Creating Rapport with Clients

Last week, I was in Texas working on a project, and had a couple of interesting customer service experiences.  One night, I visited a new resort hotel and spa that had opened this past January.  It's a large facility, 1000+ rooms, with a 27,000 square foot 30+ treatment room spa.  I timed my visit to arrive just before the spa was closing, assuming that they would not be too busy with clients then, and I would not be a distraction.  The spa is nicely situated on the side of the resort, with its own separate dramatic entrance.  It’s a beautiful space, done in soothing earthy colors that are at one with the Texas Hill Country, and all of the finishes were various shades and textures of stone and wood.

I approached the front desk and asked if I could have a tour.  I was given the cursory glimpse of the fitness area, empty, and the spa café, also closed, due to the late hour.  A friendly spa attendant then took over and gave me a thorough tour of the women’s locker room and wet amenities, which were quite lovely, and walked me downstairs to the lounge area.  However, when I asked if I could see a treatment room, I was told that a supervisor would need to be consulted.  So we went back upstairs to the front desk and asked the supervisor if I could see a treatment room.  She looked at her computer for a moment and then answered, no, she couldn’t show me a treatment room.  Just, no, we can’t do that.  Hmmm, they’re all, like, busy?  The décor is a secret?

But okay, whatever, I checked out the retail area and left the spa.  I took a walk into the resort lobby, which was a dramatic soaring space, but with lots of intimate seating areas around fireplaces.  The seating/fireplace theme extended outside, and lots of families and kids were running around enjoying the evening.  I decided to stay there and have a light dinner, and walked into one of the restaurants.  It was not busy, and I was able to be seated outside.  In a few minutes, someone brought me water, but it took a few more minutes until I saw a waiter, probably 5 minutes in total.  I ordered a glass of wine, salad, and appetizer as my entrée.  The salad came about 10 minutes later, still no wine.  Eventually the wine showed up, and then the appetizer.  However they had never cleared away the extra settings at the table.  The food was very good, and the view lovely, which is good, as no one really spoke to me.  When I received the $40 check from the waiter, he handed me a closed pen to sign with.  I pushed back my chair to leave, dropping the pen, and another waiter just watched me while I picked it up.  No goodbye, thanks for coming, nice to have you, etc.  Lovely place, good food, no soul.

The next night, I ventured out to a casual Mexican grill in a busy mall-type shopping area, opposite a huge movie theatre.  This restaurant was also not busy, and I was seated immediately.  Being a single female, restaurants will often try to be more sensitive to where you would like to be seated, and this was no exception.  Happily, I was facing the Celtics game on the bar TV.  The waitress came immediately to see if I had any questions about the menu, and she was jocular and friendly.  I ordered a beer and she suggested I have it “dressed;” turns out that means with lime and salt, what do I know?  I ordered fish tacos with chipotle mayo on the side.  The tacos came quickly, and although the mayo was not on the side, it was not too spicy and the food was quite good.  The waitress checked on me at the right interval, and asked if I wanted another beer.  I told her one was my limit and she joked that she didn’t have the same issue.  I let her know the mayo was not on the side, but it was fine just the same.  She was concerned that the order had not been delivered as she had placed it, and went her way.  When I finished, she inquired about dessert, which I declined.  But a few minutes later, she placed a plate of warm chocolate cake and cinnamon-dusted vanilla ice cream in front of me; when I looked at her in surprise, she whispered “chipotle mayo” and hustled off.  I confess I did eat half of the cake and ice cream, and it was great.  The bill was $14, before tip, and I’ll definitely go back.  It didn’t have a soaring lobby or outdoor fireplaces, but I did feel very comfortable and welcome there.

I’m relating these experiences to remind you of the importance of client rapport in your spa.  I mean, how hard is it to talk to someone?  And it’s free!  I’m not advocating being overly friendly, but making people feel at home is not that complicated, and it doesn’t take a big manual.  It takes staff who are people-oriented and friendly.  I don't blame the spa for having a policy of not showing treatment rooms (although I can't say I support it), but I do think there is a nicer way to explain it than, "no."  Are your clients being made to feel welcome?   Beautiful décor may bring clients to see a spa or restaurant one time, but it doesn’t bring them back a second time, your people do.  Invest wisely!