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The Love is in the Details

Written by Jaya Schillinger and Crickett (Christina) Cimino LE CMT

When a guest comes into your establishment, what do they see? What do they feel, smell, hear, and maybe even taste? Your focus on the details of client care gives the ability to take a satisfactory experience into an extraordinary and magical one. This magic can reside in a one room spa studio or in a 10 room mega spa. It can exist in the surgi-center medi-spa or the multipurpose treatment room in the back of a conventional salon.

What is this Magic?
Walt Disney once said, “You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.” The love is in the details and it most certainly is the cornerstone to guest satisfaction, and moreover, guest retention. If you understand your guest’s needs you can position your details to embrace them from the minute they set a foot down on your property until they are snuggly nestled in their car, sighing contentedly driving back toward what is real life for them. The bottom line is your guests want to feel understood. They want to feel a sense of belonging and security that they will be treated the way they want to be treated. When you act with this as your underlying motivation, you and your guests will create some very real magic. In other words, if your guest finds something in your organization that hits them in an emotional place, they will come away from their experience feeling the internal warmth they were seeking not just like another cog in the wheel of an industry.

Make Some Magic
In September 2005, Coyle Hospitality Group released a report that stated the most important virtues for their establishment to embody (in order from most important) are quality of experience, cleanliness, cost = value of experience, and friendliness of experience provider. Only 61 percent of clients were likely to complain if their experience was not satisfactory, and only about half of the silent 39 percent said they would consider returning. No complaint, no justification, no resolution, simply no return.
The next time you enter your facility, before you open the front door take a deep breath and enter as if you are a guest. Take a moment to remember why you go there and then visualize one of your most likeable and enjoyable guests. Envision as you put your hand on the doorknob what they are feeling as they are entering. Walk through the door and see what they see. Look at the big picture. Look to your left and scan 180 degrees. Make a note of any dust bunnies, cobwebs, or (gasp!) dead bugs that need tending and /or possible eviction. Look under couches and in between cushions. Inspect the upholstery for stains and signs of wear. How does the ceiling look? Do the light bulbs all work? This impression is going to be measured against what they perhaps have heard of your business and also what they are hopefully, and excitedly, anticipating.
What does the guest smell at this point in the experience? What could they smell at this point in the journey that is an extension of your intent for their experience? A candle or oil diffuser signature to your establishment can be a subtle support of the mellow exhilaration they feel when they know they are about to do something good for themselves. The guest’s next stop is to reception.
Take a physical inventory of how you have set your stage for your guest. Something as simple as a million multi-colored post-it notes stuck everywhere and 40 pens or pencils strewn across the desk give a cluttered appearance that reads as disorganized and inefficient. Consider implementing a hardbound communication log book (available at your local office supply store) where each guest service assistant will record and notate information, policy, and new procedural memorandum during or at the conclusion of their shift. Each guest service assistant can begin their shift by reading all entries made since the conclusion of their last shift to update themselves and know what is currently in the works. No more post-its to lose and definitely more aesthetically pleasing. Take advantage of the plethora of beautiful, cost-effective, organizational items available at your local superstore to blend your office supplies into the décor of your facility. Clean lines and good organization reads as “efficiency” to your guests.

The Magic Makers
Now that your guest has come in, taken a deep breath of sanctuary, and is being visually stimulated by the sights of a clean, beautifully lit, and organized refuge, what is the next thing they see and hear? The Magic Makers. The Magic Makers are anyone with a pulse, employed by the establishment you are supporting. From the first chair in the boardroom, the doctor performing the surgery, the multi-tasking aesthetician/massage therapist, or the 14 year old shampoo girl sweeping up after the hair team. Guest service is everyone’s position that goes tandem with their primary role.
Look around and listen to the interaction taking place around you as you view your guest’s view. The art of guest service can be taught upon hiring. It does not matter if you have a three employee shop or 30. Simple tricks of the trade like using a positive, animated phone voice or raising your eyebrows while listening to a guest demonstrate going an extra step to engage a guest and let them know you are truly listening to them. Moving away from the reception desk to walk them to the waiting area or to get them some refreshment while they wait gives them a “buddy system” to adjust them to being “in here” away from the outside world and start the unwinding process. Pointing with no less than two fingers and making eye contact gives a much friendlier energy when giving instructions. If a guest is within ten 10… GREET. It does not matter if the guest is here to see you or interview for a job. If they are within 10 feet of you, greet them. Smile with your whole face and not just your mouth upon greeting and farewell. Remind yourself that your guest truly has always been the reason you do what you do. It is authentic to be appreciative. Show them your appreciation and you have authentically engaged them.
The Walt Disney World Company has been called a hallmark of being clean, friendly, and fun for over 40 years. As a business model for some of the world’s leading service providers, Disney stands on its mantras. The first rule is: "We create happiness." The second is: "Everyone picks up trash." According to Jeff Kober, a leadership relations expert in Orlando, Fla., “The emphasis here is not just one of cleanliness. The important message is that when teams work together to make improvement that positively affects everyone, they become more cohesive. Their pride improves, productivity increases, and quality becomes apparent.” To truly respect the first rule and give the best of ourselves to our guests by executing the second rule, whether we are a queen or a worker bee, when we see the detail that is going to engage the guest or make their experience just that much better, do it.
The love is in the details.

The Power of a Professional Recommendation
Historically, facial services fell under the broad category of beauty care, primarily delivered by cosmetologists working in full service salons. It wasn’t even until the early 1980s that aestheticians were able to attend specialized training programs and have their own state board licenses. What prompted this change? Science and technology. With the advent of powerful new microscopes, scientists were able to see cellular activity with new accuracy and understanding. The marriage of science and the beauty business has resulted in a plethora of advanced equipment, techniques, and products. We aren’t just looking and feeling better, we are seeing true anti-aging results.
However, all of these scientific advances brings a tremendous amount of complexity with them. As some of you hard-studying aestheticians know, there is much to learn and more new developments all the time. Fortunately, most skin care professionals I know have a voracious appetite for knowledge. Often times, aestheticians tell me that it’s one of the reasons they chose their career—they love learning about the science of skin!
Your customers on the other hand, mostly want the results. It’s essential to realize that one of the key reasons they hire a professional is that they want to benefit from your knowledge. How luxurious it is for your clients, who are experts in their own careers, to be able to come for a treatment with you and totally relax, knowing that you’re handling all the decisions and making a personalized plan for them! A professional aesthetician knows how to analyze the client’s skin, do a proper consultation that addresses client health history and concerns, create a customized series of treatments, recommend home care products, and stay on top of changing conditions.
The savvy aesthetician becomes her clients’ trusted advisor. She knows how to gauge how much (or how little) technological knowledge her client is interested in and then distills her vast amounts of information into simple terms—as they apply to that client. One avid spa customer, Sandra Gardner, put it this way, “I have to say that I’ve left most of my spa experiences pretty disappointed in how little I actually ever learned about how to take care of my skin. Most of the aestheticians were very nice, and a good massage during a facial is relaxing, but I’m in there because my 45-year-old sun damaged skin needs help! I’m not shy; I’ve always asked questions and even point-blank asked for recommendations about what to do at home. Even still, I receive very little advice at all. There are no questions about what I’m using or doing at home or why I’m there and what’s important to me. Nine times out of 10, I don’t receive product advice or recommendations. Now that’s frustrating.
I finally found a wonderful aesthetician to whom I’ve been loyal for about a year now (with no plans to go anywhere else) and my skin has never looked better. Why? Because in addition to giving a really nice facial, she takes a genuine interest in me/my complexion, and sits me down and talks to me face to face for a few minutes before each appointment. She taught me how to take care of my skin at home. Not just product, but simple dos and don’ts that don’t cost a thing, like telling me not to use hot water to wash my face or to put on moisturizer while my skin is still damp. I’ve bought literally thousands of dollars of product from her, and never once did I feel like she was pressuring me or that the spa where she works was pressuring her to “push” product on me. She’s just really practical about telling me what she thinks will solve the problems I have.” Sandra’s aesthetician is really doing it right!
Another expert aesthetician I know, Miriam Lytle of Wolf Mountain Day Spa in Grass Valley, Calif., is right on point when she says, “I have heard many times they feel I know their skin’s needs and can recommend accordingly. I am the expert and they are more comfortable purchasing from me. They want that personal attention I offer.” Yes! Your customers love feeling that you are really paying personal attention to them. It’s ironic to me how some aestheticians think they are doing the client a favor by not making recommendations. There is a sense of not wanting to intrude. Yet from a client’s perspective, your lack of engagement with them is usually felt as a lack of caring. To build rapport with another person, you must learn to overcome your own biases and fears of rejection and engage them. Gently address their concerns about their appearance. Teach them how to take care of their skin. Your recommendations are powerful, especially when delivered with love. Clients are hungry for this and will become fiercely loyal when you are feeding them what they most want and need. 

Retail Therapy is More Than Just Fluff
Can you imagine doing a facial without professional products? One salon owner I know made this point very strongly on a training day by removing ALL of the products from the stations. Technicians were confused and outraged when they went to practice on models and there were no supplies! His wisdom for them was this: if you can’t do a good treatment without good products, then why are you sending clients away without good products to use at home? It’s really true. If you’re not recommending products available for purchase, you’re under-serving your clients.
During seminars and at tradeshows, I often ask attendees why they hold back from selling retail on a consistent basis. Nearly 100 percent of the time the answer is, “I don’t want to seem pushy.” Hidden in this statement is a lurking fear of rejection. Of course you shouldn’t be pushy! That’s not the answer. But remaining silent, waiting until the customer brings it up, or stiffly and unenthusiastically shoving some products on the check-out counter isn’t the answer either. I speak from personal experience on this. When I was an 18 year old newly-licensed aesthetician, I was terrified of sales too! But I was fortunate to have had great mentors that taught me how to stop fixating on my own shyness and focus on my customer. I learned to pull on my strength of being a natural teacher and watched my sales and confidence grow. You can learn this. Just focus on what your customer needs, and show them the products you have available that are a good fit for them. Don’t hold anything back! Recommend your best, most complete protocol. If they respond by asking you for modifications or want to just try one product for now, that’s fine! Help them choose the best one then. But never hold back your knowledge out of a fear of rejection.
Aubrey Rogers of City Magnolia Day Spa in Frederick, Md., learned to change the way she thinks about retailing. She said, “I was able to overcome my fear of selling retail products when I realized that as a professional, I have an obligation to not only take care of my customers’ skin for the one hour once a month they're here, but every day. I have to have confidence in what they are using in between our visits. I compare it to working out with a personal trainer. You can work out with a personal trainer once a week, or even every day, but until you take what you've learned and apply it to your own daily life routine, you will never achieve long-lasting results.” Not only do I love Aubrey’s viewpoint, but I think what she said would be a great way to explain the importance of using good home care products to your clients. The working out metaphor is a good one! Clients want their skin to look good all the time, not just after a visit with you. Give them the tools and regimes they need to do that.
Susie Raymond of White Sage Day Spa in Milwaukee, Wis., attributes her jump from a 25 percent to a 41 percent service to retail ratio to her change in attitude. “Yes I have recently overcome the fear of selling retail. Even though I have been in the business for eight years, selling retail was my least favorite part. Now I'm having fun solving my clients skin care concerns and making more money. How? I changed my intention and attitude toward selling. I listen to my customers highest concern and recommend the product that will address it. She doesn't have to make her way through all the marketing babble in the media. She feels good and confident that she will get the results and she does.” If you ever have the good fortune of meeting Susie, you will instantly realize she is anything but pushy! She’s just learned to stop holding back, and bring out the genuine love she feels for her clients into her product recommendations.
It’s all about demonstrating that you care. You need to learn how to recommend products to your clients in a way that feels good—to them. The typical spa customer is busy, stressed out, and depleted from giving at work and taking care of friends and family. Spa time is “me time!” Your client has already established that she values looking good and feeling good, and is willing to pay you to help with that. How can you make the retail experience fun for her? You know her needs, preferences, and values. What new scents, textures, and tools can you intrigue her with?
Dawn Lorraine McGrath of Serenity Zone Skin Spa in Nevada City, Calif., tells me that clients in her town value natural products but also supporting the local economy. She said, “A common comment I hear is that people like to buy from me to support a local small business.” So while her customers could buy products on the Internet or a big chain store, they don’t want to. They feel good about buying from her. They want to express their love and loyalty to local merchants who truly care. Retailing with love creates a big, happy gratitude circle between clients and therapists, treatment results and profitability.

Following Up Shows Clients You Care
Aesthetic services are not usually designed as a one-time treatment. The skin is a constantly changing organ that immediately responds to fluctuations in your client’s environment, health, and emotions, as well as changes induced by the onset of aging. In an ideal scenario, your client is hoping to find a professional who can help with any pre-existing conditions but also work with her over time. From a customer’s perspective, the first few appointments are an investment of time and money to find an aesthetician who is the right fit for her. She is just as aware as you are that a history needs to be created at the beginning of the relationship. If you establish rapport with her, demonstrate that you remember who she is each time, and note her preferences without her having to tell you twice—she’ll be impressed. She’ll also be much less likely to stray and visit another spa for services or buy her products in a department store.
JoEllen Ussery, now a Realtor in Novato, Calif., told me how much she regretted trying a line of well-known “natural” skin care products from a department store recently. She had tried asking the salesperson for a complete list of ingredients, but one wasn’t available. JoEllen explained her sensitivities, and the clerk assured her it would be OK. “Not everyone would think that product absorbed through the skin would cause such an intense reaction to someone's entire system. I was ill for two days, with swelling, stomach cramps, profuse sweating, brain fog, and emotional unbalance... nice "organic" experience.” JoEllen is a perfect example of a customer who would really benefit from having an aesthetician who stays up on ingredient lists and keeps careful notes about client allergies. Instead of having to feel that she’s risking her health every time she tries something new, she could trust her aesthetician instead. Customers are so needful of this level of personalized care and follow through, and there are many more people out there like JoEllen who don’t even know what it could be like if they hired a true professional.
One last important point I want to make about following up with your client is this: you need to invite each and every client to book another appointment! It astonishes me how rarely this actually happens in spas (despite practitioner claims to the contrary.) I did a little experiment last year when I was looking for a new local spa to call “home.” I simply wanted to find a place where I felt like they cared about me, especially as I teach spa customer service for a living. My sole determining standard was that I would only choose to revisit a place that invited me back. I went to many spas, some with reputations for being “the best,” and not one of them asked me to rebook for nine months! I was even starting to feel a little desperate, and started dropping hints such as, “I should do this more often.” Nothing. None of my therapists or the front desk staff would say a word. They just rushed me through the check-out process (and no mention of retail products either, I might add.) You wouldn’t let friends leave a party you hosted without saying a nicety such as “let’s do this again soon!” It’s just common hospitality to make people feel welcome. From a customer’s perspective, your following a treatment with a recommendation and offer to rebook them doesn’t feel like a sales tactic—it’s how they know you like them enough to want to see them again.

Crickett (Christina) Cimino LE CMT is the Founder and Lead Technician at FUSION Mind Body Spirit and INVOKE artistry by FUSION in Westminster, Md. She is a licensed aesthetician, NCTMB massage therapist, make-up artist, and licensed manicure/pedicurist. Cimino is also an instructor and post-graduate educator for Von Lee International School of Aesthetics in Baltimore, Md.

Jaya Schillinger is a spa business coach with 20+ years in beauty, health, and personal development. Her company, Inspiration Inc., works exclusively with holistic businesses. Drawing on front-line experience and training as a Professional Certified Coach, Schillinger provides strategic coaching and training that results in improved performance, profitability, and job satisfaction. She is a popular speaker at spa industry events such as the Day Spa Expo and Spa Owners & Operators Business Clinic.

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