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  • michela henke cilenti

Why Selling Enhancements is Central to the Luxury Spa Experience

I had the absolute honor to be part of Verena Lasvigne's, Director and Founder of VLF Spa Consulting Spa & Wellness Talk in February 2022. The clip below gives you 30 mins of the why of selling upsells, ad-ons and enhancements- which ever word you chose to call them by in your spa. It's all about the guest, more pamper in the same minutes. Or is it?

If your preference is to read and process content, like I do, then you will find extracts and takeaways from the interview below too. There are so many elements to engaging deeper and building trust - I really try and stay on topic looking at the psychology behind Selling Enhancements to deepen and create the most memorable guest experience and the vital revenue to follow.

Q: How did you end up in the niche space of emotional intelligence and retailing and up-selling in spa and hospitality?

Even though I am considered a knowledge expert in emotional intelligence and I famously have a very low EQ score which puts me in an advantageous space to empathize with other students who struggle to read themselves and emotion in others. There have been decades of struggles, mostly it felt in the dark, it felt quite aimlessly, before DISC behavioral profile came into my professional life, whilst leading a team rather ungraciously (to put it mildly), in Switzerland.

From that day over 20 years ago, I have made it my mission to fix the struggles for myself, for you and everybody dedicated to the honorable service of the guest.

We have delightful paradoxes in service that have no answer - be authentic, but do not be too personable with guests and be in control of your emotions! How?

It starts with working from a position of positive psychology, knowing and getting really comfortable with your strengths is the first step. Excellence comes when you start building on those strengths. You're at your most powerful when you are giving and supporting your strengths- giving them what they need to thrive.

I discovered something that wasn't always viewed personally or culturally as a strength, but I found out is a super power and a gift. Being multicultural, British born and of Italian decent led to never truly fitting in, in the UK and neither in southern Italy, I was always consciously learning how to. How to belong. I became very comfortable observing and not fitting in. It turned out, that ability to stand back and observe is the first step to deep, authentic engagement- a technique that I share with the teams I have the pleasure to work with.

Connecting human to human, hyper-personalizing every message has ridiculous results which waves and ripples positivity into all spheres of service and work culture.

Last month, a spa team who I have worked with month on month virtually coaching, sold a record of 78% enhanced/upsold/ treatments. 387 treatments delivered and 302 had at least one enhancement added

Q: In a survey conducted by ISPA (2021), 70% of spas surveyed saw an increase in enhancements and retail in 2021? It seems like everything is working as it should, right? or Not?

Interesting statistic isn't it? I love the value and quick insights of the member surveys that ISPA conduct regularly but we need to bear in mind that it is a small sample with possible reporter bias playing into the collected responses too, as we find that we are more likely to share when we have good news, are more engaged in the community and are more likely to participate in the survey than those who feel less positive about their experience or their revenue and operations.

But taking a deeper dive into the results from the retailing survey, we see there seems to have not been much in 2021 in training and development or team training to deepen the guest experience with regard to enhancements and up-sells. So what do I mean, exactly? Well, we know that more than any other time in recent history, consumer decisions are driven by emotion. The whole spa experience is deeply entrenched emotionally and guests are showing with little encouragement (if any) that they are leaving with a little something and likely to add in an enhancement. But we aren't suggesting it! The guests are doing it all by themselves! So we need to talk about this reactive passivity, as we are leaving money on the table and missing the opportunity to frame, elevate and truly enhance this desired and requested deeper emotional experience. These are stretched times and we have to prioritize to operate, but not actively deepening the experience will have a major impact on the way we personalize the guest's journey moving forward.

Q: So what does reframing look like?

Owning and inspiring the guest journey. Individualizing from the initial booking to their arrival and engagement with their therapist. Leaving guests to navigate alone doesn't allow us to flex our expertise and create a relationship that both parties thrive and are predisposed to form. Whether it be a relationship as an expert, a partner or a new friend. Different guests have very diverse emotional needs and reading those and widening our offering is how we match the service to their emotions.

Q: I know you have been working often with spa teams focusing on developing the spa’s results in enhancement sales. Could you share the main obstacles that you have come across on why spas are not maximizing their revenues?

You know every coaching conversation and session starts with teasing what is taking place? Asking what are the barriers? The therapists or front desk team truly know best what stops them and creating a suspended safe environment to talk about it, is not only is great raw data but also prepares themselves for change, saying 'no more! or I’ve had enough'. There is a range but they are mostly emotional reasons that are tied into self esteem, their fears and inherently their non delivery of not selling is either ignored or unexplored. Not maliciously, but just it's not priority and we have a way to avoid attention being drawn to ourselves. But for an outsider, it’s quick to break it up and draw a line in the sand and accelerate the change process. What a relief to unload the baggage. You feel it.

Another reason is that the team through no fault of their own, systematically don't understand the depth and magnitude of the brand and experience with it. What I mean is that they haven't experienced it first hand, enough to be able to use the experience authentically. I would always advocate to truly emerge new team in the brand and guest journey, not only to feel the experience but to create a sense of belonging, inclusion and emersion onboard the team.

Another under discussed, or 'out of mode' factor are the learning styles of people in the hospitality industry- how and when we learn and share knowledge. We do it differently, sometimes much, much slower and sometimes much, much faster. A strength can become a disadvantage without self awareness of the matter. For example: I work with a brilliant spa supervisor who is an 'Influential in the DISC behavioral profile- empowered and motivated- she manages how the team build and gain product knowledge and the enhancements we recommend. Accepting her limits and leaning into her strengths allowed her to adapt and bring her passion into the team. Using her strength allowed her to share an allowable weakness that avoids details and completing tasks, allowing the strength to complete the task and carry the knowledge of the products, as was this case.

Q: Enhancements as their name says, are increasing the benefit of a treatment without adding time. How can a spa make sure that its enhancement menus speak to their guests?

They have to actually speak to the team first. If they don't love it, we have a lot more work to create a working relationship with the enhancement and the therapist. Grass roots input from the start and regular feedback and innovation all the way! If you create that culture as quick as possible then all resistance becomes constructive feedback and much the team become more open to change for the better. With all that positive input, decision making is much more robust and holacratic.

Q: One focus during your coaching sessions with therapists is how to sell enhancements. Could you share a few key strategies that help the therapists to achieve greater results?

For leaders, there are some quick easy wins: get team input, exciting novel emotionally engaging experiences, train the team on their delivery and their verbiage, talk about them all the time in an individualized way. See Verena's blog from her IECSC session in NY on specific tips and advice on enhancement menus.

For therapists look at your revenue data and determine as to why and when does an upsell happen? I work using the technique called appreciative coaching- which means we look at what brings life, what is the heart, the core of your work, your values - when and what is going on when you're at your best? And we do more of that……Accepting what's in front of us and start to live the reality we want, drives change. We just need to identify our own levers. There isn't an ideal time to train, but now is as good as any! Read my blog on why we need to keep engaging the team and supporting their journey to be and become.


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