Lucy Etherington, Deputy Editor at The Good Spa Guide, started as a features writer on The Evening Standard, where she also wrote travel features. She has since written for The Guardian, The Telegraph, Red and Elle magazines as a contributing editor and columnist. Her work as a spa reviewer has taken her all over the world and UK, from Ayurveda on a beach in Sri Lanka to an LED facial in Salford.
“Of the hundreds of spas reviewed by The Good Spa Guide each year, the most common sticking point is customer service. But when one man’s meat is another man’s poison, how do you qualify something that’s so subjective?
Of all the spas in all the world, why did I have to walk into this one?
Reviewing spas can be the best job in the world, but there are times you think: ‘of all the spas in all the world, why did I have to walk into this one?’ It can happen as soon as you arrive. Maybe there are a few people waiting and no one on reception. After several minutes, you call out: ‘Hello?’ An off-duty therapist appears, looking like you’ve interrupted her lunch, and barely glances at you as she scrolls down the computer screen looking for your name. She hands a locker key and looks over your shoulder to the next customer. “Er, where do I go?” you ask. It takes something special to get you to like a spa after that welcome.
In a Good Spa Guide poll, when asked ‘what makes the perfect spa day?’, customer service came second at 85 per cent (number one was facilities), followed by ‘being well looked-after’ at 82 per cent. Scented candles, calming music and a stunning pool won’t mean anything if you’re treated like a punter in a fast food joint.
Many spas already have excellent customer service, but expectations are getting higher. So how do you get to be the best of the best (and full marks on our audit sheet)?
The difference between a good or bad spa experience can be in reactive vs proactive service
First impressions are crucial. The sort of welcome we expect from four bubble spas will be friendly and respectful. There should always be someone manning the desk; happy to see you, maintaining eye-contact, using your name. If the spa gets busy there will be more receptionists and phone calls will be taken in a separate office, so the atmosphere remains serene.
To earn five bubble and above, guests should feel like a favourite customer, even if they’ve never been before. A host will offer a drink, fruit or chocolates, perhaps a scented, warmed cloth. They will ask how your journey was, discuss your spa day, ask what you would like to do for lunch. You will be made to feel not just comfortable, but valued.
Ultimately, what makes a happy customer is a happy team
The difference between a good or bad spa experience can be in reactive vs proactive service. Reactive service is when the customer needs to ask. Proactive is when staff anticipate guests’ needs, often before the guest has even thought of what they want. You don’t want to stalk your guests; being followed around a spa with an anxious GM fluffing pillows does not a five bubble experience make! Be available without being intrusive; clear the way of dirty towels, offer a fresh robe post-treatment, as you would when your favourite aunt is coming to tea.
Ultimately, what makes a happy customer is a happy team. It’s a trickle-down effect that starts at the top and spreads to the entire spa. Good managers treat their staff with trust and respect, as prized members of the team, not lackeys. They empower them to grow with the spa and make judgment calls to provide what guests might need.
Happy customers are nicer to each other, to the staff, more likely to tip and spend money in your boutique. It also means they are more likely to return, recommend your spa, talk about you positively instead of abandoning you for the recently opened swanky new spa down the road, where everybody seems to know their name.