Don’t confuse your spa’s customer service with your customer experience

Customer service vs customer experience

Your spa’s customer service and customer experience are two different things. Do you know how to tell them apart?

By David Avrin, CSP

Choices. The array of available spa services today is staggering — and that’s good for clients. From the immersive experience offered by all-inclusive destination resorts, to asking your spouse or partner to help you rub a knot out of your shoulder on the living room couch, options abound. So, how do you become the best choice in a sea of good choices when salon and spa treatments are still perceived as a “get-to” rather than a “have to”?

Too many in the industry still fall back on the tried-and-true “features and benefits” marketing model, touting the latest wrap or scrub. But you have to be living under a hot stone to not recognize that customer experience is the new competitive advantage. When so many competitors offer much of the same services and amenities, how you deliver your services, has become as important as what you offer.

Customer experience vs. customer service

As “customer experience” has become the new buzz word across a variety of industries, there is a danger in confusing it with customer service. Here’s the truth: we’ve been talking about customer service for a generation. People either get it, or they don’t. Management makes it an organizational priority, or they don’t. Customer service in overly simplistic terms, is showing that you care about your customers; delivering service with a smile and keeping a positive attitude. All very important. But it is really nothing more than how our people behave when engaging with our customers, clients and prospects.

Customer experience, by contrast, is how they receive and perceive it felt doing business with us. Were you easy to reach, simple to schedule, accommodating of special requests and seamless in your delivery and follow-up? It doesn’t mean that every encounter has to be a “Wow” experience, but it does need to be free of friction, intuitive and easy.

In terms of deliverables, spa services have a unique menu of non-negotiables. Unlike other transactions like car repair, grocery shopping, and paying your mortgage, spa services are expected to be relaxing and rejuvenating, and to make you look and feel better than when you came in.

It’s your people who make all the difference

Here is the hard truth, however: none of your amenities deliver those results — your people do. This isn’t pithy motivation. It’s an important understanding of why your customers and clients come to you and why they come back. And it’s not because of your amenities.

Your clients will judge the value of your services based on how it was delivered and received. Customer service has your people greeting them with a smile. Customer experience has your customers feeling understood and accommodated, and that their time is respected. Your hot stones don’t understand your customer’s stressful day, but your aesthetician or massage therapist should. Your seaweed wrap can’t accommodate a client with skin sensitivities, but your front desk staff can schedule an alternative treatment with an intuitive staffer. And your PPD-free hair color has no ability to send an automatic appointment confirmation to a busy mom, but your technology can.

Don’t expect the marketplace to remember which spa or salon carries which product or offers specific amenities. Only your current clients might, but you can build a reputation and brand (which are essentially the same thing) based on being the easiest to do business with, and having the most accommodating and sensitive team and the most flexible schedule policies.

I’m not suggesting that the amenities are unimportant or that service with a smile is passé. But I am saying that people return to salons and spas when they feel comforted and connected — and objects and lotions don’t do that. People do.

Clients spend discretionary dollars for one simple reason: because they want to. Your job is to make them want to do business with you. It is the experience they receive, and your reputation for delivering it, that makes the biggest impact. Jennifer has a bigger impact on your clients than the sugar in the foot scrub. Buy the scrub, but train Jennifer.


David Avrin Customer service vs Customer experienceDavid Avrin, CSP is a popular and entertaining keynote speaker and consultant on Customer Experience and Strategic Marketing. His brand new book: Why Customers Leave (and How to Win Them Back) has been named by Forbes as one of the 7 Business Book Entrepreneurs Need to Read.” Learn more about David Avrin and watch a preview at