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Peggy Wynne Borgman of
Preston Wynne, is tackling another
important issue:
Adding on a Day Spa.

We invite you to write to us
with your questions -
everything you always wanted
to know about, but were afraid to ask - this is the place to do it.
The DayS pa Advisory Board will try to answer all questions directed to them, they are experts in their fields.

For answers to your questions write to:
c/o ClubSpa USA,
The Day Spa Association,
P.O. Box 5232,
West New York, NJ 07093.

Please let us know whether we may mention your name and affiliation when responding to your question in one of the next DAY SPA Q + A CORNERS. Thank you.

I'm considering adding a day spa to my full service salon. I have visited a few day spas in our area and I want to tour resort spas for ideas as well. Would this be useful to my "research?"

Your question brings up an excellent topic: How much of the resort spa experience should a day spa developer attempt to emulate?

It's easy for the day spa operator to get swept away by the grandeur and glamour of beautiful resort spas. But it's important to remember how the client actually experiences the spa: one service at a time. One service provider at a time. Size is not important: the quality of the experience is.

The best day spas are usually intimate, welcoming places where the emphasis is on technical and service excellence. Grandeur can sometimes diminish the human element of the spa. Over-the-top glamour also increases the danger of a day spa seeming silly, self-important, or pretentious. It magnifies little gaffes, as when the charming young attendant touring me through a particularly grand spa referred to the "anemone bar" in the women's dressing area.

Grandeur can also intimidate; witness the tragic under utilization of many palatial resort facilities. I don't think the average guest can imagine their less-than-godlike body gracing a marble replica of a Roman temple! They may even curiously tour a magnificent spa, but walk away without an appointment. When you're conducting your research at these places, keep in mind that many an amenity spa experiences less than 10% utilization by hotel guests.

One of the most successful resort spas in California is the smallish Sonoma Mission Inn, which does not even boast separate men's and women's bathhouse or lounge facilities but runs at close to capacity much of the year. Its very human scale, its California-casual, wine country atmosphere, and its genuinely friendly staff have much to do with its success. A programmer I spoke with estimated that 80% of the hotel guests make use of the spa, an astonishing number for a resort property.

Observe your own responses as you check into an unfamiliar spa as a guest: the uncertainty you feel, the slight awkwardness as you wonder where you are supposed to go and what you are supposed to do. Your day spa should be so welcoming, so user-friendly, that it draws guests in and makes them instantly feel they belong there. Naturally, your ambiance begins the process, but your staff must complete it.

This is where you can learn the most from the resort and amenity spas and especially their host hotels. A shinning, much-cited example is the Ritz Carlton group of hotels. A stay at a Ritz Carlton hotel is usually an inspiring demonstration of the beauty of great service. Their service credo is deeply ingrained in every staff member, all of whom are empowered (indeed required) to give heroic service and resolve even serious complaints without scurrying off to get a supervisor. Perhaps the most important tool for ensuring customer satisfaction is the guest satisfaction survey. Avoid the big properties' dry, corporate' excellent/good/satisfactory/unsatisfactory' approach and let your clients respond to questions in narrative form. It's harder to convert to statistics but better for gleaning the critical information that will help you constantly improve your service and catch potentially disastrous errors.

When recruiting technical and support staff for your day spa team, look for individuals with experience in the hospitality industry. Chances are good they've been through some quality corporate-level customer care training. Restaurant experience also indicates indoctrination in the teamwork day spas require.

Finally, study the details. Constantly replenished pitchers of ice water with lemon and a ready supply of glasses near the whirlpool are a simple but evocative memory of the spa experience at Hilton's Kohala spa on Hawaii's Big Island.

A musty-smelling terry cloth robe and water-stained acoustical tiles in a spa in Santa Monica contributed to my sense that there was "no one driving" the busy facility.

Snow-white, immaculately pressed, high-thread count pure cotton sheets on the massage bed in the Peninsula Beverly Hills spa created an enduring sensory memory. The massage therapist in a Hyatt spa who continued to address me as "Mrs. Borgman" after I invited her to call me by my first name struck me as robotic and uncaring, despite her technically excellent treatment.

It's very important to study the resort properties; your day guests are reading about them in consumer publications and expecting to experience a similar "escape" when they come to see you. But it's interesting to note how these facilities are emulating day spas, as well. Resort properties in population centers such as the Claremont Hotel and Spa in Oakland, California have recognized the valuable contribution regional and local customers can make to their operations. Originally open only to guests of the hotel, the Claremont Spa now has a thriving day guest program.

As a day spa, you have the opportunity to work with repeat clients. You'll build lasting relationships and be able to custom-tailor treatments and products recommendations to individual needs. That will usually translate into higher customer satisfaction and better sales. An added bonus: your staff will find their work more meaningful because of the chance to build relationships and see the positive results of their work.