Exceeding spa guest’s expectations in 2016 – the layer cake model

Spa guest become increasingly educated and demanding, expecting more complex services than ever and it will become more and more challenging for spa businesses to exceeding spa guest’s expectations.

spa management service quality

With an increased density of offers in the market, more competition, and increased pressure on pricing, product development gains importance in spa & wellness businesses. Services that will not offer USPs (unique selling propositions) will not be able to attract new or even retain existing target customers.

Knowing your target market

Needs and demands by customers are differently developed. They depend on a great variety of factors, such as

  • previous experience
  • age
  • life style
  • education
  • emotions

and are further influenced by other people’s opinions, fashion, trends, adverts etc., which each occur to different degrees in each guest. 

And even for one and the same guest, in different situations, different needs and demand may exist: the same guest may enjoy a sauna or steam room visit at a low budget sports facility in her home town after her weekly training session, and is looking for high quality and standard treatments in a 5* hotel during her ski holiday. 

When looking at the 10 factors to guest satisfaction we understand the evolution of needs and demands of spa guests with regards to

  • quality
  • comfort
  • safety
  • reliability of service provider (promise to deliver)
  • diversity in service offers
  • guest oriented communication
  • relief in obligations (i.e. memberships, sign up fees, or even simply making a reservation)

Any service business will keep facing changes as to needs and demands of their guests in the future, due to for example change of demographics or change of values in societies. 

Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning

A business (or product) can never be everything to everybody. Purchases of service (or products) are being made, when the service or product fulfils a need or solves a problem. Key is to look for a target audience, with members that have similar needs or problems. 

But merely stating “a relaxing massage is for everyone who wishes to relax” is insufficient.
A more defined approach is for example the ‘jet lag eliminator massage” for overseas travellers on arrival after their journey.

The sustainable competitive approach is hence to offer not everything to everybody, but everything they are looking for to a narrow range of customers with very specific needs.

Exceeding guest expectations – the layer cake model

The layer cake model looks at 3 different levels

base  –  filling  –  cream topping

exceeding spa guest's expectations

Base is equivalent to ‘basic’ at the bottom of the cake.
This is what the guest expects as a minimum given from the spa. This is the layer that most businesses have in common, and the layer that has to grow constantly as the service business matures along the business life cycle. What we need to understand is that many of former spa USPs are basic implicitness today and no longer have the ‘wow’ effect. Yet guests want to be ‘wowed’ with their expectations exceeded, and that is why we need to look into the next layer:

The Filling is equivalent to the USP, it implies ‘uniqueness’, unique products or service elements, that competitors do not offer. This is the chance for the spa to offer a total new experience that the spa guest has not had in the past, or that the guest cannot experience elsewhere.

The cream topping is equivalent to the strategic success position of the company, not a single product or service or as such. It relates to the core competencies of the spa and provides a highly important success factor. Typically spas have only very few of those success positions, maybe even just one. 

Some of those can be ‘natural’, such as a specific location, or a a magnificent view. Others can be ‘manmade’, an example is “me time” (a concept, where the course of the treatment is only defined after a thorough consultation with the therapist. The spa guests books merely a time slot beforehand, and on the day of the treatment his specific expectations on that day are being evaluated and fulfilled.)
Developing manmade strategic success positions can take a year or two for a spa to achieve. 

Anja Eva Keller Spa & Wellness Consulting

Standstill will result in business failure, spa product and service development is key for thriving spa businesses for the years to come.


exceeding spa guest's expectations