12/07/2012 12:43 pm ET Updated Feb 06, 2013

Spas and the New Agenda

With 2013 just around the corner, many decision-makers are putting the final touches on their agendas for their strategic planning meetings. But if you run a four- or five-star hotel spa and the topics of changing demographics, social media and the increased spending power of the new spa client is not on your list of talking points, you may be setting yourself up for failure in the new year.

If nothing else was learned from the presidential election, it's that "business as usual" doesn't fly anymore. The world is rapidly changing and things must be done differently or your existing client base could be impacted in ways that you had not considered.

Scenario one: Your long-time service provider decides to leave.

Sometimes the high level of quality found in other areas of your hotel is not reflected within your spa. Don't just assume that your customers will automatically transition to another therapist on your roster. Last week, I met a woman in the locker room of a five-star hotel spa in Philadelphia. She told me that she had been a member of their health club for 29 years, and had been a client of the same esthetician for a very long time as well. When the esthetician retired, her daughter filled the position, but she lacked the skills of her mother. The client, feeling "underwhelmed" by her services, decided to try another spa in the area -- which she now frequents despite the fact that she still comes to the hotel spa everyday to swim. Her new spa has won yearly awards for service and has a multicultural staff and clientele that she loves.

Lesson: Diminished service will always trump loyalty. Hire an independent spa consultant or trainer to periodically monitor the in-room performance of your staff. It will ultimately cost less than losing clients. Invest in your staff by providing updated skin and sales training.

Scenario two: At the same hotel that day, I had one of the worst facials of my life. It was surprising, as this hotel has set industry standards for personalized customer service. I chose to notify management directly of my poor experience. Had I been another type of customer, I would have complained on my website (which gets thousand of hits) or had my husband post my complaint on his Twitter page (which has over 60,000 followers).

Lesson: Understand the power of social media and the potential impact of one bad experience. Address consumer complaints quickly and get to the root of the problem so that it does not reoccur.

Scenario three: The new spa goer is often the child or grandchild of your loyal customer. But, many millennials simply will not patronize spas that cannot deliver the same quality of service to their ethnic friends. Because this demographic is outspoken in their opinions, the companies which they work for that previously used your facilities for retreats or incentives will begin to look for other resources. Most forward-thinking companies are not willing to compromise their employees' emotional comfort just to patronize your hotel. The increased spending power comes from a rapidly changing demographic, which is reflected in more diverse workforce.

Lesson: Millennials spend their money with businesses which reflect their own values. Recognize that your client base may change and train your staff to engage effectively with your new customers.

The industry decision makers for the spa industry who have their finger on the pulse of consumer needs will set the pace and their businesses will attract a whole new audience. After all, change will happen whether you agree with it or not.