By Susan Guillory

I recently tried out a new “spa” in my city. Spa might be an oversell. It amounted to a place in a strip mall that offered cheap massages and foot massages. The lesson I learned was not to buy a cheap massage! I definitely got what I paid for. But here’s what the business should have known, and some excellent customer service lessons we can all learn from.

1. The welcoming experience is everything.

When you visit a spa, you want to feel relaxed. I was anything but. From the difficulty I had in understanding the owner’s broken English to the fact that she charged me $2 for a credit card transaction and uncustomarily charged me in advance left me in even more need of my massage.

Self-Assessment: What is the experience your customers have when walking in? Is the physical space of your business appealing? Are you and your staff welcoming with your words and actions?

2. Get to know your customers. Otherwise, you run your business like a brothel.

If you’ve ever gotten a massage, you know there’s usually an intake form where you note any areas you want worked on, or any you want avoided. They give you the opportunity to specify the pressure you want. At this place? None of it. One-size-fits-all.

Self-Assessment: Do you make assumptions about your customers? Or do you take the time to get to know them so you can deliver an even better experience?

3. Communication needs to be extremely clear.

As I mentioned, there was a bit of a language barrier at the spa. But the owner made me understand that she would start my massage, and then about 20 minutes later, a female masseuse would take over. Five minutes in, she leaves me, with no explanation. Then a male masseuse took over. Say what? I didn’t mind, but there was no communication to help me understand what changed in the plan.

Self-Assessment: Do you bend over backwards to communicate with customers? If not, you need to!

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4. Stand out with your services if you want people to come back.

There’s a big enough market for cheap massage places. But there are also a million of them within a 5-mile radius of my house. After my experience, I won’t be back. But the spa could have done something to stand out. Wave lavender around the room to smell good. Offer a cup of hot tea after. It’s those little accents that make people return.

Self-Assessment: What do you do to be memorable and attract customers? It doesn’t even have to cost much — or anything.

5. There are protocols to be followed.

At the end of my mediocre massage, the masseuse asked, “No tip for me?” Now, in massage land, it’s considered gauche to ask such a thing. I had, in fact, prepaid the tip. His comment made me practically run for the door, leaving the torn up bits of his business card in my wake.

Self-Assessment: Never ever be tacky. It’s not difficult.

No matter how great your product or service, it’s the customer service and customer experience you provide that will determine whether a customer comes back.

What customer service lessons have you learned?