Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Who's Your Gladys?

One of the highlights of my year has been the inclusion of our spa, and our customer service philosophy, in a new business best-seller, Who's Your Gladys? (American Management Association Books)

Naturally, we're thrilled about the chapter devoted to Preston Wynne Spa. But I'd have bought the book anyhow. It's one of the most solid, meaty and actionable customer service books I've come across in years. Authors Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest have done a tremendous, and remarkably mindful job of distilling customer service wisdom from an array of different businesses and industries.

As the authors remind us, "When times are tough and customer dollars are scarce, it's the companies with exceptional customer service that weather the storm. If you want to keep customers coming back and happily recommending you to others, now is the time to ramp up your customer service to the highest possible level. Even when the economy gets back on track, those with extraordinary customer care enjoy the most profits."

It's difficult to bang this drum too much. With your company in a defensive crouch, it's hard to simultaneously create the mindset of gracious hospitality.

I'm reminded of the scene in Gone with the Wind, when Scarlet pulls down her mother's velvet drapes in the devastated mansion and has a new, fashionable dress sewn up to create the illusion of prosperity for a crucial meeting with Rhett Butler.

More than a few of us have felt a bit like Scarlet this year, projecting an aura of velvety ease and abundance to our clients while slashing expenses and biting our nails behind the scenes.

But one of the things we cannot skimp on is good staff, proper supervision and effective training.

Training is not just that moment when you sit everyone down for a formal educational session. Training can and should occur every time you interact with your team, and when they watch you interact with customers. The best supervisors identify and guide their teams through the inevitable "teachable moments" that occur on the job.

The good news is that formal training is becoming significantly less expensive and significantly more accessible, thanks to technology. Wynne Business Spa Consulting has added webinars to our educational lineup, designed for both management development and employee training. They're fast, affordable (no travel, either!) convenient, and we believe they will encourage more spas to make training part of their regular routine.

We're also partnering with Coyle Hospitality Group, the wonderful Mystery Shopping firm, for a series of employee training courses. These are based on specific "moments of truth" in a spa's service delivery cycle. We're starting with the Reservations call. Those of you who have worked with Coyle know how many "moments of truth" are documented in one short reservations call.

Guess which element of a good Reservations call is most often omitted, according to Coyle? The upsell. We prefer the term "optimizing," because far from simply being a way to extract more money from a guest, this process is a way to showcase your expertise. Optimizing a guest's services increases the possibility that a guest is going to get exactly the treatment they want and need, and the results that they desire. That increases the possibility that they'll be delighted, and return again and again.

If a guest is habitually relegated to your base sticker price, plain vanilla offering, they may not comprehend that there are other fabulous options on your menu. (Yes, you spent hours writing it, but most customers don't spend hours poring over the menu.) It's our reservation team's responsibility to guide them toward the best treatment for them. It's more than upselling, it's good customer service.

How do they "get" this? Indoctrination. Education. Demonstration. Repetition.

Hearing it done right, over and over again, is key. Does this get tedious? Um, yes. Your spa must be willing, in restauranteur Danny Meyer's words, to use "constant, gentle, pressure" to ensure that team members adhere to your service standards. And honestly, it's not hard.

You just can't be lazy.

The companies chronicled in "Who's Your Gladys?" share this commitment. It takes different forms in different companies, but maintaining high service standards is a core value and it comes from the heart. It doesn't waver because the winds of recession are howling outside. It's not about giving "just enough" to get by while things are tough, or allowing team members to slack off because you feel badly that their pay has been reduced.

It's certainly not about chopping away at the little things your customers appreciate. They'll never forgive you. The dollars I could save by not providing granola bars and tampons would be met with an "equal and opposite reaction" by our clients. (Yes, we have a few tricks--arranging fewer of these items in smaller containers, to making grabbing a handful and stuffing them in a handbag feel conspicuously greedy.)

Businesses that want to emerge on the other side of this economic swamp must give even more than they did before. Yes, some customers are raising their pitchforks and torches over the tiniest mishaps these days.

When these moments occur, remember Holly Stiel's words of wisdom: "Being Right is the Booby Prize." Smile. Dig down. Give more. It will only hurt for a minute.

See you at ISPA!

Speaking of this amazing customer care guru, don't miss Holly's amazing new presentation at ISPA, SILK: Service in Loving Kindness. It will rock your world!

No comments: