Everyone’s talking about
Customised treatments

More spas are offering bespoke treatments, but how can brands protect quality without standard operating procedures? And at what point do you let a therapist freestyle? Katie Barnes asks the industry

By Katie Barnes | Published in Spa Business 2015 issue 4


A greater need for differentiation in the market and consumers demanding more effective results from their spa experience has led to a growing trend in personalised therapies in the global spa industry. At the start of their customised journey, clients are asked to identify skincare concerns or particular parts of the body they’d like their therapist to focus on – or simply how they’d like to feel after their treatment: relaxed, balanced or re-energised.

The extent to which facilities take this bespoke approach differs. Some might simply offer variations of a set treatment, such as switching a calming lavender essential oil for a zesty, awakening one depending on the client’s needs. Or they might allow guests to mix and match services on the menu. While others go the whole hog – blocking out a set time and letting therapists work their magic for a truly tailor-made experience.

It’s a great idea. Who wouldn’t want a personalised approach? After all, scripted, robotic treatments, where it feels as if the therapist is simply going through the motions, are far from appealing. But at what point should spa operators decide to let their employees freestyle?

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are put in place for quality control, consistency and safety purposes – especially when spa brands operate in multiple locations around the world. Start changing them and you risk upsetting loyal customers who like what they know, or administering a substandard service or, at worse, injuring people.

There are other operational considerations too. If a therapist gets over-zealous with product, customisation becomes a cost-control problem. Plus, given that it’s difficult to find good quality therapists, it’s likely that employees will need days, weeks or even months of extra training before they’re given free reign.

So while it sounds good on paper – especially the marketing collateral kind – do the benefits of offering customised treatments outweigh the practical challenges? We canvass industry opinion.



Jeremy McCarthy Group director of spa Mandarin Oriental

 

Jeremy McCarthy
 

Mandarin Oriental was ahead of its time when it started offering customised Time Rituals around 10 years ago. Guests can reserve a 2- or a 3-hour window and the experience is completely customised from there. The treatment is usually better because their journey is programmed based on how they are feeling at the time of their appointment and with the advice of their expert therapist.

The role of the therapist in personalised treatments should not be underestimated. To me, one of the secrets to the success of the Time Ritual is that the therapist is able to veer away from structured protocols and practice their ‘art’ in an intuitive way.

Today, personalised treatments are becoming more mainstream and our approach is to think about how we go from being personalised to being more ‘personal’. Personal means we not only consider the unique needs of each individual guest, but we also consider the unique passions and skills of each therapist. The best spa experience comes when we can match the best of what an individual therapist has to offer with the specific needs of a guest.

Unlike many spas, our goal is not consistency, but quality. And we think the best quality comes when we recognise, celebrate and even cultivate the diversity on our teams. This is not easy, as it means we have to look at our teams of therapists as groups of unique experts, each of whom has their own style, their own skillsets and their own passions. But by giving our therapists a chance to specialise and improvise along these lines, we help them become artists, constantly honing their craft and delivering uniquely tailored experiences to our guests.

McCarthy oversees 30 facilities for Mandarin Oriental globally. Prior to joining the group in 2014, he headed up spa operations at Starwood for eight years.

Details: www.mandarinoriental.com




Mike Wallace Spa Director & Brand Manager Danubius Hotels Group

 

Mike Wallace
 

Customised treatments are a niche service and I can see that they would be an excellent differentiator for luxury spas to meet the needs of high-end customers. But they’re not suitable for every spa. While Danubius recognises that the personal touch is a vital part of any experience, we cater for large volumes of guests on packages and are yet to consider introducing tailored treatments.

In our busiest spa we deliver up to 4,000 treatments a day. It’s important for us to know as much as possible about our projected treatments so we can schedule our staff and facilities accordingly.

For spas that want to offer tailored treatments, I could foresee services which incorporate baths or multifunctional equipment being a major obstacle. These would have to be freely available at all times or just not included in the customised offer. And you’d need adaptable treatment rooms.

There would also be challenges in configuring spa software, especially in terms of scheduling as it’s difficult to preplan parameters such as treatment room, therapist and equipment availability with customised treatments.

Product usage can become an issue with bespoke approaches too. We have to ensure our prices stay competitive and, with the exception of facials and cosmetic treatments, we cannot afford to offer customised treatments in partnership with an international product line where they try to push up their product usage. Instead we use cheaper, local products which enable us to control the amount used and protect our profit margins. But, on the flip side, this does mean that we have to rely solely on the therapist’s experience and our own internal training and protocols.

It should be pointed out that it’s simply not realistic to be 100 per cent certain that all therapists stick to all standards all of the time. Mystery shops and guest feedback can help you keep track, but the therapist’s style/experience/professionalism will impact even the tightest of scripted treatments, customised or not.

For spas that do offer customised approaches, the real work would be in putting together the concept – deciding what treatments can be individualised, what parts can be shortened and lengthened, which services can be integrated or upgraded and at what point a therapist can ‘break off’ and make an adaptation.

Delivering personalised treatments is certainly not for every therapist. It requires considerable experience, diversity and, most importantly, sophisticated communication skills to really tune in and connect with the guest. For therapists who do have the capability, however, I can see that giving them the freedom to adapt their skills to the guest’s wishes would definitely be motivating.

Wallace has worked for European hotel chain Danubius for 16 years and oversees 18 spas in his current role.

Details: www.danubius.com


"It’s simply not realistic to be 100 per cent certain that all therapists stick to all standards all of the time... their style and experience will impact even the tightest of scripted treatments, customised or not"



Khursheed Irani Global training & development director Subtle Energies

 

Khursheed Irani
 

We adapt our sequences and products depending on the client’s presenting condition and their genetic constitution (body type). Variations are taught to therapists for alternative situations/conditions, however, in order for the therapy to be effective these are still set around strict protocols. We do not allow for general freestyling as we need to provide a certain level of consistency to guarantee the results that we base our reputation on.

Fully customised treatments make it difficult to audit a service because there are no criteria to test them against. The client can also keep requesting techniques that are not always beneficial for their body.

While some believe a scripted treatment might feel as though a therapist is simply going through the motions, we disagree. A strict protocol and well-designed therapy, with intent behind every move, could produce the opposite if it’s designed as a journey with techniques which can engage guests at each stage. Plus a freestyle treatment doesn’t mean you’ll get a unique experience – especially if the therapist falls into the habit of using their favourite methods and repeating them without intent.

Our main concern with fully customised treatments is that it really does depend on the therapist’s understanding, qualifications and experience.

When we first launched, spas were hungry for in-depth training, but soon realised that this requires time. We ourselves have learned from this and have adapted our training so it’s progressive and more commercially viable. For example, our original signature massage Abhyang Fusion was 2.5 hours long and took up to seven days to teach in a spa environment. We recently introduced a new massage based on this which is still results-orientated but only takes two days to learn. The treatment has been designed to be the base of the Abhyang Fusion so spas which wish to take on the more advanced learning can do so in less days.

Overall, do the benefits of offering fully customised treatments outweigh the practical challenges? It really does depend on the set-up and the style of spa. If the spa’s goal is wellness then they would benefit from set sequences which allow a certain level of customisation, because they’re effective in delivering consistent results with a diverse therapist team who have varying skill levels.

Subtle Energies supplies products and treatments to top spas worldwide. Irani has been a clinical practitioner for the company for 17 years and in her current position for six years.

Details: www.subtleenergies.com.au




Kathryn Moore Group director of spa – Asia MSpa International

 

Kathryn Moore
 

If you’re not offering unique treatments in Asia people don’t spend money. Especially in places like Thailand or Indonesia, where you can get a massage down the street for US$10; or where you’re competing with other resort experiences such as a diving trip or cooking classes. So my tactic is to create signature treatments that you can’t get anywhere else; and to also offer a Bespoke Spa Treatment which we’ve implemented in the last 18 months. Before that, all of our services were scripted.

The Bespoke Spa Treatment is a personalised body massage based on a consultation which takes into account areas a client wants to focus on, preferred techniques and health and safety issues. But we can’t go to the extent of a salon in the UK or Australia where clients can request any specific technique/therapy because some therapists aren’t formally trained, we educate them in-house and can only expect a certain level of capability.

Some employees are amazing therapists. Our spa specialists hold formal beauty therapy diplomas and are highly trained in everything from body treatments, massage, facials, anatomy & physiology, theory, waxing, mani/pedi etc. But others will only ever be able to follow A-Z steps, especially when English is their second language. They could suggest something in response to a basic request such as a sore back or neck, but if you get more technical they get lost.

We’d only offer bespoke treatments in a property where we’re confident that a therapist is able to carry out a detailed consultation well, truly understand the guest’s needs and tailor a therapy accordingly. So far we’ve been able to add it to the menu in half of our properties.

But as our teams focus on driving signature treatments, receptionists might not feel comfortable explaining what a bespoke therapy is, while others don’t want to carry out an in-depth consultation. All of this can impact on the take-up/bookings. That said bespoke treatments do seem to be popular and when someone spends US$300 on a treatment, they expect something personalised.

Moore has worked at MSpa, the spa management arm of Minor Hotels, since 2009 and oversees 60 facilities.

Details: www.mspa-international.com


"For the therapy to be effective, our treatments are set around strict protocols. We do not allow for general freestyling as we need to provide a certain level of consistency to guarantee the results that we base our reputation on"



CG Funk Vice president of industry relations Massage Envy Spa

 

CG Funk
 

In our first years, Massage Envy’s only menu item was customised massage. Massage education and licensing in the US varies greatly. All therapists have their own unique approach and this can make it difficult to promote specific modalities as there are very few that they’ve all been trained in.

We took the customised approach early on in order to not only allow our therapists freedom in their design of a massage but also to be able to offer our clients a massage service that uniquely addresses their specific needs and requests.

Massage Envy’s facials are a different story. When we developed these services with Murad, we determined the best strategy would be to have consistent protocols to allow us to offer the safest, most therapeutically effective and cost-efficient services while still using highly effective and professional products. In addition, we now have Enhanced Therapy add-on treatments for massage to address conditions such as chronic pain, insomnia and stress and these do have set protocols.

The only way to ensure therapists adhere to these protocols is constant training and auditing. We have a very robust training department and a multitude of educational programmes.

The way to manage health and safety requirements for customised services is to have strong guidelines to work within. These might include product usage, precautions and contraindication information, sanitation and product care. When higher therapeutic products are used, training needs to be ramped up. Our procedures are meant to give therapists parameters and within those boundaries they still have much freedom to get creative and to design a beautiful massage.

Do the benefits of offering customised treatments outweigh the practical challenges? It depends on how the spa organisation works. If they have adequate training systems, if their operations have set and detailed policies and procedures and if they have experienced enough therapists to handle the responsibility then I would say yes.

There are now more than 1,000 Massage Envy Spa franchises in the US. Funk has worked for the firm for 10 years and was a massage trainer for over 15 years before that.

Details: www.massageenvy.com




Shelley Hepburn Spa director Bulgari Hotel, London

 

Shelley Hepburn
 

We’ve always offered customised treatments with ESPA, but in our second year we began introducing new/specialised brands which enable us to mix and match and tailor services even more. We refresh the menu every three to six months and currently offer products and treatments by Georgia Louise, a celebrity facialist; high-end anti-ageing line Swiss Perfection; and cosmeceutical brand iS Clinical.

Our facials are especially customised because we look at skin conditions and lifestyle and have advanced machines for LED, radiofrequency and cryo facials.

The main thing for us is to make sure all therapists are really skilful. Every product house and machine has it’s own specific guidelines so the basics are covered. But we combine those protocols and give therapists free rein on what to do depending on the client’s needs.

To do this, you have to really trust and train your therapists. We look for level 3 NVQ [the UK’s highest national vocational qualification] so they’re already competent in galvanics and more technical equipment. Then when staff start with us, they automatically train at ESPA for two weeks and within six months we start to get technical and cover more advanced treatments such as mesotherapy which is taught by a doctor. The product houses offer a week’s course and refreshers, and in-house each therapist sets aside at least two to four hours a week for education.

We have six to eight girls who specialise in facials and they’re trade tested and mystery shopped to within an inch of their life to ensure standards are met. We also monitor guest feedback and repeat custom – if they’re not hitting the numbers we know it’s time to investigate.

Nothing is simple when you offer customised treatments – we’re not booking back-to-back straightforward services. It takes a lot of co-ordination behind the scenes to make sure we have the right information about clients in advance and that we have the right therapists and machines available.

But because we’re not necessarily focused on volume, schedules are a bit more flexible and customisation works well for us. Seventy per cent of our clients are repeats and they’re booking courses. Because we offer more technical treatments, profit margins are higher also: our facials range from £140-£950 an hour. So although it takes a lot more organising, it’s worth every penny.

Hepburn has 19 years’ experience in the UK spa industry and has been at the Bulgari Spa in London since its opening in 2012.

Details: www.bulgarihotels.com


"Nothing is simple when you offer customised treatments – we’re not booking back-to-back straightforward services... Although it takes a lot more organising, it’s worth every penny"



Katie Barnes is the managing editor of Spa Business magazine

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SpaBusinessKB

 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2015 issue 4

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Customised treatments

Everyone’s talking about

Customised treatments


More spas are offering bespoke treatments, but how can brands protect quality without standard operating procedures? And at what point do you let a therapist freestyle? Katie Barnes asks the industry

Katie Barnes, Spa Business
Bulgari Spa: it’s not easy to offer customised treatments, but it’s worth it

A greater need for differentiation in the market and consumers demanding more effective results from their spa experience has led to a growing trend in personalised therapies in the global spa industry. At the start of their customised journey, clients are asked to identify skincare concerns or particular parts of the body they’d like their therapist to focus on – or simply how they’d like to feel after their treatment: relaxed, balanced or re-energised.

The extent to which facilities take this bespoke approach differs. Some might simply offer variations of a set treatment, such as switching a calming lavender essential oil for a zesty, awakening one depending on the client’s needs. Or they might allow guests to mix and match services on the menu. While others go the whole hog – blocking out a set time and letting therapists work their magic for a truly tailor-made experience.

It’s a great idea. Who wouldn’t want a personalised approach? After all, scripted, robotic treatments, where it feels as if the therapist is simply going through the motions, are far from appealing. But at what point should spa operators decide to let their employees freestyle?

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are put in place for quality control, consistency and safety purposes – especially when spa brands operate in multiple locations around the world. Start changing them and you risk upsetting loyal customers who like what they know, or administering a substandard service or, at worse, injuring people.

There are other operational considerations too. If a therapist gets over-zealous with product, customisation becomes a cost-control problem. Plus, given that it’s difficult to find good quality therapists, it’s likely that employees will need days, weeks or even months of extra training before they’re given free reign.

So while it sounds good on paper – especially the marketing collateral kind – do the benefits of offering customised treatments outweigh the practical challenges? We canvass industry opinion.



Jeremy McCarthy Group director of spa Mandarin Oriental

 

Jeremy McCarthy
 

Mandarin Oriental was ahead of its time when it started offering customised Time Rituals around 10 years ago. Guests can reserve a 2- or a 3-hour window and the experience is completely customised from there. The treatment is usually better because their journey is programmed based on how they are feeling at the time of their appointment and with the advice of their expert therapist.

The role of the therapist in personalised treatments should not be underestimated. To me, one of the secrets to the success of the Time Ritual is that the therapist is able to veer away from structured protocols and practice their ‘art’ in an intuitive way.

Today, personalised treatments are becoming more mainstream and our approach is to think about how we go from being personalised to being more ‘personal’. Personal means we not only consider the unique needs of each individual guest, but we also consider the unique passions and skills of each therapist. The best spa experience comes when we can match the best of what an individual therapist has to offer with the specific needs of a guest.

Unlike many spas, our goal is not consistency, but quality. And we think the best quality comes when we recognise, celebrate and even cultivate the diversity on our teams. This is not easy, as it means we have to look at our teams of therapists as groups of unique experts, each of whom has their own style, their own skillsets and their own passions. But by giving our therapists a chance to specialise and improvise along these lines, we help them become artists, constantly honing their craft and delivering uniquely tailored experiences to our guests.

McCarthy oversees 30 facilities for Mandarin Oriental globally. Prior to joining the group in 2014, he headed up spa operations at Starwood for eight years.

Details: www.mandarinoriental.com




Mike Wallace Spa Director & Brand Manager Danubius Hotels Group

 

Mike Wallace
 

Customised treatments are a niche service and I can see that they would be an excellent differentiator for luxury spas to meet the needs of high-end customers. But they’re not suitable for every spa. While Danubius recognises that the personal touch is a vital part of any experience, we cater for large volumes of guests on packages and are yet to consider introducing tailored treatments.

In our busiest spa we deliver up to 4,000 treatments a day. It’s important for us to know as much as possible about our projected treatments so we can schedule our staff and facilities accordingly.

For spas that want to offer tailored treatments, I could foresee services which incorporate baths or multifunctional equipment being a major obstacle. These would have to be freely available at all times or just not included in the customised offer. And you’d need adaptable treatment rooms.

There would also be challenges in configuring spa software, especially in terms of scheduling as it’s difficult to preplan parameters such as treatment room, therapist and equipment availability with customised treatments.

Product usage can become an issue with bespoke approaches too. We have to ensure our prices stay competitive and, with the exception of facials and cosmetic treatments, we cannot afford to offer customised treatments in partnership with an international product line where they try to push up their product usage. Instead we use cheaper, local products which enable us to control the amount used and protect our profit margins. But, on the flip side, this does mean that we have to rely solely on the therapist’s experience and our own internal training and protocols.

It should be pointed out that it’s simply not realistic to be 100 per cent certain that all therapists stick to all standards all of the time. Mystery shops and guest feedback can help you keep track, but the therapist’s style/experience/professionalism will impact even the tightest of scripted treatments, customised or not.

For spas that do offer customised approaches, the real work would be in putting together the concept – deciding what treatments can be individualised, what parts can be shortened and lengthened, which services can be integrated or upgraded and at what point a therapist can ‘break off’ and make an adaptation.

Delivering personalised treatments is certainly not for every therapist. It requires considerable experience, diversity and, most importantly, sophisticated communication skills to really tune in and connect with the guest. For therapists who do have the capability, however, I can see that giving them the freedom to adapt their skills to the guest’s wishes would definitely be motivating.

Wallace has worked for European hotel chain Danubius for 16 years and oversees 18 spas in his current role.

Details: www.danubius.com


"It’s simply not realistic to be 100 per cent certain that all therapists stick to all standards all of the time... their style and experience will impact even the tightest of scripted treatments, customised or not"



Khursheed Irani Global training & development director Subtle Energies

 

Khursheed Irani
 

We adapt our sequences and products depending on the client’s presenting condition and their genetic constitution (body type). Variations are taught to therapists for alternative situations/conditions, however, in order for the therapy to be effective these are still set around strict protocols. We do not allow for general freestyling as we need to provide a certain level of consistency to guarantee the results that we base our reputation on.

Fully customised treatments make it difficult to audit a service because there are no criteria to test them against. The client can also keep requesting techniques that are not always beneficial for their body.

While some believe a scripted treatment might feel as though a therapist is simply going through the motions, we disagree. A strict protocol and well-designed therapy, with intent behind every move, could produce the opposite if it’s designed as a journey with techniques which can engage guests at each stage. Plus a freestyle treatment doesn’t mean you’ll get a unique experience – especially if the therapist falls into the habit of using their favourite methods and repeating them without intent.

Our main concern with fully customised treatments is that it really does depend on the therapist’s understanding, qualifications and experience.

When we first launched, spas were hungry for in-depth training, but soon realised that this requires time. We ourselves have learned from this and have adapted our training so it’s progressive and more commercially viable. For example, our original signature massage Abhyang Fusion was 2.5 hours long and took up to seven days to teach in a spa environment. We recently introduced a new massage based on this which is still results-orientated but only takes two days to learn. The treatment has been designed to be the base of the Abhyang Fusion so spas which wish to take on the more advanced learning can do so in less days.

Overall, do the benefits of offering fully customised treatments outweigh the practical challenges? It really does depend on the set-up and the style of spa. If the spa’s goal is wellness then they would benefit from set sequences which allow a certain level of customisation, because they’re effective in delivering consistent results with a diverse therapist team who have varying skill levels.

Subtle Energies supplies products and treatments to top spas worldwide. Irani has been a clinical practitioner for the company for 17 years and in her current position for six years.

Details: www.subtleenergies.com.au




Kathryn Moore Group director of spa – Asia MSpa International

 

Kathryn Moore
 

If you’re not offering unique treatments in Asia people don’t spend money. Especially in places like Thailand or Indonesia, where you can get a massage down the street for US$10; or where you’re competing with other resort experiences such as a diving trip or cooking classes. So my tactic is to create signature treatments that you can’t get anywhere else; and to also offer a Bespoke Spa Treatment which we’ve implemented in the last 18 months. Before that, all of our services were scripted.

The Bespoke Spa Treatment is a personalised body massage based on a consultation which takes into account areas a client wants to focus on, preferred techniques and health and safety issues. But we can’t go to the extent of a salon in the UK or Australia where clients can request any specific technique/therapy because some therapists aren’t formally trained, we educate them in-house and can only expect a certain level of capability.

Some employees are amazing therapists. Our spa specialists hold formal beauty therapy diplomas and are highly trained in everything from body treatments, massage, facials, anatomy & physiology, theory, waxing, mani/pedi etc. But others will only ever be able to follow A-Z steps, especially when English is their second language. They could suggest something in response to a basic request such as a sore back or neck, but if you get more technical they get lost.

We’d only offer bespoke treatments in a property where we’re confident that a therapist is able to carry out a detailed consultation well, truly understand the guest’s needs and tailor a therapy accordingly. So far we’ve been able to add it to the menu in half of our properties.

But as our teams focus on driving signature treatments, receptionists might not feel comfortable explaining what a bespoke therapy is, while others don’t want to carry out an in-depth consultation. All of this can impact on the take-up/bookings. That said bespoke treatments do seem to be popular and when someone spends US$300 on a treatment, they expect something personalised.

Moore has worked at MSpa, the spa management arm of Minor Hotels, since 2009 and oversees 60 facilities.

Details: www.mspa-international.com


"For the therapy to be effective, our treatments are set around strict protocols. We do not allow for general freestyling as we need to provide a certain level of consistency to guarantee the results that we base our reputation on"



CG Funk Vice president of industry relations Massage Envy Spa

 

CG Funk
 

In our first years, Massage Envy’s only menu item was customised massage. Massage education and licensing in the US varies greatly. All therapists have their own unique approach and this can make it difficult to promote specific modalities as there are very few that they’ve all been trained in.

We took the customised approach early on in order to not only allow our therapists freedom in their design of a massage but also to be able to offer our clients a massage service that uniquely addresses their specific needs and requests.

Massage Envy’s facials are a different story. When we developed these services with Murad, we determined the best strategy would be to have consistent protocols to allow us to offer the safest, most therapeutically effective and cost-efficient services while still using highly effective and professional products. In addition, we now have Enhanced Therapy add-on treatments for massage to address conditions such as chronic pain, insomnia and stress and these do have set protocols.

The only way to ensure therapists adhere to these protocols is constant training and auditing. We have a very robust training department and a multitude of educational programmes.

The way to manage health and safety requirements for customised services is to have strong guidelines to work within. These might include product usage, precautions and contraindication information, sanitation and product care. When higher therapeutic products are used, training needs to be ramped up. Our procedures are meant to give therapists parameters and within those boundaries they still have much freedom to get creative and to design a beautiful massage.

Do the benefits of offering customised treatments outweigh the practical challenges? It depends on how the spa organisation works. If they have adequate training systems, if their operations have set and detailed policies and procedures and if they have experienced enough therapists to handle the responsibility then I would say yes.

There are now more than 1,000 Massage Envy Spa franchises in the US. Funk has worked for the firm for 10 years and was a massage trainer for over 15 years before that.

Details: www.massageenvy.com




Shelley Hepburn Spa director Bulgari Hotel, London

 

Shelley Hepburn
 

We’ve always offered customised treatments with ESPA, but in our second year we began introducing new/specialised brands which enable us to mix and match and tailor services even more. We refresh the menu every three to six months and currently offer products and treatments by Georgia Louise, a celebrity facialist; high-end anti-ageing line Swiss Perfection; and cosmeceutical brand iS Clinical.

Our facials are especially customised because we look at skin conditions and lifestyle and have advanced machines for LED, radiofrequency and cryo facials.

The main thing for us is to make sure all therapists are really skilful. Every product house and machine has it’s own specific guidelines so the basics are covered. But we combine those protocols and give therapists free rein on what to do depending on the client’s needs.

To do this, you have to really trust and train your therapists. We look for level 3 NVQ [the UK’s highest national vocational qualification] so they’re already competent in galvanics and more technical equipment. Then when staff start with us, they automatically train at ESPA for two weeks and within six months we start to get technical and cover more advanced treatments such as mesotherapy which is taught by a doctor. The product houses offer a week’s course and refreshers, and in-house each therapist sets aside at least two to four hours a week for education.

We have six to eight girls who specialise in facials and they’re trade tested and mystery shopped to within an inch of their life to ensure standards are met. We also monitor guest feedback and repeat custom – if they’re not hitting the numbers we know it’s time to investigate.

Nothing is simple when you offer customised treatments – we’re not booking back-to-back straightforward services. It takes a lot of co-ordination behind the scenes to make sure we have the right information about clients in advance and that we have the right therapists and machines available.

But because we’re not necessarily focused on volume, schedules are a bit more flexible and customisation works well for us. Seventy per cent of our clients are repeats and they’re booking courses. Because we offer more technical treatments, profit margins are higher also: our facials range from £140-£950 an hour. So although it takes a lot more organising, it’s worth every penny.

Hepburn has 19 years’ experience in the UK spa industry and has been at the Bulgari Spa in London since its opening in 2012.

Details: www.bulgarihotels.com


"Nothing is simple when you offer customised treatments – we’re not booking back-to-back straightforward services... Although it takes a lot more organising, it’s worth every penny"



Katie Barnes is the managing editor of Spa Business magazine

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SpaBusinessKB


Originally published in Spa Business 2015 issue 4

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd