Co Producer Guest – Spa Services not TO the guest, but WITH the guest
If we look at the development of marketing, we understand, how the marketing focus has moved away from product (or service) features, towards consumer or guest’s needs and expectations.
The production concept
Henry Ford, who revolutionised car production, is a great example for the era of the so called ‘production concept’. Apparently Ford once said the words: “the buyer can have the car in any colour they like, as long as this is black”.
You cannot better express the focus on production at the time. Industrialisation was not so much about what the market/customer wanted or needed, it was more about what manufacturers were able to produce. Hence the marketing focus was on production at that time.
Soon however businesses recognised that products had to have certain features in order to be attractive to consumers. Following the consumer rule #1: nobody buys something they don’t need.
The product concept
Thus businesses started to focus on products as such. What can the product do for the consumer? How big /long is it? How many varieties are available?
This is the era of the product concept.
With increased competition and product variety, marketing experts realised that too many competing products had the same features and did not differ much.
This is for example particularly true for many service businesses such as hospitality, where base products are very similar amongst competition: 5* hotels offer nice rooms, room service, wifi, 24 hr reception, a restaurant, a spa… you name it. There is little space for distinction.
Which makes it really difficult for a provider to position themselves apart from competitors.
Marketing experts realised, that it is insufficient simply offering ‘good’ products. So they had to think about HOW to offer them.
The selling concept
This led to the focus on promotion and sales, why this era is called the selling concept. Businesses focus mostly on sales numbers. And only ‘loud’ promotions are heard…
Today: Customer and Partner
Today we know that it provides little competitive advantage by selling hard.
Not good for trust between the customer and the company.
And from a business viewpoint? Merely achieving nice sales numbers is not enough on the long run.
The consumer, or guest, has now moved into the focus of marketing.
Suddenly we hear about marketing concepts such as ‘relationship marketing’, ‘customer loyalty’, ‘e-mail newsletter as a two-way communication tool’, and ‘international marketing communications’.
Successful businesses today pay great attention to relationships with their customers and guests. Customers are tied to brands and companies through emotions, brand loyalty and active relationship management, they are no longer only connected to products or services.
Which means that experiences move into the centre of attention, not only product and service features.
Our guest is our co producer
Services, just like offered in our spa & wellness industry, give service providers specific challenges.
Our ‘products’ such as all our treatments that we offer, are not tangible like a consumer good, that sits on a shelf in the supermarket.
We cannot store our services, or touch them, and they are always unique. No service is like another. Even if I have the same type of massage in the same treatment room by the same therapist every week, each of the experiences will differ from one another.
Plus: the production and consumption of our spa services always happen at the same time!
Well, the massage cannot happen without the guest, right? It has to be done WITH the guest, who ‘consumes’ the service at the same time. Hence we may well call the guest the co-producer.
He is present and can influence the experience and the outcome for himself.
Which means not only the service provider has direct and massive impact on the quality perception of the guest, but the guest as co-producer himself.
This of course comes with great potential, but also risks. And that is a major challenge for communication, yet let us keep that for another day.
How co producers shape their service experience
An example for how guests shape their experience ‘service’ today:
It is common in hotels to exchange bed linen and bathroom towels according a specific schedule. Depending on the hotel segment and room category, this could lead to a change of linen up to twice daily. Or at the other end of the scale, linen is not changed during the entire stay.
Many hoteliers understand, that such decisions should not be made over the heads of the guest. It is the guest’s linen so to say, and she should have a say in how often it is to be changed.
Personally for example I do not like new bed slip covers every day. I hate sleeping in newly starched linen every night, thinking about all the chemicals my skin is exposed to, that had to be applied to make the linen look this white and crisp… So I want to decide for myself at what time the slip cover is changed during my stay.
The future will be full of self administered services and automization, something we have been able to experience already in many ways and areas:
Online Questionnaires about preferences
Touch pad controls etc.
Robots for room service, self driving cars… there will be many opportunities for guests to shape their own experiences in the future.
Spa Services with the guest, not to the guest
How can we think about this within the Spa? Well, of course, usually your signature treatment is something, that is dissimilar to your competitors offers. But again, the signature treatment is most of the time of a fix design, again done to the guest.
Imagine this: I am booking a trip for in two weeks, and am thinking of getting a spa treatment at the hotel. Now, as said, this is still two weeks away, so what do I know today how I am going to feel in two weeks? Which treatment would be best for me then? What outcome might I like or need?
Instead of booking a specific treatment, I merely book a time slot
My favourite individualised experience in the spa is a concept I call ‘me time’: Instead of booking a specific treatment, I merely book a time slot. This is the minimum requirement to make spa operations smooth, I get that. Of course it would be great if one could just show up at the spa whenever we feel like and receive our favourite treatment without any prior commitments. But let’s be honest, that does not really work in real life most of the time.
Ok, so I book a time slot upfront. And that is really all I do beforehand. The time of my treatment, my therapist takes a couple of minutes for an assessment. How do I feel, what do I need, what does my skin look like, how is my mood, what outcome do I expect today? And together we decide on the course of treatment/s I am going to enjoy.
That is what I call shaping an experience together, spa treatment producer and co producer guest. What do you think, have you experienced something like this before? Or do you offer similar concepts in your spa?