To help our readers feel confident while reopening their coronavirus impacted businesses, we're publishing a four-part series on business transformation and innovation in response to COVID-19.
In this series, we'll share reopening strategies and lessons small business owners have learned when opening their doors after a pandemic closure, including changes they've made to keep their customers and workers safe.
When Spavia reopened in mid-May, its customers scheduled a whopping 75 appointments within the first three hours. The spa was four days out for availability.
“We got busy right away, even though we had only announced our reopening to members at that point — not even the general public," says Spavia owner Chris Stoll.
Spavia's business model includes a mix of monthly spa memberships, but non-members can also schedule appointments.
While closed, many members continued paying their monthly fees to donate spa treatments to local first responders. In fact, some still are, and Spavia is matching those donations one-to-one.
While closed, Stoll held regular zoom happy hours with his team to keep them connected personally and share updates about the spa, including when and how they would reopen.
“I don't want us to be just an employer and employees, but a true team that supports each other. Zoom calls and chatting on WhatsApp gave us human connection," Stoll says. “It also allowed us to share information about new reopening procedures so we could have a smooth transition back."
To prepare for a smooth transition, Stoll and his staff:
Stoll's staff spent two days together before reopening so they'd have adequate time to learn new cleaning protocols and other safety measures.
“We also listened to feedback from the team on what they would need to feel comfortable getting back to work. It's important to think about your customers—but it’s every bit as important to ensure that your team is confident."
After listening to employees, Stoll changed some of his reopening plans and decided to remain closed to customers for the first two weeks while everyone adjusted to the new cleaning processes.
To ensure that no customer with symptoms enters, Stoll’s team also suggested having all guests' use their complementary—and spa mandatory—non toxic hand sanitizer and fill out a standard health evaluation form.
“We also used an empty esthetician room to create a second hand washing and sanitation room for the team. This gave them another place to go to social distance if the regular team room ever got crowded."
Easing into full service gives businesses time to learn and help workers and customers feel more comfortable as they return.
Spavia first opened just its retail space, limiting the number of customers inside at a time. They also began offering curbside pickup.
When resuming spa treatment services, Stoll closed the locker rooms and guest retreats for the first two weeks and asked customers to wait in their cars until their massage therapist or esthetician was ready.
“Before we opened the locker rooms and guest retreats two weeks into reopening, we first removed all commonly touched items, such as heated neck pillows, the tea center, and reading materials."
“We have introduced a new cleaning product that is completely non-toxic and effective," Stoll says.
His team has allotted extra time on the spa schedule between treatments to clean rooms after each guest.
They also use the product on all shared surfaces throughout the day and mists the air with it between clients.
“We will continue to use the new cleaner indefinitely. It is a wonderful product that only helps us maintain our high standards of cleanliness and safety."
For Spavia, this included asking customers to wait in their cars during the first two weeks of reopening.
“We have also done our best to stagger schedules, so we have fewer people checking in or out in the waiting room at any given time. We also still offer our guests the opportunity to wait in their cars if they prefer, as we did for the first two weeks."
Spavia's includes cleaning and arrival protocols for both staff and guests. “
I would highly recommend having a written manual for cleaning procedures – especially for your team, so they are consistent and aware of everything they are to do. It's also helpful to reference for any guests who may be curious."
When customers schedule an appointment at Spavia for the first time since its reopening, staff members call to confirm the appointments and to convey scripted information about new COVID-related protocols.
Email and text messages are also a very effective way to provide clients with your salon or spa’s new COVID-19 customer safety guidelines ahead of time.
Stoll and his team felt they were taking the right steps to keep their customers safe, but they weren't sure how some changes would be perceived—especially with some beloved Spavia amenities temporarily suspended.
Thankfully, their client feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“A number of customers have left comments expressing support for what we're doing and sharing how they feel safe in our spa. I definitely think now is the time to do extra versus not enough." says Stoll.