Overcoming the Challenging Aspects of Working in a Spa

Coping with the demands of high profile or VIP clientele

As you have most likely already worked out, within a spa environment you tend to be treating a slightly different type of clientele. A spa is possibly more high profile than a high street salon and many VIP clients choose these retreats due to their exclusivity and luxury. Alongside this they would hope to not be so ‘bothered’ if they are at a more secluded location.

However much we value these clients and they can give your spa and business extremely good press exposure, these clients can sometimes be our most demanding and most challenging. They will expect 5 star treatment at all times and may have some slightly unusual requests.

An example of such (names will not be mentioned as you must remember your client confidentiality!) would be a particular client who asked for the room to be an exact temperature, they would bring their own towels for the body massage and wanted pomegranate juice in the room before their treatment started.

Now although these are not absurd requests it can sometimes put pressure on yourself to remember these details, especially within a busy working day.

At the end of the day you know as a therapist that you provide an excellent quality service and treatment.  Maintain this standard and professionalism in a friendly manner throughout with any of your clients and they will generally be happy with whatever service you provide.

Client Complaints

This leads nicely on to dealing with client complaints. Now generally it will be your front of house or management staff that will deal with this, however if these complaints happen during a treatment there is a typical protocol that you can run through yourself.

Listen to the clients complaintIf fixable, such as not enough pressure during the massage, the room being too cold, the hallway being too noisy. Then adapt your treatment to maintain the clients comfort.

If the client has received all of the treatment and then complained to you or the complaint is not easily fixed then ALWAYS in a professional manner explain that you will go and contact your manager and ask them to come and talk to them to resolve this.

What you must remember is that your client is paying for this 5 star treatment so as petty or unreasonable as their requests or complaints may seem and as much of a ‘bad day’ you may be having, you must stay professional and positive.

It is very difficult to not take complaints personally and let them ‘get you down’ but every therapist will receive complaints at some point during their career. Some of these you can brush away such as a client complaining that they have waited 1 minute longer than their appointment time (which can happen).  However more personal complaints regarding your treatment technique can really affect your confidence. Do try to turn these into a ‘learning experience’ and improve on these factors for future treatments as they may be quite valid.                                                                

Dealing with tiredness or muscle strain

Being a Spa Therapist is a very active and physical job role. You can be rushing from room to room to set-up for treatments alongside the actual physicality of the treatments which are generally a lot of massage in this environment. You could have as many as 8 massages in a day!

When you trained as a therapist you would have been shown how to exercise and strengthen your hands, wrists and finger joints.  This is so important to prevent repetitive muscle strain (a condition that affects many therapists due to the repetitive massage actions).

Other good tips are rinsing your hands and wrists in cool water after a massage along with taking a supplement such as ‘cod liver oil’ to strengthen joints.

Not all treatments within a spa are performed standing up; when sitting and standing make sure your posture is correct and that you have suitable seating for the treatment you are performing. Do not twist or strain your back and if picking anything heavy up, even towels from the floor ensure you bend your knees keeping your back straight and your feet flat to the floor.

Being pregnant and being a therapist can greatly increase strain. Your manager should generally reduce the number of massages you do and towards the end of your pregnancy you will most likely stop these altogether and be given more of a receptionist’s role. You may also just perform limited treatments with more breaks in between.

Tiredness is a given in any physical job, however we all know that a good night’s sleep and good fuel for our bodies will keep this tiredness at bay.  This can be slightly difficult if you are working the day after the work Christmas party!

Maintaining professionalism with male clientele

Within a spa you are much more likely to have to deal with male clients. 90% of which are perfectly fine and are exactly the same as treating a female. When I first started treating male clients I was slightly apprehensive (and no it wasn’t to do with massaging a hairy back!)

Usually with a spa your clients will be provided with dressing gowns, some of your clients will wear bathing suits or underwear underneath, many will be naked (even if asked not to be!)

Most of the time you will leave your room, asking your client to make themselves comfortable underneath the towels so this will not be an issue. In my experience however, some men get this renewed confidence and I would like to prepare you for the fact that sometimes they will just whip off their dressing gown in front of you, whilst naked and get straight underneath the towel!

I have also had a male client that once I had knocked on the treatment room door (always knock) they have been lying face down on the couch, naked bottom in full view.  How to deal with this? It is completely at your discretion, personally I have always firmly and professionally explained that it is not the usual way that the client undresses whilst you are in the room, so they know for next time.

In the second instance explain that you did ask them to lie underneath the towel and that you will now cover them over. Unfortunately some people will be looking for a reaction from you, if at any point before, after or during the treatment you are made to feel uncomfortable or at risk, ALWAYS explain that you are leaving the room, ask them to get dressed and go to seek advice from a manager as inappropriate behaviour is not acceptable.

This could include if a male or female tries to touch you inappropriately or even says something suggestive. Many clients male and female are just very comfortable with their bodies so it is important to stay professional and not over-react, however your safety and confidence is paramount, and you should never be put in a situation that you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable with. Do remember though, most of your male clientele are just there to enjoy a relaxing treatment so do not generalise.

Possible hygiene issues that may arise

Within the spa workplace you will be dealing with lots of ‘bodies’. Some may be very hygienically clean and some……..maybe not.  I have had some clients with extremely bad body odour that you can smell as soon as you enter the room. Unfortunately due to the discretion and professionalism of our job when performing a body massage or treatment you may just have to ‘grin and bear it’.

Some body treatments will require the client to shower before or during the treatment which is a blessing.  However asking your client to shower before their massage would probably confuse and embarrass them, as they may not have realised they have an issue. Little tips can include:

  • A couple of dots of aromatherapy oil underneath your nose to inhale during the treatment.
  • Maybe picking the oil or product that has a slightly stronger fragrance to overpower the stench slightly.
  • Many of your clients may have come straight from work so it could just be their feet that have a not so pleasant scent.  Hot mitts with a splash of body oil or fragrance can be subtle but also very relaxing for your client.
  • Intimate waxing can always be a sensitive subject.  Again it is important not to embarrass your client.  So I find that providing wet wipes for ALL of your clients to use while they get ready for you, saves on you having to individually ask a client once you have entered the room which would humiliate them.

The main points to remember are although it is unpleasant to deal with poor personal hygiene, some clients are unaware of this (I know sometimes this doesn’t seem possible!) Sometimes there are some conditions that may be out of their control, so sensitivity and professionalism is key at all times.

Colleague conflict and confrontation

Now as we all know within a work place you may be working in a large but close knit team. It is not human nature for everyone to ‘get on’ all of the time and work pressures can sometimes add to this strain.

Management should always be your first port of call for any colleague issues that cannot be resolved personally and quietly.  These should most definitely not be resolved in front of any clients

You will come across challenges in any career you choose, but there are always ways to overcome these challenges, and maintain a peaceful and serene working environment.


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