Setting Spa Standards that WOW

Let me share with you some of my 20 years experience within the business of operating standards in a Spa: conducting standards as an employee, developing, adapting and implementing standards as a Spa Manager, training staff as a Spa Consultant and, last-but-not-least evaluating the perception of Spa services and standards as a customer or a mystery shopper.

It is quite a usual fact that in most existing Spas there are Spa Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) established. SOPs are a manual and/or document that are devised to explain in detail what are the expected behaviour, outcomes and policies within the Spa environment.

Sometimes this format is used to explain and illustrate the HOW of doing a task and its end result. Spa SOPs are used to help ensure consistency in the delivery of the services and the image of your spa, and give existing and new staff a guideline of how to perform and deliver the services.

There are various pre-designed manuals available at Spa business associations and companies that have specialized in creating these documents and as a Spa Manager it is a lot of work, to get all standards personalized, however this will help you succeed in:

•    General policies: mission, organisational structure and Spa offer description

•    Guest service policies and regulations

•    Operational policies, day-to-day, shifts, booking, payment, inventory, orders, etc.

•    Set-up of all areas, cleaning, laundry, housekeeping, maintenance, hygiene

So what are some “special standards” that you should consider?

Service experience

Think about the last time you received great customer service. You probably expressed your satisfaction to others by describing it as “at that place I was impressed by their service!” But what you are most likely talking about is the overall experience and emotions, as nothing is evaluated and kept in mind rather than positive feelings that made you happy – “It was sooooo great!”

Many hotels and spas claim to provide good customer service, but that doesn’t mean that their customers are having good experiences and keeping the WOW effect in mind.

Customer experience includes customer’s perception of the Spa. So have you ever thought about what makes the difference, what is the reason for a WOW experience?

Within seconds, you can create a magical moment, a moment of truth in the interaction with your customer. First of all, recognise the client, get eye contact, smile, and let them feel you are attentive at this special moment. Nothing is more frustrating than arriving at the Spa reception and seeing the Receptionist occupied with the computer or using ignorant body language.

As a Spa Manager you should clearly communicate and train your employees to understand what it means to have only one chance for this magical moment. Attentiveness creates loyalty with clients, they will be thankful to become ambassadors for your Spa. Never ever lose a customer.

In a speech in South Africa in 1890 Mahatma Gandhi said:

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

I recommend you do brainstorming with your staff and describe within your Spa standards the following points:

•    Standards for customer experience – create a magical moment

•    Recognise your guests

•    Communicate effectively pay attention to the customer and his / her needs

•    Provide individual service


Regardless of whatever aspects of your business you get right, if you don’t have the right employees, your Spa will never do as well as it could. In fact, there’s no asset more valuable than your employees for a long-term growth of your business.

People, passion, performance

If you like what you do, you will be more proactive, so I would say passion for the job you do is an important part of your satisfaction as a whole.

As a Spa Manager you hire staff who have good working skills and all necessary education for the position. However, if you have set up good technical standards for your services, you can train them on that, but passion and real talent to perform are not written in school certificates. You have to recognize the shine in the eye of the applicant, if you listen to what they think they could “bring” to your spa, and how you could support them to do meaningful work with the right balance, giving feedback and the sense of togetherness between colleagues and the manager.

WOW achieved through motivation:

Establish a talent-oriented Spa team and maximise its effectiveness. Emotionalise your brand through your employees and thus lead your company to the top. Create the streamlined processes through continuous communication, feedback and support; this will maximise your profit.

Your Spa standard manual should be divided in parts (e.g. Spa reception, Therapists, Assistants, Fitness, Maintenance, Housekeeping…) and one important part is the management chapter. You should include the following standards:

•    Staff duties and job descriptions (including performance expectations)

•    Staff hiring procedure (consider finding talents!)

•    Skills qualification process (manage the employees knowledge and motivation)

•    Performance measurements (to track employee performance within given time)

Ambience and Set-up

A Spa must be kept impeccably clean to ensure no transfer of skin conditions from one client to another. You should communicate to your customers that you are proud of your obsession with cleanliness!

  • All visitors are asked to remove their outdoor shoes at the front entrance and slippers are provided.
  • The floors are all hard surfaces, which are washed and disinfected on a daily basis.
  • We dust regularly, so that clients with allergies and sensitivities are protected.
  • Sheets used on the massage table and other spa linens are changed after every use and are washed with environmentally friendly detergents on a sanitary cycle.
  • All instruments are sprayed with alcohol after each client, scrubbed with (name xx bacterial remover), soaked in (name yy sterilization liquid) for 15 minutes, rinsed, dried and placed in an autoclave for sterilization. xx and yy are disinfectants, while an autoclave is a small ‘oven’ used in hospitals, labs and other sterile facilities for ensuring that all viruses, bacteria and funguses are destroyed. Once sterile, our instruments are sealed in a protective pouch which is only unsealed for the time used with every client.
  • If there is any aspect of Spa hygiene that we haven’t covered please feel free to ask about it. It is important for us that you feel totally comfortable throughout your visit to our Spa.

Secondly, consider the ambience at your Spa, including light scenes, room temperature, music, noise prevention and smells.

The clearer you communicate all aspects to your team, the better they will understand and apply these standards, and think about every little detail. Make photos of the areas and update on a regular basis, as through seasonal changes the ambience needs to be adapted.

Example of how to describe details:

Spa Essence

o    Reception area use seasonal spa signature aroma scent.

o    All changing areas lemongrass / mint essential oil

o    Treatment rooms and relaxation area have spa signature aroma scent.

o    Seasonal essential oil is used on all cold/hot towels (Orange – Winter, Mint- Summer)

o    The receptionists/attendants ensure the essences are burned constantly in reception, relaxation areas. Each therapist is responsible for burning spa signature scent in the respective treatment room.

o    No more than 3 drops of essential oil shall be used in the aroma burner.


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