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Resources & Development - Quality




“Quality” - It’s Not What You Think!


By Skip Williams

Generally when we think of “quality” we think of “excellence”, something of high value, or something without flaws.  While these are legitimate definitions of the word, in business when we talk about quality we are referring to “consistency”.


Consistency is a crucial requirement to any successful enterprise.  Two cars turned out of the same factory must be equal, they must be manufactured to the same tolerances (specifications), and they must have the same performance and reliability.  With this definition of quality, it is possible for a Toyota to be of equal or greater quality than a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or some other far more expensive automobile.


Likewise it is possible for a fast food restaurant to be even more consistent than a fine dining restaurant, because they have processes in place to make sure that every meal is exactly like the last one.  Many have such exact processes that they can guarantee a consistent quality from coast to coast no matter which restaurant you go to.


What in the world does this have to do with the Spa industry?


I submit to you, that we (as an industry) have been thinking about “quality” as “excellence” instead of “consistency”, and have the cart before the horse.   Something in our industry is wrong when two of the same services rendered in the same facility are delivered differently.


We have been spending our time finding excellent Providers that have their own unique way of performing services.  Some are very experienced, many provide an excellent service to our customers, but few are delivering a “consistent” service to our clients.


You may ask “if they are “excellent” then what is the problem?” - In order to have a business and a brand name we must be able to deliver a consistent service to our client.  It does not matter whether the service was performed by Sally or Robert, it NEEDS to be the same every time, otherwise we are selling our Providers product and not our own!


Using our restaurant example, if you go to a restaurant on two occasions and the food is different then you know they have a “quality” issue.  Even if both times the food was good, if it was different, then they have a problem that needs to be fixed.  It does not matter that there may have been two different chefs on those occasions, as a customer we will not accept that excuse.  The meal (and service) must be consistent every time! 


If you are an independent Provider, doing services as a one man show, then creativity and uniqueness are what you what.  If on the other hand you are a Spa then your business depends on consistency, making each one the same as the last.


We all seem to understand that the phone should be answered in a certain way every time, we also seem to understand the layout of our retail should conform to certain guidelines, but why are we not as concerned about how our services are delivered?


Is it too difficult to obtain consistency?  Are we incapable of obtaining consistency?


I think we rely on the past training and experience of each Provider too much!  We also admire their creativity and desire to make our customers happy.  But when we rely on these things we are doing a very good job of helping them build their own business and personal clientele, but a poor job of building a clientele loyal to our business and to our Spa.


How do we obtain Consistency?


It is not easy to obtain consistency.  In all industries, it takes attention to detail, it takes a combined effort, it takes training, sometimes it takes inspection and testing, and it always takes a real commitment to Quality. 


In the Spa industry all of these things are more difficult because we lock our customer in a room with our employee and hope all goes well and our client is happy.


The three main weapons we have to achieve consistency are:

  • Standard Operational Procedures

  • Training

  • Evaluating & Testing


Operational Procedures (SOP’s)


Everything we do in our business is (or should be) considered a process.  From the selling the public to visit our Spa/Salon through welcoming the guest to our facility, facilitating the front desk necessities, performing the services, selling the retail, collecting the payment and rescheduling their next visit is a process.


The procedures of each step of the process are also a process or “subset” that describes the process in more detail.  When these procedures are spelled out in as much detail as possible we leave little doubt in the minds of our representatives (the employees) as to what is expected of them and what to do in any given situation.


We should include all your special flourishes that make your services unique to your Spa and the order in which to deliver them.  As spa consultant Zahira Coll says, “SOP’s should be written like a recipe, first you take some of this and do this to with it then you do that, etc.”  




Once you have SOP’s in place you will then have something to train to.  You will need to work very hard with each of your Providers to get each service delivered EXACTLY in the same manner.  It is possible to deliver services stroke for stroke the same if you are willing to invest the time in training.


Evaluating & Testing


Never let a Provider perform one of your services until they have been evaluated and are performing the service per procedure.


Further testing to insure consistency can be done by “shopping” the Providers.  Hire a shopping firm, or get friends/relatives to periodically have treatments, but first have them review the procedures so that they know what to expect.


Excellence is good, but consistency is imperative!


Consistency is essential to building an overall business, a reputation, and delivering a “quality” product to our clients.  When consistency is achieved then excellence can follow, we can use the combined knowledge and creativity of the Provider staff to embellish and enhance the services we render.  The key however is to incorporate these enhancements collectively instead of individually, we will need to incorporate these new enhancements into our SOP’s and train and test accordingly.



Skip Williams can be reached at:

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