Information Overload

In our digital age, when spas face heightening competition and price erosion, information management isn’t just the mere act of collecting names, email addresses, and credit card numbers. It’s critical to a spa’s success, as it can streamline your business, save you money, and help you gain and retain customers. But the data that can act as a valuable resource can disintegrate into an overwhelming mess if not managed and protected properly. We interviewed some experts at leading software companies to talk about what you need to know—from gathering data, taking the proper security measures, and avoiding list fatigue—without suffering information overload.

Gathering Information

Spas typically use business management software to handle their email lists. Most not only store client information but also offer functions that optimize the retrieved data to help you hone your marketing campaigns and control yield management. The more complete the guest profile, the better the understanding of the spa-goer, which allows you to be more precise when it comes to customer management and better target your marketing initiatives. It works in your spa’s favor to gather client details beyond the essentials, such as allergies, preferences, birthdays, visit notes, interests, and hobbies. “When you add new clients,” says John Harms, founder and CEO of Millennium Systems International, “get a cell phone number and give them a reason to opt into newsletters”—bonus loyalty points or 10 percent off a treatment, for example, as an incentive to sign up.

What else can you do to better manage your guest profiles? Consolidate information throughout the property, whenever possible. “To me, less is more,” says Frank Pitsikalis, founder and CEO of the Toronto-based ResortSuite. “The fact is, the fewer guest profiles you have, the better management you have of your operation. If your property also has fitness and golf operations, it’s easier to have all these things in one database instead of duplicate profiles in multiple systems. An integrated database design will support your entire business, treating it as a whole and not just the parts.” 

Keeping it Secure

With recent high-profile security breaches splashing across the news—Target and Home Depot come to mind—guarding credit card and other sensitive information has become a growing concern among customers. Businesses are now more than ever under pressure to keep this information out of the wrong hands. As a manager or spa owner, the responsibility lies with you to create a culture of good security practices. Does your staff have the proper training to safeguard client information? That means reiterating what may seem obvious—don’t write down confidential information. Also, change passwords, which should consist of varying lengths and characters, frequently. It comes down to spa managers and owners controlling employee access to information systems in relation to the employee’s role, says Tanisha Foster, director of vertical markets at SpaBooker powered by Booker. A reservationist who registers guests should have full access to customer profiles, for example, whereas an esthetician, whose primary role is to provide services, may be privy to only parts of the database relevant to his or her job.

On the software side, take note of the platform’s security capabilities when choosing an information management system, says Foster. It should provide individual log-in for personnel and the ability to track and audit user history. Some systems may even have IP restrictions where client information can be accessed solely on the business premises.

You should also be aware of the company’s Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance level, a universal set of security standards for vendors that accept credit cards. The highest and most stringent controls—Level 1 —applies to businesses with more than six million annual Visa or MasterCard transactions annually. The PCI Data Security Standard stipulates a variety of requirements that fall under six control objectives: Build and maintain a secure network, protect cardholder data, maintain a vulnerability management program, implement strong access control measures, regularly monitor and test networks, and maintain an information security policy.

Additionally, most software companies employ third parties to process payments. These companies—such as Shift4—use advanced technology to encrypt or tokenize data. To that effect, the spa never holds the credit card information, releasing it from liability should a security breach arise. Furthermore, should these data management and software companies be public, says Roger Sholanki, founder and CEO of Toronto-based Book4Time, they are obligated to comply to even more audits, the results of which will then be reported to shareholders. For example, the International Standards for Assurance Engagements 3402 (ISAE) outlines a set of guidelines for business procedures (including security), holding these companies to yet another level of accountability to keep client information safe.

Avoiding List Fatigue

When is more not better? “Engagement is important,” says Pitsikalis. “If you’re doing the spray and pray approach, you’re going to get a lot more customers opting out of marketing.” That’s not to mention lower open and click-through rates. Instead of blasting out emails in a haphazard fashion, smart marketing campaigns call for more targeted actions. “The key is to manage emails purposefully so that the content you’re sending resonates with the subscriber,” says Rick Kawamura, vice president of marketing at LocBox, a San Francisco-based online marketing company specializing in small and local businesses. He recommends sending out emails no more than once a week, on an average of three to four times per month. Also, keep content engaging and varied with options like videos that make people laugh, captioning contests, customer testimonials, and contest giveaways. He also suggests keeping track of birthdays and  anniversary dates and holidays—occasions in which customers spend more than seven times than on any other day. The fact that your spa remembers these milestones—with a special gift or card for example—makes spa-goers feel catered to, increasing their likelihood to return.

Other ways to avoid list fatigue are to use analytics and base your outreach on client behavior. “If you can learn and optimize based on historical data, such as how frequently a customer comes into the facility and which emails are opened, the more you learn from that and can add to your business,” says  Kawamura. In fact, many software programs have options to automate marketing campaigns. For example, if you want to discount an anti-aging facial at your spa, you can choose to send out a blast only to customers in the appropriate age range, or if there’s a special on a particular brand of products, then you can opt to target only past purchasers of the brand or to clients known to buy products. All that’s to say that information management and analysis underscores one thing, says Sholanki, “The customer is a very important asset, from the acquisition to ongoing management to the prospecting of new business.”—Lisa Cheng