Pat Makozak, Spa Director at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea says unscripted moments make the best guest experiences.
The Four Seasons Resort Wailea Maui is a world-renowned five-star luxury resort in the town of Wailea, known for exceptional service and guest experience – not to mention a gorgeous setting.
At Four Seasons Resort Wailea Maui visitors enjoy customized guest journeys in the most spacious accommodations on the island of Maui.
Since 2004, Pat Makozak, has been Senior Spa Director in a wellness space that is an integral part of that journey. Her expertise lies in creating magical experiences that exceed expectations and guide guests toward relief and comfort.
Interestingly, her career didn’t begin in hospitality but as an actress. During that time she discovered that the physicality of acting has the power to release deeply stored emotions and memories, as well as the revelations that accompany them – and this drove an interest in massage therapy.
We’ll let Ms. Makozak tell the rest. We spoke with her about guest experience, creativity, and what she loves about her job.
Can you talk about your career trajectory and how you came to be doing what you are today?
I studied Theatre at NYU, had some luck after graduating, then moved to LA to pursue film and television. But, by that time I was 30 and getting work was slim. I also began to want some items in my life, like furniture, and so started to look at other career options.
I had been fascinated by seeing the range of emotion that a human being could go through by simply performing the movement and vocalization exercises I experienced as part of my acting training. Witnessing a dearth of emotion trapped in the body that, if released, would result in one being emotionally and physically better off, led me to massage school.
After school I was fortunate to connect with a doctor in Beverly Hills who sent me his celebrity clientele to massage. I was managing residential real-estate as well at the time.
I heard that the spa director was leaving the Peninsula Hotel and I knew the General Manager there. I asked the GM to consider me. He was aware that I had a massage practice but did not realize all that I had to oversee in managing residential real estate. I wanted to transition from performing wellness experiences to managing them for others, and he gave me a shot.
I didn’t understand how momentous it was for me to be given that kind of an opportunity. It was a five-star hotel, and a huge learning curve, but I absolutely loved it.
From there, I came to the Four Seasons Maui and have been here for 17 years.
What are some of the things your role entails?
As a regional director I oversee five properties in Hawaii and Bora Bora. I assist the spa directors, helping to drive business and make creative decisions.
I enjoy being able to guide other spa directors along their own journey, whether they’re new to the business or new to our company.
What’s an example of a creative decision in a spa?
One property I manage is in a very isolated small community. It’s a challenge to find employees and we were always trying to import people to work at the hotel and spa without a lot of success. So, we connected with a massage school here on Maui, and they very creatively found some space to set up a massage school at the property.
There’s not a lot of opportunity on that island except for the tourist industry and most of the young people were leaving. This gave those getting out of high school an opportunity to stay. It was a good idea but it took the right spa director to really commit to it and she was able to graduate 10 people in her first year of overseeing the program. At least seven of those ended up working as massage therapists in the spa.
Another example is, many years ago, we tried sending a massage therapist out to the pool to see how that would go. The area can get crowded and, once the guest gets the chair they want, they don’t want to move. We thought sending the therapist to the guests in their lounge chairs might have an appeal. And it certainly did. To this day we generally have three to four therapists on the pool deck adding an extra bit of relief and luxury. It’s an $800k a year revenue source for us with absolutely no overhead.
We also created enhancements to allow therapists to showcase the spa’s available products by including them in the treatments. Therapists are not necessarily natural salespeople, so this allowed them to incorporate product sales without having to be overly sales driven.
Can you talk more about guiding therapists who are not natural salespeople?
I think therapists look at this differently from estheticians. Estheticians are more sales oriented and want to sell the products. That’s not really the motivating factor for therapists. Therapists consider themselves healers and they’re not comfortable with sales. It took a lot of trial and error to understand how to best reach them and we are still refining this training.
Our vendors were generous to send us complimentary product and we had the leads do a demo of each one of the enhancements, then had the teams perform them on each other, so they could see how it feels. We coached them to choose the enhancements that they felt would really benefit the guests and introduce it that way.
In the beginning, they were adding about 20% enhancement sales to their treatment sales. Then we added the enhancement sales to our existing seniority point system that allows us to rank our booking order, and that became very important to them. They went from selling 20% to selling 40%. We have found that for the few who are natural sales people, are also the best trainers. They speak the same language as the team and bring about the best results with their co-workers.
What makes a great luxury guest experience?
The best experience is intuitive. It takes a certain kind of individual to be aware and present, to listen, and to understand what the guest needs before the guest even need knows they need it.
It’s a memorable surprise when you’re offered something or given the chance to experience something that is there just for you. It’s those unscripted moments when a guest sees that somebody has thoughtfully picked up on something they’ve said and created something just for them.
What are you excited about?
Even though this pandemic has been challenging in so many ways, it has added to the wellness focus in a huge way that I don’t think anybody could have ever anticipated. I’m very pleased about this larger sense of awareness to one’s own health.
We recently partnered with a revolutionary health optimization center called Next|Health to create a program of exclusive, tailor-made offerings for travellers seeking an upgraded spa experience. Guests now have access to amazing, cutting edge options like Next-Level NAD+ IV, customized IV therapy treatments, vitamin shots, and biomarker testing. They can give you all kinds of information about what’s going on with your health. They do stem cell therapy, ozone therapy, cryotherapy. It’s amazing that we found them. What they offer makes it possible for people to take our health back into our own hands.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
It’s hard for me to narrow it down, but one of the things that brings me a lot of joy is seeing my staff, that may have had very little “wellness” exposure, begin to alter their lifestyles based on their experience of the spa environment. That is very gratifying.
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Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.