Centralized Booking for Spas?

A spa I frequent locally has centralized their reservations: three locations, one call center.  This spa also offers online booking which I have utilized in the past.  Unfortunately, when I previously booked a hair cut with a provider I was unfamiliar with, the results were not positive; this time, I was hoping for some guidance.

When I reached the central reservations office, the agent was friendly and able to competently read to me who was “skilled” in cutting my type of hair.  Unfortunately, the provider who had cut my hair previously was on this list, which raised doubts about the others.  I asked about the new provider’s own hair and experience, and I expressed my concerns, asking if the agent would call the spa itself to find out more about the new provider.  She placed me on hold, came back several minutes later and said this provider had “kind of” my type of hair.  I asked if she had learned any additional information and she said she had not.

I consented to book the service and the provider turned out to be  great, but what if that had not been the case?  Is it smart to centralize booking for spas?

As we learned in Coyle’s Global Spa Research Report and specifically Mastering the Spa Reservation Call, the things omitted from my experience came up frequently in negative spa reservation calls: gauging guest preferences, determining needs, making appropriate recommendations and being knowledgeable enough about the spa to answer questions.  We also surmised that the entire reason a guest is calling rather than booking online is for the guidance that the agent will provide: that assurance that you’re making the right choice and that your money will not be wasted. 

In my case, what I am relatively certain of, based on the detailed information I received about the new provider once I set foot in the spa, is that if Iwas able  to call the spa myself, I would have felt much better about my decision to go with the provider selected.  What is not certain, however, is if centralized booking itself is generally flawed or if this situation in particular was.   As we all know, centralized reservations have been used in hotels for years.  But is a hotel room as personal as a hair cut, massage or facial?

Regardless of whether reservations are taken centrally, in an office across a hotel or at the spa desk, clients need to be able to get confident, firm, definitive answers when they ask about a provider or service . If not, the entire spa experience can be doomed.  I had given this spa another shot mainly due to the excellent prices, but I was initially hesitant to do so – and even moreso after the unconvincing call.  Many others would have just moved on to the next spa.

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