Spa Superstars: Hidden in Plain View

03/13/2015 12:53 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2015


Innovation is a hot buzzword. Senior executives in the hospitality industry are burning the midnight oil trying to find ways to innovatively one-up each other. Flying yoga programs, ("singing bowls,") wellness strategies, sustainability campaigns, social media tools and the list goes on with one thing in common. They're all designed to target a larger portion of revenue from the upscale leisure vacation consumer.

But a bird in the hand is definitely worth two in the bush. As an "industry insider" I am constantly surprised at how the spa and hotel business continues to miss the obvious. The spa industry is losing an average of 5-30% in retail sales revenue! Obviously if you resolve that problem, a lot will begin to go right again.

I believe that what the spa industry doesn't see is right in front of their eyes every day. Retail products are primarily recommended and sold by the therapists. Just as it is no secret that the spa industry is losing money it is no secret that for most spas, therapist training is rarely a priority. They are the proverbial "low man on the totem pole". Unfortunately when training does occur the expense may not justify the results because the training is designed for a completely different type of person.

Dr. Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

When most people think of retail selling, they envision outgoing, convivial extroverts. They don't think of a quieter introvert which so many spa therapists are. Introverts communicate best one-on-one or in smaller groups. They draw their energy from within. The spa industry is perfect for this personality type. Consider the fact that that they do most of their work in a serene setting with very few boisterous interactions. That is, until they are scheduled for "retail training classes" which are traditionally conducted by over the top extroverts.

Perhaps the reason senior management is continuously disappointed by the "lack of bang for their buck" is because the training is not designed for the people to whom it is delivered. Traditional sales training is not devised to enhance the qualities which are inherent to the therapist personality type -- like listening, intuition, creativity and sensitivity. And since so many spa managers were once therapists, the follow up strategies are often equally ineffective.

Dr. Albert Einstein also said, "information is not knowledge" and "the only source of knowledge is experience."

When training introverts it takes one to know one. As a former therapist I know that I am most effective when I put myself in my student's shoes. Training of almost any topic was a problem for me if I was called upon to be in the spotlight unless the environment was extremely safe.

If the spa industry truly wants to recoup the revenue that keeps walking out of the door, then maybe it's time to try something new.