Rejuvenating Our Relaxation Business at Four Seasons


Life can be stressful and full of busy schedules. Each day, many of us find ourselves challenged with cramming more objectives into the same 24 hours. The faster we move to get things done, the more we can appreciate the opportunity to slow down. The spa industry is pure evidence of the shared need to stop and smell the rose bath.

From the moment a customer crosses the threshold of a spa, life can change. The music is soft, slow, and beautiful, often drawing inspiration from tempered meditative melodies. A smiling face behind the counter leads the customer to a room where they get comfortable and await service. Clients then spend the next few hours being pampered, massaged, soaked, and masked as their heart desires. The goal is to leave them relaxed and ready to face the world again by the time they leave.

For those of us behind the scenes, however, the environment can be anything but relaxing. Scheduling nightmares, difficult client demands, and inventory snafus can regularly influence employee moods. To avoid these hassles, technology fills modern spas. For us in the spa industry, it can create a constant background of alert beeps, text messages, and timer alarms. Technology like scheduling applications make it more manageable to run hospitality businesses, which in turn gives us more energy to focus on the customer.

Why I Love the Spa Business

Like many people in the last few decades, I am currently in my second career. I graduated from college with a degree in physiotherapy and worked in that field for about eight years. While I loved helping patients recover from injuries and illnesses, at that point in my life I was ready for a new challenge. I joined the Four Seasons initially as a therapist but rose to the position of spa manager.

Almost immediately, I realized the hospitality industry is remarkably different from physiotherapy. In my initial field, I worked exclusively with people who were on strict medical-based recovery plans. We set guidelines for every activity and satisfaction was determined by recovery progress. In hospitality, however, the guests are in full control of the expectations. Our duty as a staff is to give them the best experience possible. That creates a much more exciting and dynamic environment.

My everyday work in hospitality contains wild variations. Each day brings impressive challenges that require quick thinking and new approaches. My job as a manager is to focus on three things: people, product, and revenue. I have to manage the people who report to me, and satisfy our clients to assure repeat visits. That requires a lot of problem-solving, relationship building, and creative negotiations.

Your job in spa management is to focus on three things: people, product, and revenue. Take care of the first two, and revenue will often take care of itself.

I also have to manage our product, which in this case includes direct staff services. In hospitality, customer service is never a static process. I must constantly monitor inventory and service offerings to make sure we provide the best up-to-date activities. Accomplishing this requires a lot of staff feedback, marketing flexibility, and forecasting reports. However, if we keep people happy and our products excellent, the revenue responsibility happens naturally.

Minimum Happiness Is Not Enough

Coming from the physiotherapy industry, I was accustomed to a strict sense of order. While we also served the customers in that field, we determined what that service entailed. Patients trusted the professionals to create a series of exercise and massage experiences to get them moving again. Dealing with healthy customers, however, created a much more flexible environment. Each individual patron entered our doors with their own sense of expectations.

For a while, we used an application called SpaSoft to manage the reservation process for our spa. While this app worked great for that purpose, we were left feeling a need for improvement. In today's world, applications can improve operations for a number of business types. We were almost sure we could find something better.

Your spa doesn’t have a singular focus. Why does your spa management software?

Specifically, we were hoping for software with built-in communications and guest relationship tools. We also anticipated assistance in automating some inventory and member management functions. As a manager, I wanted an easier way to create the kinds of charts and graphs I needed to better analyze our operations. I guess in a way, part of me longed for some of the structure in physiotherapy. That was when we started getting feedback from our other spa locations to try Book4Time.

Establishing Buy-In

Change is always difficult. The truth is, moving to new software can be one of the hardest things for any organization. People like the feeling of mastering their jobs. They enjoy coming to work every day with a good understanding of how to meet the challenges the day may pose. Changing our spa software came with challenges, but I’m happy to say we overcame them.

There was some resistance to the new product. People at every level of the spa organization needed to understand how this change improved our operations. Getting people on board meant demonstrating that the change would be beneficial.

While it created an extra step, in hindsight, that process was necessary. By taking the time to walk each staff member through the change, we gave the entire organization time to adapt. The end result was that people deeply understood Book4Time, and how its functions helped us to better do our jobs. That is the power of taking the time to get things right.

The best part of the process was that Book4Time staff were with us every step of the process. They were more than willing to provide time and resources to help us generate staff buy-in and understanding. They provided patient and effective training, answered our questions, and listened to our feedback. By the time we went live with the new software, everything was ready to run smoothly.

Operational Improvements from Book4Time

Our corporate offices were pushing us to change to a more comprehensive application. Some of our other spa locations were already using Book4Time, and they sang its praises. Even still, you never know the true user experience until you begin using new software. There were a couple of areas where we saw big improvements with Book4Time.

We knew that online booking would be a major improvement, however, what we didn’t anticipate was the powerful benefit of using automated customer contact emails. Unlike previous spa software, Book4Time now automatically generates reminder emails to customers prior to appointments. Following the sessions, customers also received emails thanking them for visiting our establishment. We did not realize in advance the number of customers that would use the second email as a way to provide feedback on their spa experience. As anyone in hospitality knows, unsolicited positive or constructive feedback is worth its weight in gold.

One particular customer, for example, used the thank-you email to complement one of our receptionists. The client felt that this particular staff member went above and beyond to make them feel at home. They described our staff's efforts to listen attentively, and then suggest the best possible spa experience for that customer's needs. When we shared this feedback with our receptionist, she became motivated to provide such personal attention to every guest. Under our old software application, that customer's experience would have gone unshared.

As a manager, perhaps the most powerful function of Book4Time was the vast variety of possible reports. Previously, I had to use Excel to create the kind of analysis tools that any manager needs to understand their operation. Book4Time provided all these tools and more. Suddenly, I had complete control over inventory flow and product operations. Combined with the above-mentioned customer interaction improvements, I was finally able to practice revenue optimization by focusing on people and products.

Not everyone loves data, but everyone should benefit from it. Provide visualizations to those who shy away from hard numbers.

Additionally, part of the difficulty of managing by data is attempting to communicate that statistical information to staff. Fortunately, Book4Time also provides reporting tools for people outside of managerial roles. For the first time, everyone in the organization was able to access easy-to-understand reports that connected what they do every day to the organization's success. That became a wonderful instrument for leadership development.

The Future Is Focusing on What Matters

Truthfully, it’s not that we were unhappy with our previous spa software. At the time, we only wanted a product that helped us with scheduling. I guess we just didn't know what possibilities existed out there. 

By switching to Book4time, we found a software partner that helped us to elevate our spa to new heights. Our staff feels more connected to the customer experience, and they better understand their role in our organization. Best of all, our customers benefit from our revived commitment to providing the best possible services by forging relationships with those we serve.

Staff satisfaction matters because our staff is the main difference between our spa and every other provider. Happy customers matter because they become repeat customers who talk about their experience. Revenue enhancement matters because it keeps employees working and shareholders happy. In a world that can be frantic, it’s nice to bring some simplicity to our lives, so we can bring that to our guests’ lives.