The key to the customer experience is supporting your employees and sharing your vision.
It was every spa’s nightmare: a client suffering a medical emergency. As bad as the experience was for the customer felled by a seizure, it was certainly no picnic for the staff caught in a haze of frenzied interactions between paramedics and the client’s family.
I don’t mean to diminish the harm caused by any physical impairment. But I do want to point out that in this case there were other victims: therapists, a spa director, and various other staff who might be haunted for weeks afterward by PTSD from the incident. Who was looking out for them?
Keeping spa staff emotionally geared to do their jobs is a significant challenge, but essential to the successful management of a spa. Remember, it’s not commodities or mass production we’re dealing with here, it’s people – constantly, directly, intimately. If you think all you need to do to make money in the spa business is to round up a few pedigreed therapists and some high-tech equipment, give your head a shake. Unless you genuinely care about not only your clients’ welfare but the welfare of every one of your staff, from receptionist to manager, you will be sorely disappointed – and probably looking for a new line of work.
It’s useful for the purposes of this discussion to see your business from the customer’s perspective. I generally break it down into a journey and an outcome.
The customer journey
Think of the journey as pearls on a necklace – the touchstones of customer interaction. A customer interested in booking a treatment, for example, may Google ‘spa,’ surf a few websites, then phone your front desk to ask a few questions. After a confirmation call or e-mail if everything looks good, they arrive at your location for their treatment.
Like the silk thread that strings the pearls of the journey together, the outcome (aka customer experience) is the culmination of the customer’s feelings, attitudes and impressions – conscious and unconscious – formed during the journey. It usually defines the customer’s deep-seated feelings about you, whether they are positive, negative or somewhere in between.
As you can see, the journey and outcome are the prime determinant of whether your customers will repeat their visit. A customer benefitting from the hands-on delivery of a relaxation massage, for example, might have a thoroughly positive experience until he or she proceeds to checkout and is forced to wait for the receptionist chit-chatting on her cell phone. The outcome (experience) is the culmination of several interactions, and in a case like this would be mixed.
By far the most important factor governing the quality of the outcome is employee engagement. A disengaged employee – someone who is unmotivated to connect with a customer – can permanently terminate a customer’s desire to connect to your business. An ill-timed distraction, lacklustre delivery of a treatment, careless remark or even unconscious communication (body language, gestures, attention level) can reveal less than total engagement. Customers can easily pick up on such signs.
In a word, employees need to care. And to care, they must feel cared for – fully enthusiastic about and absorbed by their work. An engaged employee is totally focussed on creating a positive experience for the client, and in addition has a positive attitude towards the organization and its values. Organizations with high employee engagement always outperform those with lower levels of engagement.
I hear over and over again from employees how much they long to be part of a genuine spa team – an organization that sincerely cares about them as human beings rather than as mere resources to deliver treatments. Going back to my example of a medical emergency, good senior leadership would recognize that such incidents can traumatize everyone involved, and freely affirm and support any employees forced to deal with such events.
Perhaps more than in other businesses, employees in the spa industry have an innate altruistic desire to add value to the lives of people they interact with. They need to be affirmed: heard, respected and feel like a vital part of the customer journey and experience.
Note that it’s a two-way street. For an employee to feel engaged, he or she must understand, feel aligned with and support the organisation’s vision. This requires a clear understanding of how the spa is fulfilling its purpose and objectives, and their role in a dynamic system evolving into the beneficial habituation of the fortifying effects of the spa experience forming new neural networks for the client.
Employees who feel heard when they offer suggestions for improvements and innovations gain positive effects to their well-being. Even suggestions that don’t get accepted can have a positive outcome as long as they are at least considered and the reasons for their rejection explained. Employees want to know their leaders will provide them with regular and constructive feedback to chart and support their professional development and learn new skills. Being sincerely thanked for a job well done is also important to the development of the employee’s self esteem.
In my experience, engaged organizations tap into their customers with strong, authentic values. They operate from a position of mutual respect, trust and fairness, where both employees and employers fulfill their commitments and promises to each other.
After all, who doesn’t want to be proud of the organization they work with? Engaged employees are the best evangelists of any organization, and will go the extra mile knowing their efforts make a difference and are appreciated.
Consulting firm McKinsey & Company does a lot of work with employee engagement, and in its May 2017 report on customer-centric organizations notes: “At leading customer-centric companies, such as Disney, creating great customer experiences begins with a common vision and requires an engaged and energized workforce that can translate individual experiences into satisfying end-to-end customer journeys… To change mind-sets and behaviour and to ensure that the whole organization works to give internal customers an outstanding experience, the company must develop and implement purpose-driven change-management principles defining a new way to work.”
In a survey of more than 10,000 employees in a number of customer-centric organizations, McKinsey hit the nail on the head by revealing the workers’ top gripe: the lack of availability and clarity of information.
“The more advanced a company is in its customer-centric thinking, the more likely it is that the determinants of employee satisfaction will evolve from basic courtesy by the staff to the availability and timely delivery of information,” McKinsey says.
In other words, employees need to buy into and share your vision. Why not start a conversation on that very topic today? You might be amazed by where it leads.
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