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:: How do your clients choose their spa?
Mar 12, 2011 03:45 pm
Les Nouvelles Esthetiques

When your clients make a decision about which spa to frequent, they look for a place where they can enjoy some "me time", where they can relax and experience a sense of well being and somewhere where they can pamper their bodies as well as their minds. They already understand that spa establishments are the ultimate when it comes to boosting one's morale. But when faced with today's diverse range of establishments, all of which are offering effective and innovative treatments, choosing a spa isn't always an easy decision to make. Since most spas are offering services and products that deliver results, it has become even more important to focus on the small details that help to retain a loyal clientele. We've done a general survey to help you identify the details that make all the difference to a client who is trying out a new establishment.

A "safe" environment

The welcome and setting, which create the ambiance and determine the quality of an establishment, are definitely key priorities to potential clients. A lightly fragranced room, with filtered lighting and soft music create an atmosphere that is conducive to a sense of well being. And spa enthusiasts have high expectations when it comes to these criteria. Having tried out a spa that prioritised profitability over clients' comfort, Isabelle now pays attention to the smallest detail: "It is absolutely imperative that a space dedicated to promoting well being is peaceful and neat, without being clinical. It should also reflect uncomplicated elegance. A gentle fragrance in the air is also an absolute must. These criteria, which are evident not only in the décor but also in the products, played a role in converting me into a loyal customer. Whilst receiving body treatments, I also pay close attention to the therapist, who should be impeccably well presented." It is clear that cleanliness, a "safe" environment and a sense of comfort enhance the treatments and reassure the client. It also indicates that it is unnecessary and ill advised to fork out lots of money on extravagant décor that is hard to keep clean, because clients find simple, clean, refined settings more reassuring. The trick is to know where to add a touch of glamour or mystery, which your clients will lap up!

Catherine has been a loyal client at a spa establishment in Rennes for a number of years. The establishment is decorated in a natural theme, with touches of gold leaf. "The Berger lamps, discretely placed throughout the rooms, infuse the air with a really appealing and sensual scent. The use of rounded furniture and indoor plants also help to create a very restful atmosphere. I also enjoy the fact that I can order a beverage or request a particular kind of music." Attention to detail is appreciated, especially by clients who are "regulars" at your spa...

Polished service

Next, issues relating to the quality of the service, punctuality and friendliness of the staff were identified. Marie from Strasbourg highlights the importance of these elements: "I like the cosy feeling of some of the smaller spas that still offer high-tech equipment, but I am very conscious of service levels. As someone who doesn't have a lot of time available for spa treatments, I cannot afford to be kept waiting." In reality, clients are bound by time constraints and keeping them waiting defeats the whole objective of going to a spa, which is to experience a sense of peace and well being. And if it so happen that one of your treatments takes a little longer than anticipated, the therapist could always offer the client who has been kept waiting a little something extra, as was the case with Véronique, who was offered a free make-up trial the following week when she was kept waiting half an hour for her treatment. This loyalty tool was interpreted, quite rightly, as a sign of respect. Another factor is the warmth of the welcome received by the client which indicates a genuine interest. Clients are unanimous on this point: a smile, a sign of recognition and a chat are all acts that are greatly appreciated, as long as they are performed with discretion and tact.

Another practical but fundamental detail is the ease with which the establishment can be accessed. In Strasbourg, Marie had found the spa of her dreams but… it was situated in a highly inaccessible location. A beautiful spa positioned along a pedestrianized street, or somewhere where you cannot park closer than 500m away, does not encourage an influx of clients. If the clientele in the area can be easily developed, in order to attract a larger public, it is more important to give careful consideration to the placement of your spa.

Finally, in addition to the welcome, flexibility with regards to your treatment schedule is also a great way to win over your clients. Being able to pop in at your local spa for a spot of pampering after a long working day is greatly appreciated… and seldom possible!

Impeccable cleanliness in your treatment rooms

Next, comes the impression created by your treatment rooms. With clients being more informed and therefore more demanding than ever before, no detail goes unnoticed! While most establishments keep their instruments sterilized and replace used items, there are those who choose to overlook the basic principles of hygiene. And on that score there is no shortage of examples. For example, there are many that continue to use a single terry towel… perfect for transferring germs from one client to the next! Mélanie also looks at "floor surfaces, instruments, towels, the covers upon which one lies during treatments… Once in one of the big establishments, I had the unpleasant experience of finding myself lying on a cover of dubious cleanliness." These days more and more clients prefer throw-away products (gloves, gauze, wax…) for guaranteed hygiene. In return for entrusting their bodies and faces to the care of a third party, they are looking for comfort and absolute cleanliness. That is why women like Catherine always choose "treatments that rely on single-use products".

Clients also value places that bear charming names. If, for example, you have more than one treatment room, it is a good idea to name each room. Simply by naming a room as a "cocoon" endears it and invites clients to feel safe and secure. Most clients are in agreement that the setting in which a treatment takes place is just as important as the quality of the treatment that is being administered. These may be subjective criteria but they are certainly of capital importance to clients when selecting a spa.

Competitive prices

However, if clients choose their spa based on the image it projects, this is not without some consideration for the prices of the services offered. The relationship between quality and price is the second priority for clients. Having signs and certificates displayed within the salon helps to make the client feel secure in the therapists' credibility and know-how but the therapist must also give serious consideration to her pricing to ensure that her rates are affordable to a larger number of people. It is also her job to educate clients about the efficacy and safety of the products used during her treatments. She should also be in a position to explain the technologically advanced nature of the treatments as this is a means of justifying the prices to clients. Isabelle chose an establishment that was a bit more expensive than the average spa because she believed that the quality of the treatments and the efficacy of the products merited the costs. An excellent spa is obviously going to cost more but it should also meet the specific needs expressed by the client. Isabelle sees her trips to the spa as a "type of investment" and admits to being very satisfied with the results achieved by the high end products used during her treatments.

A spa service in the broad sense

Another area, where clients have certain expectations relates to the experience of the spa therapist. In addition to take care of the client and ensuring that she is comfortable, the therapist also needs to offer the client a service that is tailor made to suit her requirements. After diagnosing what the client's specific needs are, the therapist needs to administer a treatment that is not only of a high standard but one which also meets the needs of that client. Furthermore, she should confirm what the client's needs and expectations are at the start of each treatment. Finally, she should never put herself in the position where she is administering treatments that are beyond the scope of her capabilities or experience. In these instances, she should rather refer the client to a specialist. For example, Emma recounts: "I thought I had terribly oily skin and chose all the wrong products to care for my skin. It was, in fact, a hormonal problem and my spa therapist referred me to a medical specialist. Luckily this put me on the right track to getting my skin sorted out. The diagnosis was most welcome." Similarly, thanks to her spa therapist, Catherine has learned to understand the changes in her skin caused by factors like changing seasons, hormonal imbalances and ageing: "Her advice has been like gold because she has taught me how to care for the changing needs of my skin."

Next, comes the quality of the products and the services offered. Clients are particularly demanding in this area. Single usage ampoules and single application products are increasing in popularity. In those instances where a therapist does not use single application products, masks and creams must be stored in a cool, dry place. Véronique had the dreadful experience of having a mask, which had already gone off, applied to her face. Clients know that once a product has been opened, it loses its effectiveness after a few months. On the same note, it is also not advisable to prepare products for treatments in advance. Véronique also had the misfortune of experiencing this: "The treatment I received where I was not able to see the products being prepared, definitely left me under the impression that it was not as effective. Worse still, I felt a real sense of uneasiness throughout the treatment." Organic and natural products are highly sought after at the moment. Faced with numerous warnings outlining the dangers of certain creams and beauty products, clients are turning towards natural products. Catherine says she prefers organic or marine products. She recounts that "Marine products contain an impressive number of mineral salts and trace elements which are excellent for the skin as well as for boosting the morale. What is more, the faint sound of a distant wave during my treatment enables me to relax completely. I also appreciate it when my therapist gives me some samples o take home to help prolong the effects of the treatment.

Personalised treatment

Finally, in addition to demonstrating her technological know-how, the therapist must also personalize her interactions with each client. It is indispensable that she informs her clients about the evolution of professional techniques and she should be well acquainted with her products. A therapist is, first and foremost, a professional advisor! Catherine remembers how, for a long time, she used to do the opposite of what was recommended as far as her cleansing routine was concerned. Then her spa therapist showed her how to use only a little cleanser followed by more toner. In her story, based on the recommendations of her therapist, Isabelle started "a moisturising programme in the morning, complemented by firming products in the evening in order to restore my skin's firmness. I also learned how to apply cream gently, something which I had never done previously. I had been under the incorrect impression that applying my cream with a few vigorous gestures would reduce wrinkles. That was a complete fallacy as I was only adding to the problem… My therapist's advice helped me to preserve more youthful looking skin."

Today, spa therapists have become very close to their clients: they have learned to bridge the gap between psychology and technology. They understand that a large part of their clients' motivation for coming to the spa is to relieve stress and boost their spirits. That said, Catherine feels that a therapist must "prove that she is trustworthy rather than offer empty flattery." The ability to listen is a crucial part of the relaxation process as it establishes a rapport between therapist and client. Catherine says, "I am very sensitive to the quality of listening exhibited by my therapist. Our conversations are even more invaluable when they can be conducted discretely and I don't need to worry about other patrons listening to what we are saying… When I leave, not only has she taken care of me during our session, but she also enables me to prolong the benefits of my treatment and most of all she has helped me to feel happy in my own skin. It is no real surprise then that she has become my best friend..."

Conclusion

The final word from clients who are overloaded with information about the latest treatments and spa techniques is that they appreciate the challenge involved in being a good spa therapist. Because, in addition to keeping up to date with technology, their relationships and involvement with their clients are a fundamental part of their business. The therapist alone is responsible for ensuring that clients stay loyal to their spa.

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