services are obviously a big part of the equation, experts note that nurturing a close relationship with each and every customer will give you a real competitive edge. “Clients are bombarded with spa recommendations at every turn, and if they don’t feel connected to you and your business, they can be easily swayed when they visit someplace else,” says Tamara Friedman, president and CEO of Tamara Spa+Wellness in Farmington Hills, Michigan. “So, it’s important to develop a relationship—even a bit of a friendship—to keep them coming back.” Of course, cultivating meaningful ties takes time, and it doesn’t only happen when guests are on site. Take these simple steps before, during and after their visit to ensure you build a lasting rapport.
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So look for opportunities to present a clear picture of your brand values and how those—along with your services—can enhance people’s lives.
Open up. Hosting an open house is a great way to let new clients know exactly who you are and what you stand for, while also introducing them to your facilities and services. “Set up personal interviews or assessments with walk-ins, and provide recommendations and programs,” advises Nikos Kouremenos, education and project manager for spa and wellness consultancy Raison d’Etre. That way, you can also get to the heart of individual needs and offer solutions they’ll remember.
Take it outside. Show off your spa by bringing your services to nearby businesses. “Give short foot or neck massages to employees, or offer an informative session on the benefits of your treatments,” suggests Kouremenos. To make your services really resonate, tailor them to the wellness concerns found at each specific company you visit.
Get involved. Participating in charitable or other community events will demonstrate your values while allowing you to connect with prospective clients. A to Zen Massage in Greensboro, North Carolina, does this on a regular basis—including being a sponsor for six local 5k races. “We give in-kind donations, such as gift certificates for services, to the top finishers,” says A to Zen owner Felicia Brown, an avid runner who sometimes participates in the races herself. The spa has also gotten to know locals by setting up booths at neighborhood events including street festivals and fundraisers for cancer research.
Once you get people in the door, you’ll want to do everything you can to develop deeper connections. “It’s important to build rapport with your clients,” says Brown. Not only is it good for business, but “people tend to experience better results from a treatment when they trust the person providing it,” she notes.
Take them in. When building a strong relationship with spa-goers, experts agree that the initial consultation is critical. Whether it’s a verbal conversation or having them fill out a form, a thorough intake interview will allow you to find out about guests’ wants, needs and health issues, as well as give you a chance to create a personal connection and demonstrate how the spa can provide lasting benefits. “Show that you’re there to educate them, not sell to them,” says Friedman. Also: Be sure the consult takes place in a quiet area, away from the hustle and bustle of the front desk; really listen to what guests have to say; and then offer helpful suggestions that show you understand.
Stay focused. It’s your job to make each individual feel as if they’re your one and only. “They may well be ‘Guest No. 25,’ but they have to feel unique,” says Kouremenos. “Remembering names and preferences from previous visits is a must.” Such details might include the client’s favorite treatment, therapist, aroma or massage oil. When you recall these specifics without being reminded, it makes spa-goers feel appreciated and special.
Monitor conversations. During the service, the provider should notice whether the guest feels like chatting or simply relaxing in silence. If they do want to talk, stay away from potentially sensitive topics, such as politics, religion or sexuality. Keep conversations as client-focused as possible. Be personable without being overly personal,” advises Brown.
Shine on. Once the treatment has concluded, help guests bask in the afterglow and keep the good feelings going by offering them a cup of tea, a light snack, or just allowing them to relax and linger for as long as they like. “It’s the little details that make clients feel appreciated,” says Friedman. “I have a therapist who brings her own apple and orange slices and gives them to clients after the treatment. Don’t be afraid to do something extra.”
Staying in contact with guests once they’ve left the spa is crucial to nurturing an enduring relationship with them. “It’s important to select methods and tools that work for you and are a good match for your business and clients—but the main thing is to stay in touch,” says Brown.
Reach out. Before guests leave the spa, ask for their phone number, email address and preferred method of communication. In the days following their visit, drop them a line to find out how they enjoyed their service. When you do so, be as specific about their experience as possible. “Find out how the products worked; ask how their skin reacted,” says Friedman. Detailed questions that show you remember and care about them helps strengthen the bond between you.
Give thanks. Never underestimate the power of expressing gratitude to your customers for their business, whether it’s with an automated message, handwritten note or some other show of appreciation. For instance, A to Zen offers a small polished stone etched with inspiring phrases (e.g., Peace, Believe, Breathe) to every new guest as thanks for coming in.
Connect online. Social media is an excellent way to stay close to spa- goers. Naturally, you can communicate about special offers, promotions, wellness tips and research findings, not to mention following up and receiving feedback. “Using your social media page to keep up with guests’ posts and responding to them is vital,” says Kouremenos. Not only can you make them feel remembered and heard, but you can also nip any potential concerns or problems in the bud.
Celebrate. When people visit A to Zen for a special occasion—such as a graduation or engagement—they receive a card with a few chocolate kisses. “It’s inexpensive, but people really appreciate the gesture,” says Brown. A note to guests with a personalized promotion or discount on birthdays or other holidays, such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, can also encourage them to book an appointment and deepen your relationship. “Every February, we give a Valentine’s gift to each client who visits,” says Brown. “Our anniversary is in February, too, so it’s the perfect fit—especially considering our spa’s mantra is ‘Love our clients.’”
–by Barbara Diggs