Changing Faces of Spa Industry

The Changing Faces of Spa Staffing

The Changing Faces of Spa StaffThe right time to run a business is . . . well there never is a perfect time.

Economic indicators, elections, global events, volatile weather and changing trends all contribute to positives on the one hand and negatives on the other. Post-recession, the spa business has changed quite a bit. The spas that made it through are running lean and smoothly, and have been consistently busy for the last couple of years. Read more

Heres To A Successful New Year

Here’s to a successful new year

   Welcome to the new year!

The older I get, the more New Year’s Day reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day; I can’t believe it’s here again, already! The fact is, the more quickly the years tick by, the more urgency you may have as a business owner to avoid procrastinating in regards to your spa business.

New Year’s resolutions have actually been around since the ancient Babylonians marked the new year as a time to repay their debts and return borrowed objects, 4000 years ago. You know that list of changes you’d like to make, or new approaches you’ve been meaning to try? The time is now, no need to wait until another year, or two, or five, goes by. Select one activity from each of these four areas, and get to work!  Read more

Discovering The Heartbeat Of Your Small Business

Discovering the heartbeat of your small business

Most companies today recognize the need to articulate their core values. Core values provide the compass that guides the business. While business strategies should constantly be evolving, core values, like true North, don’t change. In stormy times of stress and change (hello!) Core Values provide a secure anchor. They can remind us of who we are when we are considering compromising our principles. They can help us focus on what’s truly important. They can help us make decisions and set priorities. They can be used as a touchstone when coaching an employee and a measuring stick when hiring a new team member.

But where do Core Values come from? Jim Collins is one of the world’s experts on the importance of core values in organizations, having researched them extensively for his books “Good to Great” and “Built to Last.” He writes “… you cannot “set” organizational values, you can only discover them. Nor can you “install” new core values into people. Core values are not something people “buy in” to. People must be predisposed to holding them. Executives often ask me, “How do we get people to share our core values?” You don’t. Instead, the task is to find people who are already predisposed to sharing your core values. You must attract and then retain these people and let those who aren’t predisposed to sharing your core values go elsewhere. I’ve never encountered an organization, even a global organization composed of people from widely diverse cultures, that could not identify a set of shared values. The key is to start with the individual and proceed to the organization…”

Who should create your core values? Management teams or owners usually initiate the process of clarifying and identifying values, but as Collins points out, this can’t be a top-down activity. If Core Values are simply handed out to the team, they are often ignored or even ridiculed as more silly management-speak, or worse. (As the cynical Dilbert proclaims, “values are a type of emotional illusion common to children, idiots and non-engineers.”) Identifying Core Values is a process of discovery, and for that process to be relevant and resonant in the lives of your team members, it needs to involve as many of them as possible.  Agreeing upon your most cherished Core Values is a ritual that, when properly facilitated, can bring all an organization’s members closer together. Articulating core values is not simply an exercise in word-smithing. Word-smithing is important, but it actually comes last.

How do you identify core values? We like to compare the process of identifying and articulating an organization’s values to diamond mining:

  1. We collect a lot of ore, filled with rough diamonds
  2. Together, we sift through the ore and carefully select the best gems
  3. We polish and cut the best gems
  4. We proudly set and “wear” our gems

How many Core Values are enough? Good management is a lot like parenting, according to business “growth guru” Verne Harnish of Gazelles (gazelles.com).  He says, “have a handful of rules and repeat yourself a lot.” That “handful of rules” are your Core Values. Three to five concepts is more than enough for people to remember.

 What if I don’t like the Values my team comes up with? It’s extremely rare to have the Core Values process deliver Values that are different from yours. Why? The people in your company ultimately reflect and agree with your true Core Values—that’s why they’re there. One important reason to work with a facilitator in this exercise is to ensure healthy balance in the Values. For example, when you talk about Core Values with your team, especially teams from hospitality and helping professions, expect the conversation to get fairly animated. Teams that deliver intensive customer service are highly interdependent. Positive interpersonal relationships are crucial to their happiness. Their values tend to focus on interpersonal relationships with one another.

The facilitator ensures that all stakeholders are strongly supported by at least one of the Core Values: employees, customers, and ownership all have slightly different needs and agendas. The “kumbaya” values of your team may not acknowledge the necessity of making money, for example. An easy way to describe this is to think about the “three relationships” each team member experiences in the organization:

  1. Relationships with co-workers
  2. Relationships with customers
  3. Relationship with the business

Rather than establish these limitations at the beginning, we try to encourage a very unstructured discovery of personal values as they relate to work. Too many rules early in the process can restrict the free flow of conversation and ideas. Instead ask

  • What’s important to you at work?
  • Why do you work here?
  • What’s usually happening when you’re having fun at work?
  • What do you like most about your coworkers?
  • What do you like most/least about the organization?
  • What behavior do you think expresses a true professional?

If you’d like help articulating and capturing your company’s core values, we’d be happy to help. Contact us at consultants@wynnebusiness.com, subject: Core Values! And we’ll figure out if it’s something you can do yourself or if you might need to have your process facilitated by an expert. Either way, prepare to see your team in a whole new light. And prepare to keep that light burning bright for a long time!

The Front Desk Must Die

The Front Desk Must Die!

Spas are working harder than ever to be innovative in their designs, but there’s one convention that just won’t seem to die: the monolithic front desk. Once upon a time, we had big fat computer monitors and hulking CPUs to hide in those enormous desks. So why, in this age of flat screens and cloud computing, are we still confronted with these intimidating beasts when we enter a “state of the art” spa?

Front desks create a barrier between guest and client. In restauranteur Danny Meyer’s parlance, it’s hard to convince a guest you’re “on their side” when you literally are not. Check-in, a simple enough transaction, can be accomplished with about two keystrokes–and for that matter, on a handheld. Why use up valuable square footage that you could use for retail merchandising? Because architects and interior designers think we want these things.

Instead, guests could be welcomed by a friendly host who is visible from head to toe, whose full-frontal greeting will feel much more sincere. He or she checks guests in with his or her handheld, or at a simple podium. (Seeing staff engulfed by giant desks reminds me of those little old ladies you see piloting massive cars.) Perhaps we could even stop calling our spa concierges “front desk staff.” (It’s a bit like calling massage therapists “massage table staff,” isn’t it?)

In the new spas Wynne Business designs, we include a comfortable “checkout lounge” that encourages lingering, with tables where home care recommendations can be reviewed over a cup of tea and some conversation with a Home Care Advisor. This salesflow strategy separates the departing spa-mellowed guest from the frantic incoming one, who often induces the departing guest to unconsciously “giddyup.” Not good for retail or rescheduling. Even when there isn’t room for a checkout lounge, we include in the design a “checkout bar” with stools. “If you perch, you purchase,” we like to say.

The front desk is one part of the spa business that has never undergone a serious rethink, which is very strange. Yes, we store things in those massive desks, we conceal trash cans and we hide our Starbucks cups (heaven forbid.) But our front desks carry tremendous symbolism. They are the physical manifestation of the intimidation that so many guests still feel when they enter a spa. I have no idea why they are so often front and center, like some sort of altar. Talk about scary.

They also function as a sort of fort, from which your staff defends the spa from the clients. Visit a new spa and try to get a spa concierge out from behind their desk. It’s like prying off a barnacle. Behind a desk, it’s easy to look busy as long as you’re not leaning on it, chin in hands. Imagine what happens when there is no longer a desk to hide behind. Shelves get dusted, products are straightened, guests are interacted with, refreshments proffered, doors are opened.

So why not do away with them altogether? Handhelds make it possible for the “point of sale” to be anywhere the client is–another way to encourage more natural interaction with staff, better customer care, more spontaneity, and oh yes, larger purchases.

As we look for new ways to draw the ellusive Millenials into our spas, rethinking the front desk may be a very good place to start.

Customer Experience Experts Wanted

People Problems

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone in a class or seminar say, “You know, we don’t really have that many issues in our spa–we just have people problems.”

According to a study of 1350 spa guests from Coyle Hospitality Group, “people problems” are the predominant issue in every spa. Coyle, the leading mystery shopping firm in the hospitality industry, undertook a survey to determine the most common spoilers of spa experiences.

The summary notes that, “62% of the respondents mentioned ‘People’ as a significant contributor to the bad experience…Nearly two out of every three people that have a bad experience at a spa are talking about staff behavior. This is most interesting because most spa owners feel that the quality of their staff is their most significant competitive advantage.”

This is a bad news/good news situation. As the Coyle report points out, behavioral problems, unlike issues with your plumbing, are usually inexpensive to fix. However, unlike a one-time fix, correcting people problems–and keeping them corrected–requires focus, discipline, and follow-through. It sometimes requires a cultural shift. It sometimes requires more supervision. It always requires training.

Hearing what guests actually experience is an eye-opener. The top complaint in the Coyle study? Over 100 of the respondents indicated that the “staff was not listening, responsive about special needs, or accommodating,” and 100 more felt there was “too much conversation.” 64 guests experienced “unfriendly, impersonal, robotic staff.” Others noted that they were “ignored by staff during treatment; not checked on,” and a significant number encountered, amazingly enough, “offensive, demeaning” staff. (We took pains to include some of these issues in our customer service training, including role play examples of the wrong and right way to handle various conversations.)

If like many spas you’ve been focusing on promotions to get new guests in the door, there’s encouraging news–and perhaps a cautionary tale–in one statistic. “Only a total of 35 out of 1,350 respondents spoke about value…the price paid is not at the heart of the problem” for most dissatisfied guests. This rogues’ gallery of poor communication skills, in short, has more to do with a lack of repeat business than economic conditions.

This is counterintuitive during a major recession, when discretionary spending has shriveled. The new generation of social-networking discount promotion sites, like Groupon, may seem tempting to a spa with lots of empty space on its books. But focusing on quantity over quality will quickly erode any perceived value that remains for your customers. Taking the high road–staying focused on delivering a stellar guest experience–is a healthier strategy for a spa that wants to be in business in for a long time.