The Top 3 Facebook Salon Fan Page Mistakes

The Top 3 Facebook Salon Fan Page Mistakes

When a guest is rubbed the WRONG way

When a guest is rubbed the WRONG way
Coyle Hospitality
salon spa customer service blunders
Instead of publishing an annual trends piece or another ‘year in review’, Coyle went to its treasure trove of hard data and asked, “What would really help spas in 2010?”

Coyle researchers analyzed more than 1,350 responses from spa goers about the things that ruined their spa experience.

Why the negative approach? A research project completed jointly with WTS International showed unequivocally that word of mouth was the most important driver of new business to a spa. Good to know, but word-of-mouth cuts both ways, and those that leave unhappy present a bigger cost to spas in the long run.

Coyle reasoned that if spas were aware of the most common ‘significant negatives’ and their root causes, spas could take action. Yes, ‘Top 10’ lists and ‘Trends for 2010’ surveys are good reading, but they rarely provide anything a spa director can take to the bank.

Coyle kept it simple. Two very straightforward questions were posed:
1. What spa provided you with the worst experience last year?
2. Why?

Each open-ended survey response was read and catalogued into the following categories: People, Product, Post-Treatment, and Price. People A complaint about the receptionist, reservationist, therapist, or spa staff member. Product Anything relating to the spa facilities or products used. Post-Treatment Emotional or physical feelings that were realized after the spa experience. Price Comments that centered around cost or value

People Power

62% of the respondents mentioned ‘People’ as a significant contributor to the bad experience. Let’s put it in context. Nearly two out of every three people that have a bad experience at a spa are talking about staff behavior. This is most interesting because most spa owners feel that the quality of their staff is their most significant competitive advantage.

The bad news is that changing behavior is harder than changing the music, which by the way was the number one thing guests complained about the ‘Product’. The table below shows the most often mentioned ‘People’ complaints.

Type and Ranking of ‘People’ Complaints Reason for Complaint # of Complaints

Inappropriate pressure/touch; staff not well trained in massage

Staff was not listening, responsive about special needs, or accommodating

Too much conversation

Treatment felt rushed

Pushy sales

Unfriendly, impersonal, robotic staff

Disorganized experience; treatments cancelled/not on time, etc.

Negligent during treatment, causing pain or bad result

Ignored by staff during treatment; not checked on

Demeaning/offensive staff

Talking amongst staff members

Bad staff hygiene and soiled uniforms

Received different treatment than what was booked; inaccuracies in booking

Unprofessional staff

Debate over bill

Treatment cut short

Service provider insincere

Service provider not thorough or did not explain procedure

Staff obtrusive

Staff harsh voice/tone

Poor follow-up by management

Children permitted to run around and cause distraction

Communication with staff difficult

The good news is that changing behavior is not capital intensive, but it does require vigilance and commitment. How many of these things above would be correctible by simply making your staff more aware of it? Some training and role play about how much we speak (#2), what we say or fail to say (#3), how we say it (#6, #10, #20) and who we say it to (#11) would go miles in addressing almost half of the top ten things that drive guests away. Spa guests are vulnerable, so remind your staff of the saying “You cannot un-ring a bell,” or the one about “loose lips.”

It also appears that all the yield management training of recent years has created issues as well, with ‘rushed treatments’ and ‘pushy sales’ taking two of the top five spots.

Changing behavior is not solved by a memo or webinar. Staff development requires diligence and stamina, and it must be a daily thing that gets measured, so there is accountability, leading us to another saying: “You get what you inspect.”

Brace yourself: Some excerpts of why ‘People’ caused the worst spa experiences:

* “The male massage therapist quipped coyly that “I had issues with my tissues,” and other choice rhymed phrases. It lacked professionalism and made me uncomfortable.”

* “The massage therapist asked me if I had seen a doctor about my back acne. I was mortified.”

* A staff member blatantly ignored a guest who was talking on their cell phone in a ‘No Cell’ relaxation area.”

* “The massage therapist never asked if I had a massage before and a deep-tissue massage caused me a great deal of pain.”

* “The [staff member] had bad body odor and talked during the entire treatment.”

* “An esthetician continually pitched microdermabrasion services during the facial. When I declined the upsell, she sulked and made me feel as if I had done something wrong.”

Perhaps the biggest conundrum that faces spas is that a lot of guests would feel too embarrassed to even complain. The massage therapist who thinks he has coined an endearing term about muscle tissue could actually be making your female guests very uncomfortable. The well-meaning massage therapist who sincerely wants to help the guest solve a skin problem could actually have mortified a guest.

The ‘People’ category was also divided into ‘departments’ to identify what staff, in particular, was mentioned the most. The results are highlighted in the table below.

News Flash: Besides general complaints, Massages account for 300% more negative comments than any other modality!

Massage services are generally the most frequently scheduled, accounting partially for its bulge in the numbers, but despite that, it is clear that massage is the most volatile in terms of guest response.

It makes sense then that massage clients would be most carefully gauged before the treatment, thoroughly informed during the treatment, and most carefully followed-up with to ensure that the ‘word of mouth’ the treatments they provide result in is the kind you want. These meetings may be tough, but preventing another guest walking out with hurt feelings or with the thought that the therapist came on to them, will be worth the awkward sit-down.


The good news about the ‘Product’ category is that while it encompasses 26% of the overall complaints, many complaints were not about the facility, almost certain to be an expensive fix. Most complaints in this category are correctible without calling a contractor (ugh) or ‘doing it yourself’ (Help!).

We divided comments into four subcategories and ranked them in the degree of difficulty for change:

Cleanliness (Easiest to change) 112
Dirty environment 112

Atmospheric (Relatively easy to change) 182
Ambiant noise too Loud 46
Temperature too hot/cold 24
‘Crowded’ feeling 39
Bland/sterile atmosphere 21
Unrelaxing/stressful atmosphere 15
Other guests disrupted treatment 11
Bad/Harsh lighting 10
Music too loud/annoying 6
‘Cheap’ décor or water features 6
Unpleasant/overpowering scents 4
Amenities (A bit tougher to change) 35

No products/lotion, water, or snacks; lack of amenities 12
Poor food/beverage 10
Steam room/sauna not working 8
Inferior (or lack of) robes 5
Facility (Difficult to change) 21
Cramped (or absence of) locker room 11
Uncomfortable (or lack of) relaxation room or waiting area 5
Showers dingy and not properly maintained 5
A total of 294 complaints fell on the left half of the line graph above, meaning 84% of the ‘Product’ complaints are generally easy to fix. This is very good news for the cost-conscious operator; changing easy elements like cleanliness, noise, lighting, temperature, etc. would potentially eliminate over 20% (84% times the overall 26%) of the worst spa experiences.


The post-spa results constituted 10% of the worst experiences overall, and the actual number of complaints can be seen below.

It makes sense that most guests that get a deep tissue massage should feel some soreness. Instead of the cursory medical history review or the blunted, “Do you have any medical problems?” which almost always begets a ‘no’, massage therapists would be wise to do a thorough review and check in regularly about pressure. This is also one of those cases where a guest really would appreciate a follow-up call the next day. A three-minute call or an even less intrusive email will show sincere concern, building trust. You also may just catch the guest while bad word of mouth is still just a muted thought.

All of the remaining issues seen above could be addressed on this follow-up call as well by putting some variation of the words ‘How’ or ‘What’ in front of the items above and creating a question that can not be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Though we know sales are always at the forefront of everyone’s mind, “So, I am glad you did not feel too much soreness, how did you feel about the rest of the experience?”sounds a lot better than “So I hear you have back acne. Can I schedule you for a back facial?”


The small number of complaints attributed to price is probably one of the most telling and insightful findings from this study. Only a total of 35 out of 1,350 respondents spoke about value.

This shows that the price paid is not at the heart of the problem, which in turn suggests that discounting will not create demand or improve perception of value. It’s about how the guest felt, not what they spent.


We think the story for spas overall is very positive. The things that people complain about most are almost all entirely correctable, something a savvy spa owner can address. The one thing a spa owner can not do is vivdly measure the guest experience from the guest perspective. For that, you need a trusted friend or a professional mystery shopping service to anonymously test and measure these crucial moments of guest interaction. A shameless plug? Maybe, but spas are so unique in that the experience they provide happens behind closed doors, that things are said, implied, or left undone, rubbing guests the wrong way. Wouldn’t you like to know about them?

Day Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 2

Day Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 2
Douglas Preston
day spa horror stories
Lindsay S., operates a day spa she purchased from former owner, Lake County, CA: on facilities

When I bought my day spa from its former owner, everything told me that I was getting the deal of a lifetime. Health problems were forcing her into an early retirement, demanding the sale of her business. The décor was beautiful, most of the fixtures and equipment were like new, and the lease was affordable with an extension. After two years in operation the spa was still a fairly new business, and I saw lots of potential for service improvements and new clients. What I didn’t know then but wished I had thought to investigate was how the facility actually functioned as a facility. I hadn’t actually ever had a service there myself and had no idea what the working environment was like when in normal use. Since purchasing my deal of a day spa 18 months ago I have had to invest considerably more money to correct poor soundproofing in the walls, replace an inadequate water heater, upgrade the cheap carpeting, and implement a better working point-of-sale system. So far, my total out-of-pocket cash has soared to almost $11,000. It scares me to think of what might come next.

I would recommend that anyone thinking about buying a business do the following before signing on the dotted line:

Have a service or two in the spa and pay attention to the building more than the therapist or the treatment itself.
Spend some time in the lobby during a normal business day to get a feel for the flow and functionality of the working area.
Ask to see a copy of any recent building inspection, if possible (will possibly require the cooperation of the landlord if the business space is leased.) Termite repair may be someone else’s responsibility but tenting or reconstruction will certainly affect your business income.
Closely inspect the quality and source of the equipment and fixtures you’re about to buy–maybe they only look good.
Learn as much as you can about POS systems so that you’ll know in advance the difference between high and low-performing programs.

John W. MD, medispa partner, TX: on compensating employees
I think that my physician/partner and I soundly reinforced the cliché of doctors as poor businesspersons by adding a spa component to our dermatology practice. Evidently, we had become intoxicated by the trade articles and presentations touting the merits of a spa as an added marketing and income source. Our area had become increasingly populated by medical services, so we felt that having a spa available for patients would provide us with a competitive advantage. It’s probably too soon to know if the experiment has proven correct or not but one thing we did realize soon after opening the spa: it was far more expensive to operate than we originally believed. Our weekly payroll was killing us and we didn’t think we could sustain the cash drain rate for more than a year, maybe less. While we came to regret it we had based the rate of employee pay on local averages and the results of a survey published in a spa trade magazine. I’m not sure how others have fared with those pay programs but they seemed to be failing us.

Our solution was to hire a highly regarded spa compensation consultant who overhauled our plan and instituted an intelligent merit system that rewarded productivity. The change wasn’t exactly well received by the staff, resulting in some employee turnover, but the situation has stabilized. We’re not making impressive money yet but our cash flow is positive and we’re finally positioned to grow the business.

Janette K., day spa director/owner, AZ: on leadership and boundaries
I’m a big pushover and I admit it. I just had no idea how that attitude would haunt me while trying to act as the director of my spa. We’re not a large business–only 12 employees including myself–but it’s still more than a full-time job for me. I’ve got a young daughter at home and a husband who travels for his career so there’s a lot of responsibility both in and out of the spa! The trouble I have is in saying no to people when I know that I should. I imagined that my employees would be more like family and that, as professionals, would behave as such. While most of my staff is very cooperative, there are a few that are really demanding and lean on me pretty hard to get their way. They constantly push for work schedule changes, more personal time off, and privileges like free spa services and expensive training classes. It’s not that they’re rude about this, but the constant demands and my old inability to draw a line between my employees and me has been a real hardship. I think that I lost control of my business from day one and just didn’t know how I was going to fix the situation.

At this point things are beginning to improve quite a bit but are by no means fully corrected. A friend of mine that has attention deficit disorder raved about a personal life coach she began working with to help her manage her family life and career, and how helpful it’s been to work with someone who understands her challenges. I made an appointment with the coach and in our first meeting she described a plan that would help me become more assertive and set some personal boundaries with both employees and, sad to say, my daughter who has become quite the controller thanks to my permissiveness and my husband’s long absences. We now work on weekly goals, set boundary limits, and then I am given little challenges to test my commitment to improving. All I can say is that it’s really worked for me. Initially I was worried about being the bad guy with my employees, and some of them clearly resented my sudden no-ness! But I also have less day-to-day stress now and feel a lot more confidence and self-respect. I think most of my staff like the change, too. Anyway, before becoming a people manager I would highly suggest that boundaries-challenged persons like myself read books on assertiveness or get some professional assistance in that area. It’ll save you a lot of misery, that’s for sure!

Good luck to you!

Salon Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 1

Salon Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 1
Douglas Preston
day spa horror stories
Considering the startup of your very own day spa? A parade of beautiful, customer-filled spas and retreats has finally tempted you to bet with the players in this glamorous business.

Let’s assume that you’ve done your homework well. Feasibility study by an industry expert? Done. Stealth visits to your local competitors? Done. Trade show research on equipment, marketing, products, service menu, feng sui, and scented candles? Done. Bank loan? Done. Location and lease? Pending. You’ve planned, and planned and planned, and waited long enough. What more is there to do? Just one thing: reading this article!

I’ve assembled some testimonials from experienced spa owners that were willing to share hindsight lessons gained from the months and years since starting their businesses. All believed that they had conducted adequate investigation into the realities of costs, management and future trends prior to opening their spas. And while it’s normal and expected that any good business plan will require adjustments as you go along, here’s an opportunity to learn what other spa owners wished they’d known earlier than they did. So get out that completed business plan and double check it against the pearls of wisdom that others suffered to offer you!

Monica S., day spa operator, northern OH: on partnerships
I had a successful career in real estate but had become burnt out from the 7-days a week grind of paperwork, sales, open houses, and property tours. The stress of this career was partially relieved through regular visits to a massage therapist, one that had a dream of opening her own day spa. She had the industry expertise and skills, and I had saved enough to fund the investment so it seemed as though we had the perfect plan. Our troubles began soon after opening our six-room “dream”. We spent much time developing the look and feel of the spa but in hindsight, virtually ignored other seemingly less significant details such as our roles and responsibilities, communication styles, and personal accountability. Since I needed to maintain my sales career in order to support myself while we built up customers, it was important that I remained free to see clients and prospects as before. I quickly learned that my business partner had neither the ability nor the desire to manage people, plan marketing, or even to balance a checkbook! She had also become steadily more resentful of my absence from the spa–although I thought we had agreed to that–and reflected this by spending more and more time performing massage while allowing day-to-day management to flounder. It wasn’t long before our spa’s service reputation was nearly shot, I was pumping even more money into the business, and my partner and I were barely on speaking terms. Since then we’ve been locked in a lawsuit over my proposal to take over the business and let her just walk away. She feels that she’s earned thousands of dollars in sweat equity, and yet I’m the only one that’s ever contributed a single dollar into the project. At this point I’m more deeply invested in this thing than I ever expected to be, am emotionally and physically drained, and there’s no end in sight to all of this.

If I could do it all over again I would have chosen a partner more carefully, properly defined our roles and activities, and discussed how to handle disagreements or conflict before going into business. I’m amazed and embarrassed that I overlooked such an obvious trap!

James R., day spa operator and esthetician, WA: on management
In deciding to expand from my small, busy skin care practice to a 2000 square foot day spa, I knew I didn’t have the time or desire to be its manager. Honestly, the reason I expanded the business at all was because of all of the new clients I had to turn away–it just drove me crazy doing that! At first I only wanted to add a couple of new facial rooms but then it seemed smarter to try and attract customers for services we didn’t already offer yet–massage, body treatments and reflexology. I wound up spending more money that I had planned to but figured that it would pay me back pretty quickly. Boy, was I wrong about that, but that’s another story! I then quickly found out how hard hiring an experienced spa manager was going to be. Not only was it a struggle getting anyone to even apply for the position (we had advertised in our city newspaper for three weeks) but, when someone would show interest they weren’t even close to being qualified. This was a major shock for me, and I panicked as the finish date to our expansion got closer and it was looking more and more like I was going to personally manage the place. Since opening the new spa almost two years ago we’ve been through two managers and are searching for our third. My sister-in-law has been helping me with some of the management duties but is pregnant and needs to stop soon.

Looking back I can see how much I would have benefited from taking a closer look at our management needs and the local availability of skilled personnel–like making sure we’d be able to find what we needed before needing them. On the other hand I’ve had to learn more about my business than I might have otherwise but I’m still reluctant to slow down my practice and take on this job.

Cassandra L., day spa owner & former chiropractor, 3-locations, FL: on business growth
How many times have I kicked myself for not listening to my business advisor’s advice? There I was, all in a lather worrying about some hot, new day spa opening up and stripping away my hard-won customers! I knew it was only a matter of time before we had to deal with that so I made up my mind that I had to corner the market on spa services in our area. There went my life in one crazy decision. Suddenly I had three locations all within eight miles of one another, debt for the first time in years, and more hats than heads to wear them. Now I’m dealing with higher employee turnover, frequent customer complaints, and the world’s worst landlord. To really salt this self-inflicted wound, I now make less money than I did before the expansion got underway–a LOT less! So, instead of freaking out about potential competition I’m totally swamped with trying to make these spas survive. And the worst part is that I now have two competitors nearby anyway.

My lesson? Having foolishly overridden my advisor’s warnings even though I knew (and feared) that he was right. I should have remained calm, waited to see who might come along while spending my time improving our product and service sales. I’m still optimistic about getting through this mess but I can’t help wishing that I hadn’t been so headstrong at the time.

…now read part 2!

Salon Spa Horror Story

Member-Stacey has a situation many of us have seen before, do you think you can help her out?

“Hello Everyone!! My name is Stacey and I have a day spa that has been open for a year and a half.

Long story short. I had a business partner that had 10+ years experience in day spa management who was going to manage the spa…my job was to build and finance it…I was a ‘silent’ partner. With that said, we opened in August of 2007 in a thriving community and have an excellent staff.

On December 23, 2007, members of my staff started contacting me and telling me that were giving their 2 week notice because they couldn’t stand working for my partner anymore. So, here I am, a mother of 2 under 5 years old, NO day spa experience what so ever, with all my money tied up in a spa that in two weeks would have only ONE employee!!! Last New Years, I let my partner go…easy to do since she never signed the operating agreement!

It has been a year and we have managed to stay afloat, I have all but one of my opening staff, our spa won #1 day spa in our metro area by CityVoter, BUT, I still have not been able to take home a paycheck yet…looking for input on change that in 09!!

I welcome any input, advise, criticisms, etc!

Thank you!”

…comment below guys and let’s help her out!