Courtesy of The Raithwaite Estate Spa, N Yorks

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By Alex Hurt, Spa Director – Weavers House Spa 

In a world that’s been rocked to its core, it’s important that we flex to its new shape, and boy oh boy, has this world changed! This virus, and the ensuing pandemic has helped us all to see the true value of life and what is actually important to us. On the flip side, it’s left us all with too much time to dive, introspectively, into our very own melting pot of emotions. 

Working within an empathetic industry of professionals that exist to make others feel ‘relaxed’, I think it’s time we systematically unpack why people need to ‘relax’ in the first place. In this article I will be exploring the real reasons why our clients come to us and discuss what we can do to begin to understand them more effectively. These are very different times, and relaxation can be just a buzz word; discovering the real reason that our clients need to relax should be our aim.

Cast your mind back to the time before this pandemic, when consultations were face to face, and we found out through a set of questions what our clients wanted to achieve from their treatments. We would check contra indications, lifestyle, allergies, and work out the key reason for them choosing to spend their time with us. Whilst they appreciated us and the services we offer, maybe they had others to comfort, touch and understand them or were they alone? We would ask them if they wanted to feel ‘energised, relaxed or rebalanced ‘. This set of questions was enough and ensured that we could deliver the right treatment for them.

Now if I were reading, instead of writing this article, these might be my thoughts... "I give so much more in my consultations, I enjoy chatting to my clients and delving deeper to ensure I can meet all of their needs". However, as we are all well aware, our time is money, and considering all of the other things that we have to complete in treatment time, we are all somewhat restricted.

Fast forward now to when we can reopen; the online consultations that will reduce the spread of infection through paper, the spa journeys that will reduce touch points and client contact, the therapists with their faces covered in masks and visors and the clients' faces covered in masks. We are all covering up so much that we can't see the emotion and expression that is being presented to us, not to mention how physically difficult it is to breathe and to see through those visors, and if you wear glasses... well, what a steam show that is!

In addition, the cleaning times between clients are extended, and there is more time alone in our room unable to mix with others, and yet our clients need so much more from us. So let me get back to ‘relaxation’.

A few weeks prior to Christmas I had to jump in and carry out some treatments, and although I was a therapist many moons ago, nowadays I only perform treatments when I need to cover sickness. My treatments are all bespoke and tailored to the client, but what I learned in those few days of performing treatments was so much more than I could have done by reading any article about ‘Spa-aahhing in 2020' in any industry or group publication. 

There’s so much more to what our clients need from us these days, and we are maybe the first people that they can be real with, as they express their innermost feelings to someone who can be totally objective; but if we don't have the time or the skill to listen, or the ability to ask the right questions, how can we truly help?

As we lift the lid off the box labelled 'Mental Health', and begin to understand the severity of Covid's legacy, right now can be a time to listen. It can be a time both to build trust and to be honest, and I believe that the way we speak to our clients must change. Gone is the ‘corporate communication’ of blanket answers, because nothing is obvious anymore. Simplified processes are all well and good, but we are dealing with individuals, and this is personal.

If ever our clients needed us, it’s right now. They don’t need cookie-cutter booking questions, standard consultations and blanket answers. It’s up to us, the professionals to figure out how we need to put ourselves in our clients' shoes.

Our inboxes maybe inundated at the moment with refund requests, gift voucher extensions and re- bookings, as people hang onto their hard-earned deposits, preferring the funds to be in their banks and not ours. Instead of an eye roll, let’s as leaders make the decision on how to understand our clients, and agree a united response within our teams for a personal thought through response to all enquiries.

There were two clients that stood out for me during those pre-Christmas treatments, the first was a psychologist, a key worker, who had been dealing with suicidal clients a day prior to her ‘birthday massage’. She couldn’t relax at all and must have just been playing the previous day over and over on a loop, her treatment ruined by the overthinking of the day before; not a birthday gift anyone would wish for. 

The second client was gifted her treatment by her daughter who was currently undergoing chemotherapy, as a thank you for everything she had done to help out with looking after her children. My client was not looking forward to her treatment; she felt a lot of body shame and she just didn’t know how to relax into it. Through talking to her I discovered that she was taking care of everybody but herself. I spent much longer than I probably should have done chatting to my client and making her feel comfortable with me before commencing the treatment, this then meant that she was able to relax, and by the end of the treatment I had her converted.

Our clients don’t just need to relax, they need to unload, they need to share, they need us to listen, they don’t need us to fix everything, they just need someone to care. Perhaps they’ve lost someone close to them, or lost their job, or need to just be touched by another human being. They may need reassurance, comfort, peace, or just company. Remember, many people don’t know what it is that they are feeling, let alone how they can express it. Use your communication skills to think of open questions which will help you to understand how your clients are feeling and why they feel the way they do. 

It’s more evident than ever that people need to talk, and although we aren’t healthcare professionals we can be empathetic listeners, after all, don’t we need to get to the bottom of why they are visiting us? It’s never just about ‘relaxation’, so let your questions probe that bit more deeply. Use this time in lockdown to decide how you will deliver your processes more personally, giving more time to listen pre-treatment, and discovering  how to make it all a part of the journey. 

We’re all individuals, and this is personal. 



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Monday, 19 April 2021

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