, you’re not alone, and it’s not too late to create one. This session will give you a fresh understanding of the planning process, and the tools to build a simple and resilient strategic plan than can be continuously renewed, even when conditions change.

Would you like to tackle the New Year with a simple, executable Strategic Plan? Would you like to have a way to move from 30,000 feet vision to tactical, practical “sea level” and back again with ease?

This webinar will share with you the secrets of:

• Identifying your most important priorities

• Understanding what planning can (and cannot!) do

• Setting actionable goals

• Setting the optimum planning “time horizon” (it will surprise you)

• Getting your team to buy into your plan

• Techniques to ensure that you stay on plan, every day
• Ensuring that your Strategic Plan translates into your company’s Daily Plan
• Not getting sidetracked by the “tyranny of the immediate,” the daily crises that erupt in every company
Online Spa Management Training

Live Spa Director’s Management Intensive Training

If you own, manage, or plan to invest in a spa, this program is a must.

If you’re already involved in spa operations, this seminar will help you tackle your toughest management challenges. If you’re planning to open or acquire a spa, you’ll leave this program with a clear understanding of the requirements for business success. If you’re considering a career change or advancement into spa management, the Spa Director’s Management Program will put you miles ahead of the competition.

You’ll have a chance to meet other spa industry professionals, a diverse group of people, and often an international one. Participants typically represent a variety of industries and greatly enrich the program with their input. You’ll create a support network that will prove invaluable as your business or career grows. The small size of the class ensures individual attention and maximum interaction.

Attendees return to the workplace with new tactics and new understanding the fundamentals that underly spa success. Our enormous take-home course text becomes an invaluable everyday reference for busy directors who need ideas and help fast. (How do we know? Whenever we visit our graduates at their spas, we see the textbook open on their desktop!) Attendees enjoy an Industry Discount at adjacent Preston Wynne Spa during their stay.

Unlike most management training courses, the Spa Director’s Management Intensive is rigorously updated and relevant to the current business climate. Hot button-topics like yield management and mid-recession employee morale issue are part of the curriculum. Unlike most other consulting/education firms, we actually own and operate a successful 27 year old day spa with fifty employees. We’re in the trenches with you in this difficult business climate–we have to walk our talk. We share what’s working now.


Financial management skills for directors and managers

• Overcoming your “fear of financials: financial literacy made easy

• Managing by the numbers: how to really use the information you get from your financial statements

• Budgeting basics: how to set financial goals that make sense

• Positive cash flow vs. profit: the critical difference

• Capture rate and its impact on the stay spa financial plan

• How to evaluate the effectiveness of your employee compensation plan

• Best practices in compensation design

• Performance incentives to motivate your team when you can’t give raises

• Plugging the profit “leaks” in your operation

• Understanding the impact of discounts and promotions

• Understanding the legal and accounting issues of gift card sales

Sales and Marketing

• The only three ways you can grow your sales

• Marketing modalities for spas: what works, what doesn’t

• Event marketing essentials

• Marketing trends: the good, the bad, the ugly

• Millenials vs. Boomers: understanding the next generation of spa goer

• Best practices in spa web presence

• Getting the most out of your printed marketing collateral

• The why and how of spa packages

• Social media: roles, responsibilities and ROI

• Advertising: where to spend your budget now

• Understanding yield management

• Crafting more compelling and less expensive marketing offers

• Understanding your real cost of customer acquisition

• What “retention” means in your spa (it’s different for day, stay and med spas)

• The role of the local market in hotel spas’ success

• Introduction to Selvice: seven steps to better customer service and higher sales

Successful Spa Programs

• Establishing your Therapeutic Vision

• Why the spa menu drives vendor selection–not the other way around

• The pros and cons of “branded” treatments

• Innovation vs. profit: keeping it simple

• Trends in menu and program design

• Modular menu design

• Customization vs. chaos: how to offer one without getting the other

• Understanding the real cost/benefit of a new service

• Optimizing workflow while ensuring safety and customer satisfaction

• Best practices for managing back bar costs

Retail Management

• Ending the disconnect: making retail happen in a spa

• How to use a Home Care Consultant

• Creating a more profitable retail mix

• Best practices for optimizing your inventory turns

• Ending the sales leaks in your store

• Salesflow: redesigning internal processes to support sales success

• Effective recommendation tools that spa employees love to use

• Scripting that sells

• Best practices for partnering with vendors

• Basics of visual merchandising and display


• Understanding social styles and their impact on interpersonal communication

• What your team needs from you and how to give it to them

• Recruitment: how to hire the best employees

• Why the customer actually comes “second” in a great spa

• Why you’re doing everything yourself and how to stop it

• Why you can’t motivate your staff and what to do about it

• How to produce great staff meetings

• Best practices in employee discipline

• Performance appraisals that improve performance

Quality Management


• Moments of Truth: why little things are a big deal to your guest

• The Experiential vs. Transactional spa

• How to manage quality in the “closed door” spa environment

• “We don’t need another hero”: how consistency creates great service

• The three essential ingredients of world class service

• How to instill a “quality” mindset in your entire team

• Spa Speak 101: helping your team communicate with quality

• Process improvement 101: how to make things better, faster

• Teaching your team to effectively resolve complaints and perform service recovery

• Comps, refunds and redos: how to use them wisely

• Inspection: the key to success

Taught by Lisa M. Starr of Wynne Business Spa Consulting and Education.

Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.

American Spa Magazine Spa Consultant Of The Year

Thank you! American Spa Magazine 2010 Professionals Choice Awards

A resounding thank you to the readers of American Spa magazine, for naming me as one of your Favorite Spa Consultants for 2010! It’s been an privilege to be part of this industry for over 26 years. I join some marvelous company in this honor. A great way to end the year!

See the article here

Customer Experience Experts Wanted

Customer Service: Mastering Complaint Resolution and Service Recovery

You can find this training in our Learning Academy listed as

Part 4 of our Spa Concierge Finishing School.

Get your team trained in “extreme customer service” (just in time for the holiday rush.)

  • Are you confident in your employees’ ability to resolve guest complaints?
  • Do they know how to handle the inevitable issues that arise in a busy spa operation?
  • Are you certain that guests leave your spa satisfied?
  • When was the last time they received training in complaint resolution?

A great reputation has always been the best way to market a spa. But the internet has made superior customer service a crucial survival skill.

Web search is one of your top marketing modalities, and negative reviews can cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Our employee training webinar, “Moments of Truth: Mastering Complaint Resolution and Service Recovery” can give you a chance to economically and quickly get your team up to speed. The webinar is co-presented by Lisa Starr and Peggy Wynne Borgman. We include time for your questions at the end of the presentation.

Don’t let another month pass without inoculating your front line team against mediocre customer service, and common errors.

“The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled,” said the founder of Neiman Marcus. This webinar is designed to enable your front desk team to manage the inevitable mistakes and mishaps of a busy spa operation, while strengthening customer relationships and improving customer service. The adrenaline-charged moment when an upset customer complains is a make-or-break event for your business. Make sure your team doesn’t hide their heads in the sand–ensure that they will ride to the rescue of your reputation!

• Why your team must treat complaints as an opportunity
• 96% of your guests won’t complain; how to treat the 4% who do
• Using complaint resolution to improve relationships
• How online review sites have magnified the power of unhappy guests, and what to do about it
• Managing the “fight or flight” response when confronted by an upset customer
• The five steps to masterful complaint resolution
• Cultivating awareness: the ounce of prevention
• How to ask questions that get real answers from your guests
• Making it easy to complain
• How and when to apologize
• Helping the guest realize you’re “on their side”
• Avoiding the common mistakes of complaint resolution, including explaining, blame and scapegoating
• How to effectively manage a “venting” guest
• Techniques to improve your listening skills
• How to tell the difference between an upset and an abusive customer–and what to do about it
• Restoring a guest’s faith
• Making amends without giving away the store
• What most clients really want from “amends”
• The hidden danger in giving refunds too quickly
• What to do when your offer of amends is rejected by an upset guest
• How to prevent problems from recurring

Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.



ISPA Day 2 Inspires & Motivates

Second full day of conference began with early morning  Professional Development Sessions.  Well, truth be told, it actually begins even earlier in the morning in the Precor Experience Center, or at the Greet the Day session, but due to the all of the parties and dinners the previous night, 6:30am does not have a lot of takers.  Excellent morning sessions were offered, including timely, actionable advice on using social media from Kathleen Turpel of Imaginal Marketing, who works with many beauty and spa businesses, and suggestions on incorporating stress management therapies into your life and spa menu from Brent Bauer, ISPA Board member and Mayo Clinic Associate Professor.

After the morning sessions, it was time to review and bid on Silent Auction items, which were incredibly numerous, and hit the show floor.  One of my interesting finds included Kumani Essentials, a new line of skin, body and haircare started by esthetician, massage therapist, aromatherapist and Spa Director Stacy Fader that is made with Fair Trade Certified shea butter, sourced in Burkina Faso.  These high-quality products allow spas to create effective signature treatments and address social responsibility concurrently.   Another new introduction is the Sidekick sunless tanning unit from Evolv, which along with advanced chemistry and engineering, offers the first-ever heated airbrush tanning technology.  Several vendors still had missing booths, due to a shipping snafu, but leave it to Boldijarre Koronczay of Eminence to turn that into a humorous marketing opportunity!

Afternoon Professional Development Sessions were all excellent, and I found myself bouncing among three topics; an up-to-the minute Global Trends panel moderated by Susie Ellis of SpaFinder and featuring Andrew Gibson, Liz Terry & Andrew Jacka; “Seven Financial Habits of Highly Successful Spas,” always timely and relevant financial advice dispensed by John Korpi and Ryan Crabbe, and a very informative Risk Management lecture by field experts Lori Wood and Tony Hirsch of the Resort Hotel Association.  All of these sessions were valuable, and in particular Ellis’s just released 10 trends to watch for 2011 gave us a taste of the year ahead.  Keep your eye out for the list, which is usually released in early December.  There were additional breakouts on social media and loyalty which were also reportedly terrific.  As usual, too many topics for one person to cover, you really do need to bring a team.

Our afternoon General Session featured the truly inspirational Doc Hendley, a tattooed bartender who, at the age of 30 started his own non-profit, Wine to Water, and to date his group has dug, repaired and sanitized drinking wells to supply water for 25,000 people in 5 Third World countries.  Hendley is a self-described “average guy” who took what he saw around him and turned it into something to benefit thousands of people and make a difference in the world.  His story of determination and willingness to undertake personal risk to accomplish his goal was one that made me think about the power that we all have within ourselves.

The 2010 ISPA Foundation Silent Auction took place after the general session, and raised more than $70k for the ISPA Foundation, which funds educational and research needs for the spa industry, and then everyone dispersed for more parties and dinners.



Report from ISPA 2010, 20th anniversary edition.

Spa industry executives and vendors from around the globe are gathered in Washington D.C. for the 20th annual ISPA conference.  The conference is an annual “must-attend” for many due to the high quality educational breakouts, motivational keynotes, and networking opportunities.

Monday offered 10 Professional Development Sessions on a variety of topics.  Barry Moltz gave an impassioned presentation entitled “Customer Service is the New Marketing,” point being that now that customers are online talking about your business in so many channels, if you focus on providing high quality client experiences, the clients do the marketing for you.  Neil Ducoff gave a compensation presentation, and I was so happy to hear him mention the “sweet spot” of 30-35% of revenue for provider pay; as a country, we need to keep working on that.  There were other excellent presentations on marketing, communications, and menu engineering, and a “State of the Industry” session where ISPA shared 2010 performance statistics.  More on those in another blog!

The opening General Session is the first time during conference that all of the attendees convene in the same room, and we find a bag of spa products and goodies on each seat.  This year the bag was a little light on products, another sign of the tough economy, I suppose.  Or perhaps vendors do not feel that this mass giveaway is a worthwhile endeavor.  ISPA Chairwoman Jean Kolb greeted us, and then we enjoyed an unusual and inspirational story-telling session, using spoken words by Eric Saperston which were illustrated by the folky singing and guitar playing of Edwin McCain.  The message was, take the twists and turns your life journey presents you with and go with them.  Do what you love, follow your passion.  A story we’ve all heard before, but told in an imaginative way.

Following the General Session the Expo floor opened for the first time and we enjoyed wine and hor’s d’ouevres while greeting vendors and fellow conference attendees.  Some of the new innovations include a new treatment table, the Clodagh Libra, on which clients can receive manicures, pedicure,s facials and massages; skin and body products that smell and sound edible from Farmhouse Fresh; and exciting music management options from Imagesound Americas.

Tune in tomorrow for more on the ISPA Conference.

Oakworks Founder Jeff Riach shows off his wares

Mastering The Mindset Of World Class Service

FRONT DESK TRAINING, 2/20: Mastering the Mindset of World Class Service

World class service is no accident. To achieve this elevated level of guest care, you must start by grounding team members in the unique “mindset” that inspires top service organizations. Especially during a recession, team members don’t always exhibit the right attitude, or may not seem to be inspired, about delivering superior customer service. Yet it’s more important than ever, especially because spa visits are less frequent. Your customer’s expectations are high, and employee spirits may be low. This webinar will help you jump start team morale.

This fast paced live session, led by Wynne Business President Peggy Wynne Borgman, will inform, engage and inspire all spa personnel, regardless of their role. Recommended as a “core course,” it’s the perfect prelude to our skills training programs, such as “Mastering the Reservations Call.”  It’s a great way to kick off a service improvement project, meeting, or coaching session.

  • What is “world class” service?
  • What do customers value most and why is it so hard for most spas to deliver this?
  • How staging experiences differs from delivering services or filling orders. Getting out of the “transaction” mindset.
  • Guest expectations of their spa experience: are you prepared to deliver?
  • The three key components of world class service: Values, Systems and Art
  • The core values of great service providers
  • Structure: the sacred geometry that holds your spa together
  • The Power of Consistency: how Systems drive world class service
  • Art: How World Class service providers create delight
  • Understanding social styles and how they affect our communication with others–coworkers and clients alike
  • Techniques for achieving rapport quickly
  • Moments of Truth in World Class Service: how to survive the test

At just $99, about the cost of one comped service, you can’t afford to miss this session. Train four employees at one computer and the per-employee training cost is just $25. Please make sure you are using a computer with speakers, and check your volume level before the session begins.