Tag Archive for: guest experience

Outside Is In

Outside is In

I was doing a hardhat tour of a new spa in the wine country yesterday, one we did the space plan for at the soon-to-reopen Hotel Yountville. (Yes, the teeny Napa Valley town whose restaurants are famed for possessing more Michelin Stars than most major cities.) I remember being a bit challenged by the dimensions of the floor plate as I was working on the design a year ago. But as I walked through it yesterday, I was delighted by what I saw.

Interior architect Lisa Holt of DLS Hotels, our client, did an impressive job of creating a light-filled, airy and charming interior as she took my design from two to three dimensions. Lisa has been an enthusiastic spa visitor and has actually owned and operated a small luxury hotel and spa with her husband and DLS partner David Shapiro.

Fortunately, one direction we could go was up. Lofty ceilings and spectacular, tall treatment room doors create a slightly Alice-in-Wonderland feeling.

In the wine country, the last place I want to be is a cave (unless it’s filled with champagne.) Lisa brought the outside in with extensive use of tall windows, repeating the elegant rhythms of the doors, and we designed small private garden sitting areas off each treatment room. Bringing the outside in takes a small footprint and helps it to live large. The wet areas of the spa give onto a lounging pool, extending the spa experience effortlessly outside.

Being able to get outside while at the spa is a real luxury, and even a little bit of outdoor space can enhance the guest experience dramatically. I know that I’m willing to spend more time at a spa when I can be outside sometime during my visit. Resorts usually get this right and plan for it from the outset, though I’m often surprised at how catacomb-y spa designs can be and cut off from the outside.

Outdoor space is not always an option, especially for day spas in retail settings. But sometimes an opportunity is right under our nose, in the form of ugly-duckling outdoor space that has become invisible to us through its very familiarity. It’s hard to look objectively at your own space, especially if you’ve been in it a long time, so sometimes it’s worth consulting with a designer to see what they “see.” One of my favorite publications for inspiration for small outdoor spaces is Sunset. They have a long tradition of outdoor makeovers that are simple, clever and inexpensive.

A few years ago we turned some found space on a second floor balcony at Preston Wynne Spa and turned it into a cabana-curtained loggia replete with cushy furnishings, outdoor rugs, and a private pedicure area for al fresco treatments. Five feet wide and thirty feet long, it was not useful for much of anything and surfaced with a very unattractive waterproofing seal. We added decking panels that sat atop the surface to create a more attractive foundation, and a fountain to muffle outside noise, as well as lush planter boxes (these also helped create more privacy.) With some soft goods (which are easy to refresh each year) it has become one of the most popular features of our spa.

Bonnie Waters at Changes Spa and Salon in Walnut Creek, California, found an unloved easement between a parking lot and the side of her building, a plain little patch of tanbark and forlorn shrubs. She convinced the building owner to allow her to use the space, which had no other purpose, and developed it as a charming outdoor terrace for her spa’s newly expanded retail and party room, screening it from the parking lot with landscaping. Because she couldn’t make permanent changes to the easement, she used decomposed granite with pavers set into the soil, rather than mortar.

Probably the best example of enhancing the guest experience with “found” outdoor space is at Osmosis Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California. After years of operation as a landmark day spa specializing in Japanese enzyme baths, Michael Stusser, the visionary owner of Osmosis, carved a spectacular and authentic Japanese garden from a patch of creekside brush. This work of art is now the highlight of any visit to the spa and has created a remarkable identity for Osmosis.

I’m looking forward to experiencing the new spa at Hotel Yountville, inside and out, after our opening during Harvest season. Spas at their best reconnect us to nature and a more natural way of being. Outdoor space is often more than a sum of the parts; it’s always a great value-add.

Seven Steps To Abundant Sales And Stellar Customer Service

Webinar: Mastering the Mindset of World Class Service

Registration for this webinar: Mastering the Mindset of World Class Service has closed and below are the topics which were discussed. This training is available online as Part 1 of The Spa Concierge Finishing School. Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for this and other trainings.

Every spa wants to believe it gives outstanding service, and many claim to offer “world class” and “five star” customer care. But do you really? Does the massage therapist you just hired, who’s never patronized a world class spa, know how to deliver that level of service for a guest? How about your spa concierges?

Good news. It’s important to hire for aptitude and attitude; the rest you can teach. This foundation webinar is designed to help spa employees in every position, and at every level of experience, work closely as a team to create a stellar spa experience.

We’ll help your team understand how world class service is created, from the ground up. We’ll explain the vital importance of each of the three “ingredients” of legendary service: values, systems, and art. When these three ingredients are properly integrated by your team, guests have the sort of experiences that convert them to raving fans.

Your team will learn about:

• What customers value most
• The guest expectation of a five star spa experience
• The power of consistency, or why Systems drive all world class service
• How right-brained spa professionals can learn to love the “sacred geometry” of Systems, Rules, and Processes
• Process improvement and quality management skills for everyone in the spa
• Communication skills and easy, low-stress problem solving
• Understanding Social Styles
• Why “going above and beyond” starts with “mastering the basics”
• Unleashing the “Service Artist” within
• The magic of Deep Teamwork


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.