In 2 steps to uncompomising quality in service management
Part 1:

The 6 most important attributes of Wellness Services 

In a shop, where products of the same segment, for example tooth paste, shampoo, and face cream are displayed next to each other on a shelf, one expects each product of the same kind and by the same manufacturer to be identical.

I mean, whether I pick the toothpaste that sits in the very back of the shelf or in the front, or whether I buy the same toothpaste in the supermarket in the next village, the products are identical. 

By maintaining standards in production and packaging, quality can be duplicated.

Of course there are a few exceptions, such as different charges within production, or pure natural products etc., however that is not our topic for today.

How can uniformity look within services?

In order to understand how uniformity works in services, we have to look at the specific attributes of services compared to attributes of consumer goods:

  1. Services cannot be stored, and can hence not be produced in advance (example: a massage)
  2. Services are produced under the “uno-actu” principle, which means that production and consumption happen at the same time (example a massage: whilst the therapist performs the treatment, the guest consumes the treatment)
  3. Services submit to the external factor: the customer (or an object in the customer’s possession) must be present during the service (example: a massage cannot happen without the customer to experience it)
  4. Services are immaterial and hence non transferable (I cannot send my friend to pick up the massage for me)
  5. A service is unique, it can never be reproduced exactly the same again. (a second massage, even performed by the same therapist, with the same massage oil, in the same treatment room, differs from an earlier massage)
  6. Services submit to emotionality:  emotionality plays a major role in the production of services. To come back to our example of the toothpaste, I will certainly not notice if a member of staff involved in the production process has had a bad day, however during a massage, it can have a great impact on the outcome of the guest’s satisfaction if the therapist is annoyed about something.
    Yet, also the guest’s emotions can influence the perception of the service: generally positive people may be satisfied compared to a “grumbler”, or simply someone having a bad day (‘bad hair day’) can shift the scale to the other side when judging the service quality.

In services it is much more difficult to duplicate quality and standards:

  • Each customer involved is different from the next: Customers have varying expectations and experiences. Customers have individual needs and different demands in quality.
  • Each service provider provides the service slightly different (example: even if therapists A and B have performed the exact same training, have equal work experience, and can perform a treatment following a set protocol, the result will still differ for the customer experiencing the massage with each therapist)
  • Other external factors also play a role, such as time of the day, weather, individual stress levels, and other personal circumstances of both the customer and the service provider.

Above all we have to consider that some services are easier to be standardised (i.e. a car wash) than others, which have to be very individual (i.e. a medical consultation). 

Spa treatments and Spa services lie somewhere in between. We find partial protocols that are easily standardised, such as a check-in, or a treatment protocol, in which the therapist has to show great empathy for the guest, for example when choosing suitable products.

How do we judge services?

In order to be able to judge services, people look for certain criteria in order to establish an evaluation reference, such as personal recommendations, articles in magazines, product descriptions by the manufacturer or personal experience. 

Consumers of services like to choose known scenarios. Once we have had a positive experience, we tend to stick to the service provider in order to enhance our chances of repeat satisfaction.

Evaluating services is very complex and individual. Evaluation criteria and references assist us, yet other factors play major roles too…. mood, time of day, preferences, weather….

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A complaint is a gift 

No matter which individual criteria each of us use for evaluating a service, we conclude overall:

  • Was my expectation met?
  • Was my expectation excelled?
  • Was my expectation not met? 

An expectation not met may lead to a complaint in the best case: a complaint is a gift to the service provider!

Only if a customer’s expectations are excelled will customer satisfaction follow, whereas the success depends on the degree of compliance of: 

  • customer expectations 
  • the actual performance of the service provider
  • and the individual customer’s perception of the performed service.

More in our 2nd part on the 10 factors to customer satisfaction and what this means to the Spa industry!