Ms. Wolski

Spas, Health & Wellness

Is Your Hotel Spa Ready for Spa Science?

By Leslie Wolski, President, Wolski Spa Consulting

Wellness is what we provide, but now the science behind it is what people want. Welcome to the second phase of the Wellness Movement: Science. Science is a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject. So, what does this mean to the hotel spa? It means we better know what we are talking about. No longer can a spa front desk concierge get away with only describing the Wellness Massage as "relaxing" and "therapeutic". This information does close to nothing in terms of educating and enlightening our guests.

There are no details. There is no science. The good news is there are a number of ways hotel spas can get ready to embrace the science behind the services we provide, truly comprehending the why and discovering the how. Why is a massage "relaxing" and "therapeutic" and how are those results achieved? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Simply seek to fully understand and communicate what it is you already do. Hotel spas need to integrate the science of spa into their operations and ultimately a culture of knowledge will prevail.

This goal can be reached by asking yourself three questions and then acting accordingly. First, have you cultivated and mined your key vendor partnerships to get the most out of the extensive education your vendors have at hand and can provide? Spas must bring in the experts for support when making decisions regarding products and services. Second, are the staff training programs specific and deliberate? Do you set high expectations and standards for education and continuous learning? Lastly, revisit the marketing plan and confirm that education is a top priority. Are you educating guests at every turn, while at the same time dictating what they want to learn and when and where they are exposed to the information? When these three questions are asked and then steps are taken to answer in the affirmative the science of wellness will be sustainable for your spa.

Our product vendors can be our most valuable assets when trying to professionally and comprehensively answer the complex questions that will arise regarding the services we offer. No one knows the products we use or the services we provide better than the people who are developing and selling them. So many spas neglect to tap into the fountain of knowledge our vendors bring to the table. And if the companies serving you are unable to answer your most pressing questions regarding their products and protocols you may want to rethink who you do business with. Vendors should be providing you with more information than you will ever need. There should be treatment protocols, product descriptions, scientific studies, MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and marketing materials. Company representatives will most likely know what sort of questions your guests will ask because their products are developed based on the results the public is requesting.

In response to the demand for products most companies have an extensive list of skus, but it is the spa director's job to only bring on what your staff and operation can handle. Existing spas should revisit current product lines and ask if staff can become experts on the science behind 50 products or if perhaps 25 is more reasonable. The decision is an important one as it is the foundation of the team's educational journey. Ensure that all the educational materials are available for every single product you choose. Confirm that this information is organized and easily accessible. Follow the same procedure with your treatment protocols. Again, products and protocols are the start of building a successful internal and external educational campaign. It is advisable to format your protocols so they have enough information to answer the following questions:

  • Who is this treatment good for?
    (Pregnant women, athletes, travelers)

  • What results will the guest experience?
    (relaxation, lymphatic drainage, energy balancing)

  • How does the treatment achieve its purpose?
    (essential oils, body manipulations, therapist trainings)

  • What is the science behind the products and modalities used?
    (why exactly does lavender help you relax, how exactly does lymphatic massage work)

  • How was this treatment's efficacy validated?
    (case studies, historical data, before and after pictures)

Once you have all your information up to date and organized and all the protocols in place the staff training can begin. It is time again to call on your vendors. Most vendors are more than happy to provide multiple staff trainings throughout the year at little or no cost to you. An educated staff translates into sales for you, which results in revenue for the vendor too. Staff education is definitely a big undertaking. Plan trainings for the off season when you have the time and the resources available to support a successful training.

Send the entire staff to the trainings. Many times the front desk staff is overlooked when in reality they get the majority of the guest questions. Remember the reservation crew as well. First impressions are everything and knowledgeable reservations' agents can set the tone for your guests' entire experience. Spread the trainings out so that the team has time to truly understand what they are being taught. Request that the vendors start educating on your most popular products and services so you are ahead of the curve when it comes to the questions that will come the staff's way.

Keep in mind that telling your staff they will be responsible for learning and sharing the science of the spa can be scary and overwhelming for them, especially in the spa industry where there seems to be new scientific developments at every turn. Staff may be negatively reminded of high school when memorizing complex formulas for the science final filled their days. Knowing that the simplest spa services can be extremely complex when broken down, allow your employees to learn at a pace that will support their success.

Cramming for this exam is not allowed! Approach training with the goal of everyone on the staff becoming a certified spa scientist, who when asked can systematically present a uniform and organized lesson on the body of knowledge that is your spa. Make sure to work closely with the vendor to ensure the time spent learning is enjoyable, informative and empowering. Remind the staff it is ok not to have all the answers, but give them the tools they need to find them. Provide them with scripts on what to say when a guest asks a question beyond their scope of knowledge and make sure they understand the importance of follow through. Hold your staff accountable for the information you are providing to them. Make this educational opportunity and the subsequent guest education nonnegotiable.

Staff training will be the most time consuming aspect of getting the hotel spa up to speed when it comes to the science behind wellness. However, the brakes don't need to be put on your guest education while your team ramps up. Think of marketing as a means for you to gain control of all the information your spa has to share. You determine what information to disseminate and when. Guests usually inquire about what is interesting to them and when you think about it, the spa is providing most of these points of interest.

For example, if the spa is promoting a Spring Skin Detox with materials placed throughout the spa, social media postings and discussion at the point of sale there is a high probability your guest will want to learn more about this treatment. It is the power of suggestion. Make sure your entire staff is one hundred percent comfortable discussing and educating the guest on the Spring Skin Detox.

This gives your staff the perfect opportunity to showcase their extensive knowledge on the subject of skin detoxification. Just having a deep and commanding understanding of this one treatment will impress the most inquisitive guest. Additionally, the spa director can develop "Spa Science Fast Facts" for the top three services. These can be interesting scientific facts ranging from why you should drink water after a massage to how and why reflexology works. The spa's selected talking points can be used to educate your guests, providing them with the scientific input they crave, while at the same time buying the staff time for ongoing education. If everyone on the staff understands and can communicate these points of interest and fast facts another educational avenue has been created for your guests. Focused marketing is key to controlling your guests' experience when it comes to demonstrating your spa's understanding of the science behind what you do.

Hotel spas cannot be all things to all people. It is imperative that everything you do supports your brand and that includes the science behind the wellness you provide. If massage is eighty percent of your business then the science of massage should represent the majority of your why and how answers. You only have a short time with a hotel guest and if you try to provide too much information your message will become diluted and less effective.

Make sure you are the best at what you do, including the information you distribute. No one knows your guests better than your staff. Taylor the science you share to meet the needs of the people you serve. If the spa has a strong foundation in terms of solid products and protocols, intensive training and focused marketing your operation will flow in a circle of continuous learning and education, which in turn will create a culture of enlightenment for everyone involved.

With more than two decades in the spa industry, veteran Leslie Wolski brings a wealth of experience to her clients as a Spa Operations Consultant. Most recently, Ms. Wolski was the Spa Director at Villagio Inn & Spa, overseeing the daily operations for the luxurious 13,000-square-foot Spa Villagio and its staff of seventy-five massage therapists, estheticians, concierge and spa attendants, Ms. Wolski was directly involved in the design and development of the Spa Villagio project. Spa Villagio was recognized as a top resort spa by both Conde Nast and Travel and Leisure. Ms. Wolski has worked as a spa consultant to nationally-recognized full service spas and clubs nationwide. Her clients have included such notables as: The Houstonian in Texas; Ventana Resort & Spa in Big Sur, California; The Mayacama Club in Sonoma County, California; The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma, California; Turnberry Ocean Colony in Sunny Isles, Florida; and The Spa at the Hilton Cancun Resort, in Cancun, Mexico. Ms. Wolski can be contacted at 707-953-2202 or lwolski@sonic.net Extended Bio...

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