Ms. Fenard

Spas, Health & Fitness

Identifying the Ideal Software for Your Spa

By Elaine Fenard, Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Europe and U.S., Spatality

During the past few years, technological advances in the spa industry have grown tremendously, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the spa-dedicated enterprise or POS application arena. In the past, hotel spas were often expected to use the POS system of the hotel, truly limiting the operational efficiencies and marketing opportunities of the spa-not because the systems weren't good, but rather because they weren't created for the spa business; they were created for hotels. Today, however, there are a number of good options for spa software that optimize daily spa operations and also integrate into the hotel's existing software system.

There are several factors one should consider before choosing a spa system. The typical list we frequently consider for spas we manage includes:

Let's take a closer look at each of these categories.

System Type

First, there is system type, and there really are just two: Traditional and online. Most traditional systems require the purchase of hardware in the form of POS terminals and software, yet the system itself lives on-site and is usually owned by the operator or property owner. The online type is based on the application service provider model, commonly known as an ASP. ASPs essentially "rent" their platforms via a fee based on, usually, a monthly amount or an amount tied into system usage or revenue. The ASP system is provided via the web and is housed and server-managed offsite. The well known ASP Salesforce.com is a good example of this.

Costs

As with most choices, there are upsides and downsides to each type. With the traditional system, the upsides include ownership of the equipment and software license while the downsides are higher upfront costs because said equipment and software must be purchased. In addition, the spa likely will pay more for IT consulting to help with the set-up and integration of the new system into the hotel's system.

With the ASP model, the upsides are clear: lower upfront costs because no equipment has to be purchased. However, the ongoing costs are higher because the spa is going to pay a percentage of each sale to the ASP. In addition, since the ASP model is delivered via the internet, it is important to have a dependable internet connection.

Integration

Integration is another important factor to consider. Make sure the spa system you are investigating is able to interface with the property's management system. Attempting to use the existing property management system as the primary spa system is a mistake for which the spa, hotel, or both will pay for later in terms of customer dissatisfaction and operational inefficiencies. The benefit of a spa-specific system far outweighs the cost of implementation.

Reservations-scheduling

We also look at a system's capabilities in reservation scheduling and online booking. Some of the best systems, both traditional and ASP models, offer this capability. Your system should allow reservations to be scheduled and managed by-therapist as well as by-room to ensure overutilization does not occur. This function also should allow the operator to run utilization reports to help facilitate appropriate yield management. The system should allow for reservations to be made via the spa's website as well, and then it should synchronize back to the system itself to keep the appointment book always up to date in real time. The best spa systems should have reservation capabilities like that of the hospitality or airline industries.

Reporting Options

The reporting capability of a spa software system is perhaps one of the most critical factors in choosing the best fit for a particular location. An efficiently managed spa will look at pertinent reports that detail, for example, utilization, revenue by treatment, revenue by therapist, retail revenue, profit margins, commissions, payroll and specific metrics needed for reviews and evaluations. Furthermore, be sure the system can track and report marketing data such as how the guest heard about the spa and what offer he or she is redeeming. The best systems allow for a host of report customization so that the spa manager can tailor the data needed to fit the business metrics set forth in the business and marketing plans.

Marketing Functions

Marketing functions such as customer relationship management (CRM) is another important element to consider. Make sure the system includes CRM features such as memberships, points and rewards programs as well as capabilities of gathering and storing detailed geographic and demographic data of guests. The ability to manage the pre- and post-visit documentation on guests helps ensure that their return visits are memorable. The spa manager also should have the ability to use the system to organize and cross-tab current and past guest data, such as usage frequency, demographics and geographics for mailings, email blasts and more.

The best spa platforms that we have experienced recently include the traditional system from Harms Software called Millennium SpaFolio. Our managers have used this software often and have grown to appreciate its reporting and reservations capabilities. Another excellent choice is SpaBooker. SpaBooker is an ASP system that, while fairly new to the market, was created by SpaFinder. SpaFinder is one of the world's most recognized spa marketing and media companiesand certainly knows the trials of operating a spa efficiently. To be sure, the cross marketing opportunities for spas that use SpaBooker are immense. But again, the internet connection issue should be considered here.

While there are a myriad of options that vary in cost and capability, the bottom line is this: for a spa to truly be an efficient business, it must move away from a paper system and into an electronic one.

Do the homework, discover what's out there, and ask not only for a demo, but perhaps even a trial. If you have IT people at your disposal, make sure they are part of the discussion as well. Work with the property's sales and marketing teams to find out what sort of data their systems track to give you additional ideas of what to ask for. And, finally, don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. Spa software companies are surely used to it by now.

Elaine Fenard is an integral partner in Spa Strategy, one of the world's leading spa consulting and design firms. Joining in the Spa Strategy quest to create innovative and profitable spas, Elaine brought to the team more than 25 years experience in spa development and operations with one of the world's largest hotel companies and the leading international spa operations company. As an industry pioneer and recognized expert, Elaine is a frequent speaker at many conferences, and is a regular guest speaker at Cornell University. Ms. Fenard can be contacted at 303-573-8100 or Elaine@spastategy.com Extended Bio...

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