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Massage Today
March, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 03

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT

Author's Note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality profiles, trends, and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs in the spa industry. The style is epistolary, meaning the articles are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.

Dear Lou,

So, the Spa House is getting closer to its grand opening.

Products, menu, pricing, staff and décor is falling into place, and you have freshly printed letterhead, business cards and brochures - your collateral materials - with the Spa House logo, ready to go. I predict that your logo - a child's drawing of a house with two figures holding hands out front - is going to have great success in the community. Remember, the root of logo is from the Greek word, logos, meaning "word" - not like a word in a sentence, but like "word of God." According to the American Heritage Dictionary, logos means, "the principle governing the cosmos, the source of this principle; the power of reason residing in the human soul; God's medium of communication with the human race." A logo has a profound, usually subliminal, impact. I'm glad to see you've used it to your advantage on all your collateral, and on a beautiful sign to hang out in front of the Spa House. Good job! What's next?

You've got a thousand things going on. Your spa consultant has done a good job of getting your products and equipment into place, and now she's getting busy with the opening-phase marketing plan. I can't wait to hear about it; in the meantime, you've got to focus yourself on the next important step: setting up a computer system for scheduling employees, booking appointments, selling products, and running promotional campaigns.

Computer-Age Spas

Let's face it, Lou: This is 2004. I know you consider yourself a non-geek (some would even call you a technophobe), but in order to be competitive, even at a "mom and pop" business like the Spa House, you've got to get computerized. This can be easier than you think. First of all, you don't have to know how computers work in order to get computers to work for you. Your partner, Barbara, is computer savvy. In addition, the company you choose for your spa software will provide a technician to bring the system up to speed. Some companies also offer a less expensive option of hooking up your computer through a phone line so they can set up your system remotely. That young receptionist you hired also has computer skills, as does almost everybody under the age of 25. So, don't worry! You don't want people calling you a Luddite behind your back. Get with it, Lou. Computers are hip. They're happening. They will help you. The only quation: Which one to choose?


Once you've gotten over your fear of technology, another problem arises: which technology to choose? As far as spas go, a lot depends on your size. Larger spas need computers and software with higher capacities and more capabilities. The Spa House will not - at least not at the beginning. So, which components are right for you?

First, start with the box - the actual physical computer that will sit at your reception counter. This does not need to be fancy. It does not need to have a brand name you recognize, though sometimes the support of a larger company is worth paying for. The most important aspect of this element, in my opinion, is how it looks. Your computer practically screams out your level of sophistication to guests as they walk through the door. Even though you consider the Spa House a "natural" business, believe me, it will look better with sleek technology. Old technology looks...well, old-not-natural. The main computer case will likely be hidden from view.

What matters most when purchasing a computer (and where you want to invest more money) is the monitor. The monitor, in case you don't know, is the TV-like screen you look at. These days, there is no reason not to purchase a flat-panel display monitor. They are not much more expensive than the old clunky CRT monitors. Get one in black or sleek silver. You might be enticed by the colorful displays offered by Apple, but beware that many spa software systems do not work on Apple (Mac) computers.

A practical note regarding your computer system: Your staff will need to stay informed about their bookings; if the only place to do that is on the main computer at your reception desk, guess what? Traffic jam. At the busiest time, when your receptionist is dealing with the flow of customers, your therapists will be craning their necks to see the screen. This is not good. To avoid this, many spas have tried printing out schedules at the beginning of the day, but you probably remember from your days working at the spa resort that schedules change throughout the day. Another option (which works well in my opinion) is to place a separate monitor in a back room. This can be a larger CRT and there is no need for a keyboard; it is just an "observation station" to quench your staff's curiosity. The hardware is only the tip of the iceberg, though. What really runs the show is the invisible software behind the scenes.

Soft Where?

Though you can't see software, it will be responsible for making your spa run smoothly, which will keep your staff and guests happy; therefore, it is vital to choose the right brand. Where are you going to find it? You could browse through ads in spa magazines, visit a trade show and listen to "caffeinated" salespeople, or, alternatively, ask other spas what has worked for them. This is the best choice. Call a few places for some opinions from the trenches, then see how these fit with your needs. Qualities you want in the software you choose include:

Simplicity. You want the fewest keystrokes to enter and retrieve information so you don't have to spend all day clicking and tapping when you could be attending to guests.

Least complicated interface. You never know when you're going to get a less computer-literate person to cover your front desk; the easier the program is to use, the better.

Best service. Always ask about customer support, as there are bound to be occasional problems, no matter how good the software is. Most appropriate. Some software packages are made to handle huge resorts, which would be overkill for your small spa.

Price. This is always important, of course, but great support and features can outweigh a little extra cost sometimes.

The Road Ahead

You're coming down to the wire now, Lou. Your infrastructure is falling into place. Now, you've got to focus on your most valuable asset - your people. It's time for some last-minute training.

In answer to the question in your last letter, I'll say, "Yes, I would be glad to come help you with that training." In fact, it's going to be exciting to see the Spa House for myself after hearing so much about it.

Until next time,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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