It is important for professionals to be proactive and do everything in their power to ensure that complaints do not arise in the first place. The best way to prevent customer complaints is by having open dialogue and essentially overcommunicating with each client. For example, when a client calls to book a service, that is the first opportunity to learn more about their exact preferences and needs. Get a sense of each guest’s expectations and what they are looking to get out of their spa experience before they even arrive for their appointment, as that allows time to ensure they have booked the appropriate treatment and to make any adjustments, if needed.
It is important to remember that professionals are the experts and it is their job to educate guests and remind them of the amenities offered while making suggestions on how to make the most of their time at the spa. This helps to paint a vision, so clients can know what to expect during their experience.
Once the client has arrived for their appointment, it is important to have open communication regarding their expectations and concerns. Conduct a thorough consultation to get a sense of their exact preferences and check in regularly throughout their time in the treatment room.
ESTABLISHING OPEN DIALOGUE
Even in the spa industry, communication is a two-way street. Encourage each client to be fully open and transparent about how they are enjoying their treatment. For example, when asking a client at the beginning of a massage appointment how the pressure and service is so far, it is very important that the client gives honest feedback. Many clients will not say anything negative for fear that the professional will get their feelings hurt, but ensure them that is not the case and help them to understand that honest responses are important so that the service can be adjusted appropriately to provide excellent service and meet their expectations. An easy way to encourage honest feedback is to tell clients up front that any critique will not be viewed as negative or hurtful and, instead, helpful in ensuring they are enjoying the service. Professionals cannot carry out the uncommunicated expectations of clients, so establishing this open dialogue is essential in making them comfortable and meeting their expectations.
PREPARING FOR COMPLAINTS
Although a more proactive (rather than reactive) approach is best, clients are going to sometimes complain and there is no way around it. Keeping that in mind, it is important to prepare the team to manage negative client feedback as quickly and efficiently as possible. Spa treatments can be an emotional journey for many clients, and professionals need to always keep in mind that the client is choosing to spend their time, money, and energy on the services provided. If not handled in a timely manner, the experience has the potential to fester and be more emotional and serious as the minutes and hours go by.
When addressing a client complaint, it is also very important to work through the situation with care and compassion. Listening to the complaint and resolving it in an efficient manner can go a long way in creating trust and appreciation with the client, even if they were unsatisfied with the service provided.
Unfortunately, there are no cookie-cutter responses for managing complaints. Each individual complaint will be unique and will require a different response and action. For that reason, it is a good idea to hold role-playing training sessions on how to address different complaint scenarios with the team. These sessions should inspire conversation on different complaints each team member has received in the past, while prepping for situations that they may not have encountered or thought of before and building confidence in how to respond to each situation. These trainings should also educate the team on how to best handle each type of complaint, identify when an issue needs to be flagged to management, and recognize the appropriate steps for each scenario.
Although it is recommended to have a manager on duty at all times, each member of the team should be efficiently trained and able to manage a customer complaint the moment it arises. Everyone from the front desk associates to supervisors and managers should have the capability to resolve situations through refunds and discounts.
During peak business seasons, it is also important to set expectations with clients, especially for those who frequent the spa. For example, it may be more difficult to get a preferred appointment time during the summer, so it is very important to book in advance. Additionally, if a client calls to make an appointment for that same day, they can often be disappointed that there are no available appointments. In these situations, prepare the team to politely explain how busy the spa is during the season and work with the client to see if their timing would be flexible to fit into the earliest available opening. For spas at a resort or hotel, it may be worth reminding guests of the limited availability at check-in to encourage guests to make spa appointments in advance.
Document complaints as they arise. Although they may not be easy to pinpoint at first, often, there will be similarities in feedback. For example, are there multiple comments about the same provider, treatment room, massage table, or shower, or are the complaints coming in around the same time, such as the last treatments of the day? Observing this information can help in taking steps to rectify the situation and prevent future complaints, whether that is getting a new bed for a treatment room or shortening a team member’s shift to maintain the quality of their service.
Additionally, keep audit logs that showcase when any discounts have been applied or if a client was refunded for their service. This also helps to manage and monitor complaints and identify any common denominators.
As professionals work to improve communication, establish open dialogue with clients, prepare for complaints, set expectations, and look for patterns, overall client satisfaction will improve.
Joe Herman is the spa director at Windflower – The Hill Country Spa at Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort. He has nearly 15 years of experience working in the spa industry at esteemed spas throughout the country, including Anara Spa in Hawaii, Tamaya Mist Spa in New Mexico, and Acista Spa in California.