As I was about to complete this article on Singapore Spa Review 2012, an email attachment from a friend came to my attention, “Spas Here To Revamp”.
I smiled..... albeit with some bemusement.
This has been a long time coming.
But more than just image makeover, more than just regaining trust, I would like to add: Singapore spas are in dire need of a paradigm turnover.
Back then, in 2008, I had a conversation with a spa director whom I had worked for 20 years ago. He shared briefly how he ran his one-year-old premium spa.
It was a numbers game - a churning out.
Just four months later, it folded up.
From then on, it was just one spa after another........and I am sure nature didn't intend this.
Where nature, intrinsically, possesses life's healing powers, then I am inclined to suggest spas, extrinsically, possess a sanctuary for healing (the commercial word is "wellness") of body, mind and spirit.
However, in the context of spas in Singapore, I must add a cautious refrain: they potentially possess.
As I shall explain later, tis' the Christmas for a rude awakening (at this time of writing Dec 4, 2011).
But first, let's revisit its potential as sanctuary for health and wellness.
There is prevalence of an unspoken dis-ease that characterizes our modern lifestyle - unwell but not sick. And that, aptly, is the raison d'être for the concept of spa.
Along with this, are the rewards of profits and fulfillment that avail true spa visionaries - those that are able to actualize a precedent sanctuary beyond what present spas deliver.
More beneficial than just an hour's escape or an escapade - as in a resort spa - a spa bed is, nevertheless, where I would rather be than reclining on a hospital bed.
I would rather be massaged or “masseused” (no such verb, though) into a stupor than sedated by drugs into oblivion.
Compare surreal sounds of nature, scent of essential oils and effleurage massage to the beep of heart monitor, smell of disinfectant and insertion of intravenous needles.
One heals; the other cures.
One alleviates or prevents; the other numbs or removes.
One holistic; the other allopathic
Well, you get the big picture........
Spas and hospitals have complementary roles.
I know. Many still haven't the faintest idea how the two can seem to complement.
But already, the signs and signage are there. Doctors are turning spas into their monopoly.
They just call it "medical spa" as their self-initiation into what is rightfully the domain of complementary therapies and alternative medicine industry.
The advent of spas evolving into authentic healing sanctuary is NOT far off. And such a sanctuary will avail to consumers a highly developed breed of spa consultants and therapists than the kind we are accustomed to seeing now.
Want to have a better appreciation of what I mean?
Tis the Christmas for reflection and awakening. There has not been a better time in a world struggling to find its “Assemblage Point”.
Regulation is a useful way to restore some sense of order, accountability and trust.
As reported on Channel News Asia on 29 Nov 2011, CaseTrust has introduced a new regulation enforceable on accredited spas in Singapore.
Spas that collect prepayment or sell packages are to issue certificate of insurance on the spot to consumers.
This certificate guarantees refund of prepayment or unconsumed portion of their package treatments in the event the spa closes down.
It remains to be seen if it comes within the purview of CaseTrust to remedy an aspect of spa’s financial operation that had been the cause of their ills.
There is absolutely nothing wrong about prepayments and selling packages. The problem is spas don’t adopt an accrual-based financial system. They treat such collections as cash-based, spending future revenue derived in the present.
This unnecessarily creates pressure on meeting liabilities, enforcing an aggressive strategy to sell anew by the numbers each month while rendering a vicious cyclical situation of frustrated customers failing to get appointment slots..
Nevertheless, the insurance protection scheme is a definitive step towards restoring confidence through ensuring security of customers’ money.
And it is inevitable consumers will bear the cost of premium too. It has to be - hidden in the package price adjusted for by today's regulation!
However, regulation that enforces a “5-day Cooling Period”, “No-selling in the room” and “ Insurance Protection" will, after a period of bedding in, become par for the course in a typical spa’s operations.
Regulation, as an instrument, offers correction or remedy. That's all it does.
Spas, nevertheless, are still subject to the forces of competition. And the strongest in terms of financial muscle survive.
But if they are going to thrive, they will need to seek out theirassemblage point (I use this as a metaphor here).
To do that, you need spa visionaries!
The purpose of business is to make profits.
The purpose of business is also to create a BETTER experience.
A spa business that delivers a most complete sensory experience from conception (idea) to reception (customer-centric), intervention (therapy-intense) to consummation (support-driven) attracts extraordinary profits.
Spas of the future would do well envisioning these:
1.Niche Your Brand Around Concept Therapy
Build your spa brand around a treatment concept.
Communicate a consumer-desired experience derived from this concept.
Take this single concept as your strategy to dominate consumer mind-share.
The way to do this is partner with spa distributors that offer concept therapy of great distinction.
For example, niche your spa around TCM-based therapies or Ayurveda-based therapies adapted for the spa environment.
There is little to distinguish among spas here.
Each is distinctly similar in transforming raw space into ambiance with therapists predominantly from Malaysia, China and Philippines.
Of the 178 accredited spas, competition is marked by aggressive advertising and roadshows.
While unwary consumers may think they are getting a $160 worth of the treatment at bargain price, experienced spa consumers will tell you otherwise.
Value-driven spas do not play up to the craziness of deals.
It is admirable how some non-accredited spas and beauty salons have been able to uphold their rates. They over-deliver in service skills and products.
2. Niche Your Spa Around Profiles
If your spa offers a broad range of services with no one defining concept therapy, then niche your spa by profiling a select team of stake-holding consultants and therapists.
By branding their profiles (credentials), you raise your level of service deliverables to match consumers desire for the very best.
You command consumer loyalty as consumers identify with each spa's unique collective strength surrounding type and quality of consultants and therapists.
In my time with "Be." Magazine, I had the opportunity to acquaint with incredibly creative therapists in the field of Bodyworks.
Bodyworkers are like your conventional massage therapists but differ with the additional knowledge and skills in working with one's human energy fields.
These are certified therapists with palpating skills that are highly attuned to their clients’ body.
They seemed to consult with a passion and knowledge-experience that required little of persuasion and none of the hard selling that typifies most spas.
These are the breed of professional therapists I envision making up the visionary spa.
3. Over-Deliver In Customer Care
Spas excel in selling their services.
Customer service ceases when customers walk out the door.
Thereafter, a follow up means a sales call.
Have you heard the joke?
Consumer signs up $3000 package comprising 10 sessions. 6 months elapsed before she returned for her 2nd session.
And that's only after her spa had called, attempting to sell her another new package!
Who's suffering a case of voluntary amnesia?
When was the last time your spa consultant followed up with you in-between sessions?
Consummation is not complete unless there is interaction with your client always about her well-being before, during and in-between spa visits and upon completion of package.
Frequency of follow up is key to a client’s frequency of visits.
One empowering way you can do that is to enhance your client’s knowledge experience with wellness bites and tips.
This can be done with a simple phone call, text messaging, email or one minute voice or video clips pushed to their mobile devices.
4. Getting The Fundamentals Right: Project Economics & Compensation Plans
Build it and who will come?
Spas begin with a business plan. And then they build it thinking the plan will triumph
Look into the plan, and you see most don't even factor "Project Economics" into their plan.
Project Economics is a set of data derived from your concept of a spa. It is actually the PLAN before the business plan!
Project Economics feature in developers of commercial buildings, resort spas and mall spas.
For the small to medium-sized spa players, the lack of such a plan is one of the reasons for a spa's financial woes. One likely reason is they don't know who or where to go to get a consultation.
If you are contemplating a spa business, my advice is “start a conversation with our "Development Advisor" first!”
Finally, if you are already a going-concern, it is worth re-examining your spa remuneration plans.
Spas generally pay a small fixed salary or a parachute salary.
They also pay a high commission scheme. This is rightly so being a service performance-driven industry.
I find compensation based on the model of VPG ( Volume per Guest) drives performance and merits your 'A' star consultants and therapists.
Volume per guest is the ratio of total revenue to number of customers for a given period, e.g a year.
Determine your spa's VPG for last year. Set a VPG target for the present year. Use this target to set escalating commissions for consultants and therapists.
There are many variations you can devised out of VPG.
For example, there are peak and weak cycles in a given year. Hence, applying a 3-month-adjusted VPG is a useful benchmark for driving performance.
Also you will want to set VPG for service and retail sales separately.
Click here to get the full details of “VPG for spa compensation plans”.