Current Spa Etiquette Standards: How to Empower Staff Members to Educate Clients

Written by Melissa Fielding

Spa etiquette is a topic that, in a business based on relieving stress, frequently causes a lot of undue concern. Spa etiquette needs to be a frequent topic of conversation with staff so that they feel educated and empowered when answering clients' questions.

Spa owners cannot remind therapists and clients enough about etiquette. After all, it is normal to get into a rhythm and forget about basic things that could put either party in an uncomfortable situation. To create an ongoing conversation, spa owners or managers should lead daily line-ups with their team. In these brief meetings, they can talk about what is going on at the spa, or the treatment of the day, or give reminders about standards; these meetings should engage the staff and encourage them to stay on top of what is happening.

Many spas see a lot of confusion about arrival time at the spa. All the clients' correspondence should say the same thing, such as, "Allow a minimum of 30 minutes before your treatment to check in, change, and begin relaxing." To encourage on-time arrivals, ask clients to consider their drive time to the spa, which, in bigger cities, can be significant.

Arrival time is important because, when someone is late, it can begin a domino effect that ripples throughout the entire day. When the spa is booked solid, professionals can implement a modified procedure that would take the time off the client's treatment. When the spa is not booked back-to-back, the professional can try to offer the client their full treatment when they arrive late, unless they are extremely late.

The discussion about late arrivals often leads to another etiquette question – cancellation policies. Consumers should always look at the cancellation policy when they are booking. Cancellation policies are, many times, created because professionals often work on commission. If someone calls an hour before to cancel, the chances of rebooking that treatment are slim. Therefore, the skin care professional will lose money and time spent coming in for the cancelled appointment.

The biggest area of etiquette confusion occurs with phone use in the spa. Spas are phone-free zones for a reason: the spa experience is about decompressing and leaving worries behind. To manage phone challenges, train the team on the exact verbiage they should use. For example: "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but to ensure relaxation, the spa is a phone-free area. You do have the option to go elsewhere (such as outside) to use your phone." In this conversation, it is important not to use the word "policy," which can be viewed as stifling by guests. The words "practice" or "standard" are friendlier ways to convey the rules.

Clients might not realize that their phones could be damaged when taken into steam rooms or wet areas. Another good reminder for clients is signage, reminder notifications, and brochures.

Many guests will put their phone in a locker, which is acceptable. However, it is a good reminder that phones should be turned off, not put on vibrate. Just as ringing can be heard, the vibration can also be heard from the lockers. However, the noise factor is not the only concern about phones being in a spa setting; there are also issues about photographs being taken. When it comes to photographs, staff can ask that clients are aware of their surroundings. Ensure that team members know where it is acceptable to take photographs and that they help guide clients in that direction.

To ease clients' concerns that they are not able to access their phones, have the front desk number readily accessible to give to their family members and friends.

Clothing is another area of concern for clients. To receive the maximum benefits of a treatment, it is recommended that clients undress. The exception is with facials, where only the face, neck, and shoulders need to be uncovered. The clothing question should be addressed when the client is making their appointment, as well as posted online and added to appointment reminders.

For spas that have pools, the choice to bring a bathing suit is information that clients need to know in advance so they can fully enjoy their spa experience.
When guiding clients regarding clothing etiquette, the spa staff should be trained to explain that professionals will use any garments the client is wearing as their indicator of where to stop the treatment. For example, if a client wants their glutes massaged, it is important to convey the message to them to not wear undergarments. Otherwise, the guest could leave disappointed that a key reason for having their treatment was not addressed.

Urge clients to speak with the front desk in advance about what they want to receive from their treatment. During that discussion, inform them that the professional who is best trained to deliver the specific therapy may be assigned and that therapist may be male or female. Most clients tend to prefer female professionals, which is a discussion to have early on.pic-1

There are also etiquette questions about robes and slippers. While robes and slippers are provided in the spa, in-house clients can wear the robe supplied in their room (if the spa is in a hotel). Keep in mind that the slippers in the room do not have a rubber sole, which is required to ensure the clients' safety. If clients want to bring their own slippers from home, ask that they are not worn outside beforehand due to sanitary reasons. The verbiage that should be used for that situation is, "Please don't be offended if we ask to see your shoes to ensure they have rubber soles and are sanitary. If needed, we are happy to sanitize them for you."

When having a massage, advise clients about eating and drinking guidelines. Instruct them to have something in their stomach, but not to eat a full meal. Light snacks, such as fruit and nuts, should be available in the spa for those who like to snack.

If the receptionist feels someone has overindulged in alcoholic beverage use, it is their discretion to ask for a manager who may choose to ask them to reschedule. To avoid a tense situation, managers should use verbiage such as, "For your safety, we want to reschedule for a time that better fits your schedule." A glass of wine or champagne at lunch is not of concern and may be part of the way the client relaxes pre-treatment.

When it comes to hygiene, clients may not realize that they should shower before time in a sauna, steam room, or treatment. Not only is showering a courtesy to the professional, it is a good way for the client to refresh and rinse off the stressors of the day. In most instances, a shower can simply be rinsing off the body. The front desk should convey to clients who are having an exfoliation experience to shave at least four hours before; however, men do not have to get rid of their facial hair.

Regarding inappropriate interactions with clients, spa managers should let their skin care professionals know that the professional is in control in the treatment room and there is zero tolerance for improper contact from a client. Advise professionals to stop the treatment, leave the room, and get a manager.

As for gratuity, an auto-gratuity is added to services at some spas, which is conveyed to clients. At other spas, gratuity is divided by the team or given specifically to the professional. It is important that spas that implement this do not forget about the spa attendant – they are cleaning the spa and wet areas, serving water, and keeping floors dry and safe.

Lastly, when recommending products, educate clients rather than try to make a hard sell. During a treatment, professionals should offer products they know will enhance the client's experience and life. Sample verbiage includes, "What can I add to your current regimen that will enhance your life?"

Melissa-FieldingWith nearly two decades of experience in hospitality, spa, and wellness, Melissa Fielding is the Director of Spa & Wellness at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort. Situated on a 750-foot stretch of private beach, Carillon Miami Wellness Resort is Florida's most comprehensive spa and wellness resort.

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