Spa Mystery Checks – helping the Spa get better at what it does

When people ask me what I do for a living and I answer “Spa Mystery Checks” (amongst other duties), I always get the envious look.

Oh, wow, that must be awesome, being spoiled and not pay for it” is the no1 reaction I get.

The Myth about the Mystery

And that is exactly what Spa Mystery Checks are NOT. It is not merely being pampered for free.

And there is nothing mysterious about it either. It is a well planned and transparent business practice, performed by a highly trained professional.

Spa Mystery Checks, Spa Audits, Spa Reviews

My definition of the three is this: 

a Spa Mystery Check analyses every touchpoint of a spa with its customers from the customer viewpoint. This is typically performed undercover, I mean unidentified and unannounced.

A Spa Audit should include a Mystery Check, however goes beyond by the analysis of data, such as booking pace, occupation rate etc. This way it includes an overall business performance audit by including the provision of hard data. 

Yet simply reviewing data is insufficient in providing excellent service and understanding spa guest’s needs. That’s why I recommend the combination of Check and Audit. For an audit, cooperation of staff is needed, hence undercover work is difficult. Thus typically I perform the undercover Mystery Check before an Audit.

A Spa Review is a form of public recommendation, and can be paid for, sponsored, or unpaid. Reviews also include customer reviews, for example what other guests do when posting pictures of a Spa’s pool on Instagram, or using the ‘…. just checked in at xyz spa…’ feature on Facebook. My professional Spa Reviews include an article on my website and posts on Social Media. They are a form of advertising. Although I also describe my visit from the guest’s point of view, this is not to be confused with the Spa Mystery Check. 

The 5 Gap Model and how Spa Mystery Checks fill in

One of the topics I am really passionate about is service quality and the so called 5 Gap Model in the service delivery chain (by Parasuraman, Zeitlham and Berry). 

I do not want to repeat the entire model here, but Gap no1 is the one I want to highlight in relation to Spa Mystery Checks.

This gap is also called the Knowledge Gap, and occurs when managers not correctly interpret the spa guest’s expectation in relation to the company’s services. This includes meeting the wrong, or non existing needs of guests.

This is how a Spa Mystery Check fills the gap: Mystery shoppers give an unbiased customer response to their experience, making it an easy way to see a business from the eyes of the consumer. Without this, companies miss out on important information about their business and how their guests see it.

spa mystery checks

My 6-Step Spa Mystery Check and Audit – How does it work?

As Spa Mystery Guest I provide simple, professional, and objective observations of staff, the entire operations and all processes from the customers’ point of view.

Step 1: An executive of the company contacts me with specific requirements. Let me give you examples:
– a hotel director approaches me to perform a mystery check of his operations, as he suspects theft or fraud by staff. (as it had turned out as result of my visit, a flaw in their logistics system created a discrepancy)
– or, a Day Spa Manager approaches me as she struggles with positioning her business amongst competition.

Step 2: We agree upon Terms & Conditions. When should I visit, what are most important areas I must pay attention to, what kind of services do you want to be checked, payment etc.

Step 3: I start my Spa Mystery Check with a visit to the spa’s website and the booking of my treatment like any other guest.

Step 4: Actual visit and post purchase experience. I am going to discuss post purchase experience in a different article in more detail soon.

[Step 4+: at this stage, the additional Spa Audit can be added. This customised audit is designed to evaluate the Spas current situation, identify strengths as well as areas for improvement. It includes suggestions for strategic future planning.]

Step 5: I record all my findings in very detailed questionnaires that I can tailor and share upfront. I then analyse findings, and write a report including suggestions.

Step 6: I present findings, report, and suggestions to the client. I do this in writing.

All result data of my mystery checks and audits are property of the client, highly confidential, and never published or released to third parties.

Spa Mystery Checks Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Areas checked

I evaluate a variety of business areas during my Spa Mystery Checks. Here are some examples to give you an idea:

  • Physical facilities – site condition: the hard ware is checked for cleanliness, hygiene, suitability, size, comfort, safety etc.
  • People: includes pre- and post service of the all members of staff, their knowledge, service mentality, technical skills, willingness to help, appearance, uniforms, complaint management stress test, etc.
  • Processes: are the processes in place supporting both, guest and business? are they time consuming, necessary, helpful, is technology supporting the business or hindering? etc.
  • Product: are tangible products and services offered targeted at the desired customer group? product development, what are basic and augmented services, where is the added value, etc.
  • Promotions: includes information, education and communication both with the customer and in-house
  • Price: relates to market share, competition, the spa’s core competencies, guests core needs and demands, added value
  • Place: location of the business, accessibility, operating hours, sales channels, making it easy to spend money

Aims of Spa Mystery Checks

Expert Spa Mystery Checks and Audits are business tools to strengthen the business. They both provide the Spa with validated information. This information is needed to make informed business decisions in all areas of the business as listed above. This includes strategic and financial decisions of course. 

What do we want to achieve with this practise?

spa mystery checks Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Increased Customer Satisfaction

Managers sometimes may not correctly interpret the customer’s expectations in relation to the company’s services. This results in meeting wrong or non existing needs. Only by exceeding guests expectation can customer satisfaction or even customer delight occur. With the consequence of customers turning into loyal ambassadors to the brand or business. 

This is a particularly good business practise when spas are trying to find ways to maintain existing and recruit new customers.

spa mystery checks Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Employee Development

People are the link between a product or service and the consumer, and have a direct and strong impact on the quality perception. 

Mystery Guesting provides real-life and on-ground assessments of key behaviours of employees. This accurate employee observation gives us a valuable report card of different areas. It tells us where the team is strong and where opportunities for improvement lie, where training is needed, how employees interact with people, or what future recruitment needs to be done.

spa mystery checks Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Financial Perfomance

Mystery Guesting helps the business in loss prevention. There are two major areas:

Businesses spend money to communicate with their target group. We call this the ‘Marketing Dollar’. Simplified: how much money do we spend on reaching and driving guests to our spa or hotel, for example through advertising. Businesses want to attract the right customer, at the right time, for the right product, at the right price.

Once this guest has entered our spa, we want to achieve the best possible outcome of a sales. Meaning we want to provide our guest with ALL possible solutions to her problem, not just one. This includes up-selling and cross-selling.

spa mystery checks Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Comparing Experiences

Whether it is one of your own outlets, or your competitors services. 

As a Spa Mystery Guest I can visit several businesses and include direct comparisons.

Neutral, professional, confidential

As a manager, you are proud of your business, follow your strategy, and may have biases towards your team members. As Spa Mystery Guest I look behind your ‘blind spots’ as I do not know your employees and what you think of them. I can provide the real life description on what is actually going on when you are not looking. I give you a truly professional, third party view from a customer’s perspective. This means I put the focus not only on the product or service. But on the customer engaging with the product or service.

Spa Mystery Checks help answer questions such as:

  • How can we increase conversions?
  • What can we do to increase sales, average ticket prices, up-selling, cross-selling?
  • What ways increase customer loyalty, customer retention and recruiting new customers?

Would you like me to perform a Mystery Check on your business? Please send me an email on to discuss the details and your individual requests.