Be Positive The Importance of Online Reviews for the Modern Spa
By: Jessica Pfister

Picture this: you’re contemplating where to go for drinks and apps this Friday for your weekly happy hour. Bored with the same rotation of pubs and restaurants, you grab your phone and quickly search “top 10 restaurants with drink and app specials near me.” Immediately, you have a list of dining options, each with several recent reviews from happy (and not so happy) customers. After a few minutes scanning the data in front of you, you confidently narrow down your choices and happily report to your friends that you’ve discovered a new restaurant to add to the mix.

Online reviews are an incredibly powerful marketing tool for restaurants, sure, but also for spas. Reviews on Google Maps and Yelp can make or break a spa, particularly if your clientele is largely from out-of-town. And just as a good review can be a tremendous boon to your brand, so too can a negative review be a black mark on your record that drives away business. With the right tools, though, you can amplify the good reviews, mitigate the bad anduse online reviews to benefit your spa’s exposure.

What to Do with the Good
Consumers today are more and more likely to rely solely on online reviews to aid their purchasing decisions, with 88 percent of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This means that online reviews have more influence than a phone call or a text to a friend or family member to gather opinions. This is why it has become crucial for business owners to increase their online relevancyand use positive reviews to help shape their business.

When you receive positive reviews, look for common themes and reoccurring words or phrases which could be used to help craft or update your mission statement. Do several of your positive reviews mention that appointments are always prompt? Use that accolade to set the standard for your future guests. Are you receiving compliments on a specific spa treatment offered on your menu? Use this feedback to create a specialty treatment on the menu for spa guests seeking these types of services. Lastly, use those positive reviews as testimonials on your spa website or social media accounts.

How to Handle the Bad and the Ugly
While receiving good online reviews from previous visitors is a wonderful way to add a positive message to your business, it is inevitable that you will have a negative review at some point. Have you ever encountered a situation where a customer walks in to your spa, you greet them with a smile, engage with them in thoughtful conversation and do your very best to provide them with the level of customer service they walked in expecting, only to have them leave and post a less-than-stellar review? Surprisingly, this happens fairly often, and the method in which you respond can greatly impact the way prospective customers view your customer service values.

When you receive a negative review about your spa, whether about the treatment itself or the level of customer service the guest experienced, it’s vital to respond to the critic as soon as possible in a professional manner to avoid looking like the complaint is being ignored. Reply to the negative review and apologize that their experience did not reach the level of satisfaction your strive for; suggest that they either call or email to further discuss. In essence, make it clear that you want to “make it right,” then put the ball in their court. Avoid getting into details online, and instead, leave a short and thoughtful response for other researchers to read when visiting your review page.

Avoiding Negative Reviews Altogether
Although there are times when negative feedback is inevitable, there are many ways in which this outcome can often be avoided altogether. Recently, a popular regional pizza chain near ISPA’s headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, was critiqued online by a famous sports blogger. After getting his slice of pizza, the blogger took a bite and announced loudly in front of several other patrons that the pizza he had been served was “ice cold” and proceeded to insult the product. After gaining the attention of several customers dining, a worker of the restaurant walked up to the blogger and asked him to leave, which only made matters worse. The outcome? The blogger caused an even bigger scene, then posted his video review online; the restaurant suffered through several weeks of public backlash and negative reviews from the blogger’s devoted fanbase.

While there are definitely mixed opinions surrounding the blogger’s intentions and actions, the restaurant may have avoided this fiasco entirely by simply altering their employee’s approach with the blogger who, keep in mind, was also a customer. How different might the review have been had the worker offered to get him a fresh and hot slice of pizza, instead of responding defensively? To avoid these types of situations happening in your spas, talk with your employees—roleplay different scenarios which might take place in your spa that would require quick thinking and levelheaded responses. The more prepared your staff is to handle difficult customer service complaints and situations, the more prepared they will be to respond in a way that will be well received by the client.

Obviously, the easiest way to handle negative reviews of your spa is to avoid receiving them to begin with. Often, a customer’s number-one desire is the longing to be heard. If you’ve worked to connect with your customer on a personal level—asking about their day, what they like to do in their spare time, if they are currently traveling—before the negative event occurs, they’ll be more likely to vocalize any concerns or frustrations directly to you, rather than heading straight to the internet to voice their frustrations. Ask questions and check in with your client during their visit, making sure they are comfortable and happy with the level of service they are currently receiving.

Reviews, both good and bad, can help you discover areas of your business that are thriving as well as areas which can use improvement. Often, these things can be overlooked by those who are closely involved; therefore, a fresh outsider’s perspective could be the missing link in experiencing a business salvaging “a-ha!” moment. By taking the time to thoroughly examine your spa’s online reviews, both good and bad, you have the advantage to hone into market trends and what treatments and services are in demand, as well as recognize any voids that might currently exist within your spa, whether it be operating while understaffed or providing an outdated spa menu. Having all this insider knowledge straight from your spa guests’ mouths puts you and your spa at a huge advantage and provides you with the perfect opportunity to cater specifically to future business.