The term user experience comes from the technology world and, in the simplest terms, it is about delighting the client the first time and every time after that. Techies call this the delight factor. Although the term finds its origins in the digital arena, the findings and strategies revealed by the user experience explosion have everything to do with growing and deepening your skin care and spa business. Spa-goers in 2015 have different expectations than their counterparts of even a decade ago. To keep pace with today’s client and exceed their expectations, the experience must be reinvented through add-on services that instantly impart the elusive but persuasive delight factor. In fact, it is the delightful add-on, not the core service, that may cement the client’s loyalty and motivate them to re-book on the spot!
As a skin care professional that has spent years, and precious dollars, mastering hands-on techniques, memorizing ingredients, studying chemistry and biology, and constantly upgrading quantifiable knowledge in these demanding areas, this may bother you. However, your painless extractions or other treatment room skills may not create loyalty with your clients. What earns their loyalty may be a simple hand-written thank you note, a customized product sample left in the pocket of their robe, or the fact that they can pre-program their own audio selections while they wait to enter the treatment room.
The power of the add-on for professionals is that the add-on is a rare opportunity to customize the experience based on specific preferences and even unique quirks in your particular client population. For two critical reasons, this opportunity has never been more relevant in the industry. Since 2008, most spas have experienced a reduction in longer treatment bookings. Clients have been less willing to commit to 60 to 75-minute treatments or multiple treatments. They do not devise the time, energy, attention span, commitment, or bandwidth. Adding the delight factor through customized add-ons is perhaps the single most effective strategy to regain lost ground for your business.
READ BETWEEN THE LINES
Creating delight is more of an art than a science. While it is sometimes oversimplified as adding the element of surprise, this is risky. Human beings like to know what to expect, especially when checking in for a service. The real heart of the delight factor is knowing the customers well enough to anticipate something they need and want on a meta-level, even though they may not yet recognize it. If you want to bring your business from a comfortable productivity level, you must figure out how to turn on your customer-radar. From skin care and snack food development to wedding planning and wealth management, this applies to
Curating and editing your current skin care and spa menu is the obvious place to start. Observing your customer is the next step. Begin with a customer survey or questionnaire. In addition to observing what is happening with your client’s skin, include a few questions that may offer insight into what is happening in their life in a more meta-sense. Do they do yoga or kickboxing? Do they meet their friends immediately after work every night for a drink? Do they travel frequently by air for business or pleasure? Are they downsizing, growing their family, or empty-nesting? Knowing about some of these lifestyle areas will allow you to forecast not only what they need today, but what they may also want tomorrow. Nevertheless, here is a prediction that is almost universal: They have no time to waste.
LESS IS MORE
Americans have never been minimalists. However, much has changed in our culture, thanks in part to the Internet. A decade ago, a spa treatment was cloaked in mystery. Clients had little to no grasp on what was happening to their skin in actual terms. They were not asked questions by the skin care professional, unless it was about the kids, nor did they generally feel empowered to ask probing questions. Times have changed.
Today, there is no doubt your client is well-versed on antioxidants, peptides, and retinoids; although the Internet may be a source of incomplete or misleading information, it is also a basis for valuable, common knowledge. Because clients know more, they are not looking at their appointment as a dip into a realm of the unknown. Most likely, they view it as a needed service, much like a quarterly, professional teeth cleaning or getting the oil changed in the car. This high level of consumer fluency now allows for compartmentalization, which is key to future success as a professional. Compartmentalization is the equivalent of any modular approach to any process.
In terms of beauty services, the result is that niche, boutique treatments and venues prosper. So is the one-stop shop, everything-under-one-roof, full-service salon on the decline? In practical terms, the answer is probably yes. In fact, the notion sounds dated and even a bit quaint today. The most stunning, recent example is the success of the Drybar and its many imitators. Today, skilled specialists with a passion for one thing – blow-outs, waxing, applying eyelash extensions, and doing nails and eyebrows – thrive, versus trying to offer every possible service with mixed results. The new model does not actually mean that the client makes do with less. The client may in fact be a ‘more’ person versus a ‘less’ person, so the current paradigm is by no means a call to austerity or even a reduction. But what has changed is the presentation process, the delivery system, and how professionals make a service irresistible to a probably jaded, surely time-pressured client.
Begin by breaking down your current service menu. Prepare to prioritize and eliminate. Are manicures on the menu? Are full body-massages on the menu? If skin is strictly your thing, consider leaving the pedicures and personal bleaching to someone else. Then, break down the services that you do want to offer into smaller parts. What can you offer the client in a 20 or 30-minute window? How easy and convenient is it to get in or make an appointment? What can you offer that is very simple, yet instantly delights your client?
THE PERFECT USER EXPERIENCE:
IT IS IN THE MIX
Your treatment menu can still offer the traditional 60-minute treatment. However, consider placing this option toward the bottom of the menu, or be all-inclusive, for those creatures of habit. The more focused or promoted treatment could be towards a “choose your own” or a stand-alone, target-specific treatment offering.
It is common for spas to create familiar add-ons such as a hand or foot treatment, collagen or specialty mask, and even eye or lip treatments. As you reconstruct your menu or treatments, take into consideration your company’s current touch points and how those could change to evoke that delight factor.
Environment – How are you creating the optimum user experience?
Simple: Start with the drapings or table linens. What is the quality of the fabric or textile? Are they something in which you would want swaddle and cuddle? Then move to the oblivious setting of temperature of the room. Are your clients comfortable during the treatment? Remember, it is not about you. It is about your clients and their comfort. Ask them specifically about the temperature, and more than once. Also consider the temperature of your hands. Cold hands may signify a warm heart but will not earn you an easy re-booking. Next consider the institutional coffee machine in the lobby, with powdered creamer, or the soda machine near the restroom. Do clients find this appetizing?
Above and beyond: Look for luxurious linens that offer a cocoon-like wrap. Next consider the ability for the client to make the room or table warmer or cooler. Allowing them to find the perfect temperature. Warm hand mitts, tummy pillow, and booties are excellent for the client who can never get warm. Furthermore, how fun is it to add on the option of a mimosa or a signature drink during a service like a pedicure? If alcohol is not on the menu, there are numerous drinks that could be created using pressed juices, sparkling water, or even herb or fruit-distilled elixirs. This creates the perfect mocktail or signature treatment drink. Beverages, such as delicate herbal tea and cucumber-ginger-lemon infused ice-water, should not just available, but graciously offered before, after, or during service. Really take things up a notch by personalizing a locker, bag, or box for belongings with their name. Do not just use a sticker or piece of tape – get a cute luggage label or tag.
Also consider having certain amenities such as warm steam towels, deodorant, or a hair dryer and sprays in the bathroom. You may even consider a mirrored station that offers tinted moisturizers before they apply makeup.
Extrasensory perception – Seeing, touching, and aroma are just the beginning!
Simple: Do you only provide an ordinary candle or air freshener placed in the room?
Above and beyond: In order to affect the olfactory system, use botanical waters on towels to create a custom or signature scent. Place a few drops of an essential oil on the face cradle for massages or in a bowl underneath. Eucalyptus or mint are excellent to prevent post-nasal drip. Lavender is great for relaxation while lemongrass can be revitalizing. Instead of just one, look for blends of essential oils to offer a range of benefits. Have the scent used in your spa available for clients to purchase. This could be packaged as an oil to use on the face or body, a spray, or even as a candle. Place a display by the cash register so they see it while checking out.
For a mind-body-heart connection, place a daily reminder or thought of the day card on the table when they arrive for treatment. This could also be tucked in their robe pocket as a surprise. If they want to have more, opt for a package they can take home and have a daily reminder or reflection moment. Follow up with a client-appreciation call. Let clients know that they are special and that you appreciate their business by giving them a call to thank them.
Tactile – Creating a bond with the power of touch.
Simple: Does your menu consists of purely traditional skin or body treatments?
Above and beyond: Be sure to customize touch therapies or massage services for every client. For the client that is not keen on facial massages, opt to receive a scalp touch therapy, additional extraction time, or a hand and foot treatment instead. Furthermore, do not hesitate to add on relaxation time. This could be 15 to 20 minutes of just relaxation or a nap after the treatment. This time could also serve as a stand-alone for those who need a quick pick-me-up! You can also offer a light scrub or body brush before a full body massage or back treatment, therapeutic stretching or ice massages, or hot or cold stones, which could be used during the massage or incorporated into a skin treatment as a headache remedy. In addition, after every treatment, include a warm towel on the back and shoulders, followed by an application of lotion. You can also provide an ice plunge, a self-guided therapy that clients could also use at home, and a sunless tanner application, to be applied after a skin treatment, especially if they want that sun kissed glow. An elbow-smooth during an arm treatment is also a great option as the elbow is an often-missed area.
Also consider area-specific extractions or high-frequency to zap breakouts before they get worse. Treatments such as these, or even a flash exfoliation/peel, could be broken into quick, stand-alone treatments that do not require a lot of time in the chair.
Electrical Modalities – Power-up treatments with high-technology machinery.
Simple: Commonly-used equipment, such as steam, brushes, or galvanic, is used to achieve results.
Above and beyond: Try incorporating new technology, such as LED to further fight acne or the signs of aging or high-frequency to dry breakouts. Because this could also be offered as a rescue spot-treatment, they do not have to remove all their makeup. Muscle re-education can be offered as a series of treatments, especially for clients that are crazy about injectables. By incorporating a series into their routine treatments, muscle re-education can also help prolong the effects of the injectables. Also consider offering a hands-on skin lesson for clients to learn how to use handheld tools at home. This can be a great way to introduce new products or educate clients on how to use them with their current products.
Retail - Know your brands.
Simple: Do you believe that products sell themselves, that clients come in with the branding message from an advertisement or a coupon?
Above and beyond: Customers often do not really know what they want. This represents a huge opportunity for the skilled sales associate to meet unexpressed needs. This requires that all retailing associates know how to identify the customer’s driving needs, wants, desires, and concerns in no more than three, well-targeted, strategic questions. This takes training and practice, so role-play as a team to perfect the approach. Remember, clients become frustrated when sales associates do not know their own merchandise.
In the skin care industry and the world of beauty retailing, many different brands are often represented on the floor. A specific skin care brand may even bring in hourly employees to handle their products. But here’s the thing, if you work in the store, you are working for the entire store. A client has every right to approach you and ask you where they can find a gel, nail polish, or a spray-bronzer, even if those products are not your brand or even in your category. If you are paid to stand on the retail floor, it is your responsibility to know every inch, every shelf, and every brand of the store. If you are having trouble navigating, speak with management about posting clear markings on the end-caps.
The best way to know whether or not something is working is simply to ask. Much like asking questions to find out what to change, the same goes for whether or not those changes should stick. Above all, do not under-value yourself or your skills. It is very tempting, especially when starting out or offering something new, to discount. Be careful as clients will soon expect it. You do not want to get in the habit of discounting your technique or ability. Even more damaging, discounting erodes your personal brand. When creating that delight factor, think about services which take the experience beyond the generic.
Remember the DELIGHT acronym.
Decompress – Offer a charging station for phones so that clients can literally recharge their handheld electronics as they recharge their skin health!
Engage – Make meaningful eye contact and greet the person by name, if possible. Make immediate, friendly physical contact such as your hand on her hand, wrist, or arm to break the ice.
Lead – Never allow clients or shoppers to wander unattended. Escort them directly to where they want to go, whether it is the treatment room or the display of sun-protection options.
Invite conversation – Pretend that you are talking to the world’s most fascinating person and that your life is about to change based on the next words out of that person’s mouth.
Gather information – For a treatment appointment, have the customer complete and sign a consultation card. If the individual is a walk-in or just a shopper, get to the heart of the matter with a few questions (no more than three):
How is your skin feeling, looking, behaving today (as in breakout, adult acne, sunburn)?
What are your immediate concerns (as in seeing new lines around the eyes)?
What are your long-term goals regarding your skin (as in arresting and reversing hyperpigmentation, firmness, restoring contour)?
Host with pride – The vibe of creating the delight factor is that you are throwing an awesome bash and everyone who shows up is a V.I.P. This means lots of smiles, music, movement, interaction, and energy. It is always show time! The team should never get too comfortable sitting behind the desk. They should get out onto the floor and turn on the delight!
Thank you – Thank the client in as many ways as possible.
Small gestures are more powerful than words, so express gratitude via social media and snail-mail. Get creative. How about thanking clients on the landing page of your website? Have you considered snapping digital pictures of your guests (with their consent) while in your treatment center and posting them online to the effect of: “This week, we were so honored and pleased to see our loyal friends Grace, Lora, Melissa, Christine, and Natalie! Great seeing you guys!”
In every way, make the client feel that they have been heard, seen, acknowledged, and appreciated. These are the keys to creating the ultimate user experience!
Whitney Johnson has over seven years of industry experience and an extensive background in training and development. Not only has she worked as a director of education with other product lines, she was also clinical educator for a multi-door chain of medical spas. She worked directly with the medical director in creating protocols for the medical skin care services and laser procedures. In addition to her licenses as a skin therapist and massage therapist, she holds numerous continuing education certificates in chemical peels, laser, and light therapies.