Reopening spas and massage centers during Covid-19: What you need to know
Reopening spas and massage centers during COVID-19 can be challenging. Social distancing, sanitation practices, staff and client safety – there’s so much to think about.
As many states start lifting restrictions on reopening spas, business owners in the wellness industry are faced with three pressing questions:
1) Should I reopen my spa/ massage center during COVID-19?
2) How to ensure the safety of employees as well as guests when I reopen?
3) How can I clearly communicate our improved safety standards to the client community?
In this guide, we have curated research that provides actionable information and experiences of other spa and massage center owners on how they reopened during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s a brief of what you’ll find inside, you can either follow the chronology or jump to a section of your choice
- To open or not?
- What do spa and massage center owners need to think about before reopening their business post COVID-19?
- Guidelines from authorities and associations
- Social distancing implementation
- Enhancing sanitation and protective measures
- Customer and employee screening
- Minimize contact
- Rethink your services
- Ramp up retail sales
- Update your prices
- Training your team
- Telling your clients about your improved safety standards
- Conclusion: Win over your customers all over again
- Resources and tools
So, let’s get started!
To open or not?
Just like you, many other spa owners are also facing this dilemma amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
While some do not want to risk contracting the virus and bring it back to their families, they do acknowledge that they need to restabilize their incomes after shutting doors due to the government-enforced lockdowns.
On the other hand, some others are really eager to reopen their spa and massage centers and think that they need to focus on safer ways to get their business up and running to make up for lost money over the last few weeks.
So how do you decide?
To make a well-informed and logical decision, there are two questions you should ask yourself before you think of opening the doors of your spa for visitors again.
Let us get to each of them one by one, in detail.
1. Are you allowed to reopen?
The guidelines for spa reopening vary from state to state, and in some cases, even for counties. You need to make sure that you research well and go through the latest guidelines issued for your area. Always stay updated with the local guidelines so that you can work and plan accordingly.
Check if your local authorities have allowed the opening of spas in your area yet. If the reopening is allowed, check if all the services can be resumed or some need to be temporarily taken down.
Pools have reopened in Ohio from 26th May but with reduced capacity and strict social distancing restrictions. Find out about what services are allowed in your area and update your services accordingly.
2. Are you prepared to reopen?
If you know that the local guidelines in your area allow spas to reopen, your next course of action should be assessing whether you are ready to reopen or not?
Take a step back and think first.
Here are a few aspects that you should analyze about your spa business before you can confidently answer the above question.
Taking measures for the health and safety of your employees and customers during COVID-19 can be financially demanding.
All the extra spending on sanitizers, masks, and various other amenities can be hard on your pocket. Plus, all of these costs will come with a reduction in your clients and employees with a limited number of services and working hours. You may also incur extra delivery charges on your regular product deliveries during the pandemic.
Consider all these factors when assessing the financial capability of your business. Make a budget plan depending on your analysis. Based on this, you can either decide to postpone your spa reopening or identify areas for trimming expenses.
Take note: The Small Business Association (SBA) is a resource for spas currently navigating difficult financial situations. The organization offers a number of loans—many of which are deferring their initial payments during this time—as well as guidance on how to refinance existing ones. You can reach out to them if you’re facing financial difficulties.
Is your team ready?
Connect with your team on a regular basis through video calls or social media groups and ask for their POV on the reopening.
Listen to them. Understand their problems and discuss with them the state of your business and what you need to do.
They might have their own set of economic and health concerns – not willing to give up their benefits yet, skeptical about returning to work as it poses a health risk for them and their families, etc.
Ask for the details about when they would be rejoining. Your massage therapist may need more time, while your esthetician might want to come back ASAP. This will impact your service menu as well as your scheduling, so make sure to collect this data as a priority.
A situation may arrive in which one of your employees, say your esthetician can’t provide facials as per the guidelines. But she wants to rejoin because of financial problems. In such a case, you can give her the responsibility of cleaning and disinfection, because let’s face it, it can be a lot to handle.
Plan the protocols and employee benefits clearly to be implemented in case of a future lockdown. Communicate this to your team so that they don’t have doubts about future scenarios.
What do your clients think?
Understand the pulse of your client community.
You can use the polls on FB and Instagram to know if your clients want you to reopen. You can ask them if they would be interested in coming to your spa if you reopen. This can give you a rough idea of how your business will be like.
If you decide to reopen, keep them posted with the latest updates on the working hours, service menu, prices, etc. Reach out through FB, Instagram, your website, emails, and even SMS.
The bottom line is that you need to assess your business vitals and determine if you are ready to reopen.
This will help you make a decision that is practical and profitable for your business as opposed to reopening your spa just because you are allowed to or because other spa owners are doing it.
Based on this assessment, you can also choose to make and follow your own timelines around reopening your spa.
If you decide to reopen your spa right away, that’s great!
But if you wish to wait and see how the others perform, there’s no harm in that either.
What should you do if you decide against reopening your spa?
Many spas have postponed their reopening because of the risks involved, or because of the financial or any other reasons. Some of them wish to sit back and see how people respond to the reopening of other spa businesses.
It is completely alright if you choose to remain closed for another week, or month, or as long as you decide. You can utilize this time to prepare yourselves better for the challenges ahead.
Even if you choose to remain closed, you can engage with your clients and even generate revenues from the same. Here are a few ways to do the same:
- You can offer to sell products on your retail shelves online so that your clients can have access to their favorite stuff even if they can’t see you yet!
- You can post self-care tutorials for your clients through your social media handles. Maybe go live using FB or Instagram and have interactive sessions with your followers. Take feedback, understand what they like/hate, and engage with your followers.
- Consider providing virtual consultations to your clients.
Stay in touch with your community and communicate with your peers regularly. Talk to them to know what they’re doing, what challenges they’re facing, how the customers are responding, and everything else that comes to your mind. Their insights will be helpful for you to prepare for and carry out the reopening efficiently.
Reopening can be delayed but not skipped. That is why it is best for you to work on your strategy for getting back to business whenever you are ready. You can use this guide as a reference to start preparing for your reopening. Jump to this section directly to get started.
How can we be of help if you have reopened already?
I hope that you are getting a good and welcoming response from your client community on the reopening.
Even though you have already started working again, analyze your business, and understand the capabilities if you haven’t done it already.
Discuss with your community the challenges that you are facing to get suggestions and solutions. Share your experiences so that the ones who have not yet reopened can get an idea of what it’s going to be like better.
You can also follow-up with your clients through email and social media to get their valuable feedback. It will help you understand if people are happy with your efforts or you have scope for improvements.
You can use this guide as a way to double-check if you have all the safety measures in place and some simple ideas on how to ensure safety at your spa in the post COVID19 world. Jump to this section directly!
What to do if you have decided to reopen?
Going back to work might involve a lot of challenges, but it’s going to be worth it!
Now that you have decided to reopen, it’s time to start planning and executing. There are a lot of things which you will have to do during the preparation.
But you need not worry! We got you covered.
What do spa and massage center owners need to think about before reopening their business post COVID-19?
1. Guidelines from authorities and associations
Researching and understanding current guidelines for spas and massage centers should be your first course of action – then you can move on to plan on how to implement them.
There might be restrictions on performing some close contact services in your state or county. Or you might have to operate on 50% occupancy at your workplace.
Refer to state guidelines, county rules, best practices launched by industry associations, etc. specifically for reopening spas and massage centers.
2. Social distancing implementation
One of the most effective ways to prevent the contraction of the Covid-19 is social distancing. There are a number of ways in which you can implement social distancing solutions in your spa in order to minimize the risk of virus spread:
Walk-ins can lead to crowding in your waiting area and make it difficult to follow social distancing. Many state guidelines and local authorities recommend shifting to an appointment-only model to avoid any walk-ins.
By getting your customers to pre-book, you can pre-plan and manage the number of people in your spa at a time.
If you are planning to shift to an appointment-only model for your business for at least a while – or maybe indefinitely, you can expect your phone to ring off the hook and inbox flooding with inquiries.
If you don’t already use one – it might be a good idea to start considering an appointment scheduling software for your spa business. It can let your clients self-book and also give you a chance to manage your day’s, week’s, or even month’s schedule in advance.
Workplace Capacity Management
Different states have issued different guidelines about the number of people allowed in your workplace per unit area. This has been done to ensure the implementation of social distancing.
Here are a few measures which you can take manage occupancy at your business:
- Many spa owners are also planning to reopen their spas in phases. In initial phases you can open with limited working hours and staggered shifts of voluntary staff.
- You can also choose to only provide essential spa services and massages in the first few phases. You can add more services and facials based on public health data assessment, experiences of other businesses, and the kind of response you receive from clients. Give relaxations and open communal amenities as and when the government suggests
- Limit the appointments in your spa to control the number of people inside at a time. Make sure that appointments are in accordance with the number of workstations/ treatment areas in your spa.
- If wet areas in your spa are available for use, consider limiting the number of customers allowed to use steam rooms, hot tubs and saunas at one time.
- To efficiently manage your spa capacity, you need to consider managing your staff as well. Use staggered shifts to manage your staff schedules.
- Divide your staff into groups or batches.
- Assign discrete shifts to each batch (10:00 AM to 3:00 PM and 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM) or alternate days (Monday Wednesday Friday and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) for working.
- Sanitize the spa and ensure zero contact among staff between shifts.
- This can be very useful for business continuity in case someone in any batch gets infected. You can ask the whole batch to quarantine while the other batch can continue to deliver services.
3. Enhancing sanitation and protective measures
“So cleaning the rooms out between clients, that’s always been our practice. Cleaning our tools too. It’s just going to take a bit longer now.” – @ReNeuw Wellness Spa’s Owner Suarez-Diaz
Being in the wellness industry, you might be no stranger to high standards of sanitation. But given the current scenario, you need to focus on targeted sanitation measures that stop the spread of COVID-19.
A few guidelines that you can follow to ensure customers and staff safety:
- The clients as well as employees should wear safety masks at all times, even during a massage. Estheticians should wear masks and plastic shields while doing facials, to protect against clients who will not have their faces covered during facials.
- Cover the massage table and other workstations with a heavy-duty plastic sheet.Wear disposable gloves, inhalation masks, and protective eyewear or full-face visors during cleaning and disinfection.
- Recommend your customers to bring their own set of masks and gloves for protection. Still keep an extra stock of sanitizers, masks, and all the different COVID-19 amenities in your spa in case of emergencies.
- Disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, switches, etc. in specific intervals and even the products used between clients with an EPA-registered disinfectant. Designate specific slots for sanitization between appointments.
- Remove all linens and replace them with cleaned ones after each treatment. Clean linens should be stored in another room and not in the laundry room with the used ones. Consider using plastic ziplock bags for carrying linens: separate for the clean and used ones.
- Deep clean the spa at the end of the workday. Ventilate restrooms overnight by opening doors and windows or use air filters. Sterilize all wet areas overnight by utilizing ozone machines of appropriate chemicals.
- Use ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to disinfect highly sterile places like saunas, baths, and hot tubs. IHRSA has given more guidelines for the cleaning of spas, pools, hot tubs and saunas.
- Empty your retail shelves and put signage to tell your clients that they can request for the products separately.
- Install air purifiers if possible to further ensure that the air in your spa remains clean and virus-free.
4. Customer and employee screening
Screening customers and staff members before they enter your spa can help you minimize the chances of infection for others.
1. Before they book an appointment
Firstly, prepare a questionnaire for your clients which they should fill in before booking an appointment. You can do this through the intake forms. Following are some of the questions which you should consider including in your form:
- Have you been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person?
- Are you experiencing a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, or any other coronavirus symptom recently?
- Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?
- Insights about their travel history
- <Any other questions you want to ask>
If the customer response suggests a possibility of infection, politely decline the appointment or reschedule it.
You can also ask customers to sign waiver forms before they book an appointment with you.
2. Before they enter your spa
Make sure that you screen the temperature of every person before they enter your spa. Use digital contactless thermometers for the same. The temperature reading should not be more than 100.4℉.
If a customer shows any symptoms or does not comply with your spa’s rules, politely refuse them entry. Consider rebooking or refunding depending upon the situation.
Your employees should also take the questionnaire before they rejoin. If you suspect chances of infection then talk to the employee and suggest them to rejoin sometime later. Explain why you are doing this.
Check the temperatures of your team members everyday before they enter the spa. In case an employee shows any symptoms, ask them to take a leave and rest at home.
Communicate these protocols to all your team members well in advance.
5. Minimizing contact
Waiting areas have now become a restricted zone. Some guidelines for spas to reopen include having businesses use a virtual check-in process to minimize physical contact.
With a digital customer database, your reception staff can simply verify customers by searching for their phone numbers or email addresses on their mobile or laptop and let the customer in.
Many online scheduling software provide a digital customer database that allows this. You can refer here for more information.
Digital SOAP Notes
SOAP notes are important for therapists and estheticians to suggest a treatment and maintain the customer’s treatment history.
But given the current scenario, paper-based forms for taking SOAP notes can be a source of infection. Not just that, supporting logistics like notepads, pens and more are also considered commonly touched surfaces.
You can try digital alternatives to these SOAP notes and other client paperwork. Using a scheduling software with an inbuilt CRM tool that stores SOAP notes and in a customer’s profile is a safer alternative.
Digital tools like these also allow you to easily collect data from them and maintain the records of the details of your session.
Contactless payments and check-outs
Many businesses also plan to move to contactless billing, wherein they would encourage customers to pay online.
Ask your customers to pre-pay for an appointment and avoid taking cash, credit cards as highly touched surfaces tend to be virus hotspots. You can also email them digital invoices on their registered email addresses.
6. Rethinking your services
Rethink your spa services for the best business opportunities with minimal risks. Here are some suggestions for the same.
To avoid losing your customers due to reduced workplace capacity, consider shifting to online consultations for your clients.
While you might be skeptical about providing high-risk skin care and facial services at your spa you can still help your customers find the best skin care product and design a treatment plan for them online.
- Encourage your customers to schedule online video consultations for treatments that need a prior check or which can easily be done at home.
- Licensed estheticians can make customized treatment plans for their customers online. Med Spas can practice telemedicine. You can even offer skincare consultations and a home skincare regime.
- You can also offer to provide services at your spa and an online consultation thereafter, as a package.
Integrating your scheduling software with popular video-conferencing apps like Zoom will make it easier for you and your team to deliver these virtual services as customers to book consultations.
A general inclination of clients towards in-home massages has been observed recently. A major reason for this is that in-home massages rule out the possible risks of using others’ linens and thus provides a stress-free experience to the customer in the comfort of their home.
So, some licensed massage therapists and even estheticians have started providing massages and other possible spa services at the client’s doorstep.
This service also reduces the tension of changing and disinfecting the linens after each customer in the spa.
Make changes to your service menu
Spas have a wide range of high-contact services from facials to body scrubs, saunas, etc. You might have to temporarily take down some of the services due to high risks involved, or staff unavailability, or in accordance with the guidelines.
You can also decrease the duration of the treatments wherever possible. Also, you can include the various new services as discussed above. Update your service menu accordingly. Have a discussion with your fellow spa community members for better insights on the same.
7. Ramping up retail sales
Offer to sell products online. This will help you keep in touch with your customers, especially those who are not yet ready to visit your spa. You can also earn some extra profits through this.
Sell your own products or the ones on your retail shelves. You can sell essential oils, toners, massage creams, etc. You can even mix scrubs, creams, and masks and allow takeaways or delivery for the same.
This will help you be in touch especially with the clients who are not ready to visit you yet. But they’d still want to pamper themselves with their favorite products!
Spread the word about this facility to your customers through your social media, emails, SMS, and website. You can even paste posters in your spa about the same to expand your reach.
8. Updating your prices
The standards of sanitation and various extra resources will be financially demanding. Some of the people from your community are starting to increase their taxes to cover these costs. You can add a certain percentage on the bills and mention it.
When talked about the topic in public, some spa experts said that this is justified as this shows you care about your clients and you take an extra effort to provide them a safe environment.
Communicate the updated prices to your clients well in advance through every possible channel. Many of the spa owners said that their clients were completely supportive of this.
9. Training your team
Make sure your staff members are aware of everything you are planning and understand it completely. After all, they are the ones going to be communicating and working directly with your customers once they come back.
To do this,
- Include them while planning to implement the sanitization procedures to reopen your spa.
- Assign specific responsibilities to each staff member so that they have a sense of ownership.
- Train them over virtual meetings on the new processes and on how to calm guest anxiety.
- Organize a dry run of reopening day with your team to make sure everyone’s prepared and there are no loopholes in your planning.
Your team members are going to have the greatest responsibility in context of these practices when you reopen. This is what makes the training of your team a significant part of your reopening preparation.
10. Telling your clients about your improved safety standards
We said at the beginning of this blog, that you will face three major challenges, remember?
One of them was to make your clients aware of the improved safety standards of your spa during the pandemic.
In these trying times, you need to win the trust of your customers again.
The reputation of your spa built in the first few days of the reopening will determine the volume of your business in the long term post-COVID-19.
That’s why it’s important that your spa is thought of as “safe” by your clients and proper implementation of safety measures is crucial right now. To help you communicate your safety measures to customers:
- Discovery platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, and social media like Instagram and Facebook have given options to upload your business’s COVID-19 response in which you can outline your spa’s safety guidelines and what customers are expected to do before they come in.
- Add posts on your social media handles and updates on your website to welcome your clients after the reopening of your spa. Also, highlight the safety measures you are practicing in your spa to fight the coronavirus. You can even get COVID-19 certifications online and post them on your social media and website.
- Send “Welcome Back” emails to your customer outlining:
- Highlights of your sanitation practices
- The date of reopening of your spa
- Insights about the practices which will have to be followed by them when they come to your spa (appointment-only model, compulsory masks, contactless payments, updated service menu, etc.)
Conclusion: Win over your customers all over again!
COVID-19 has affected life and business all over the world. The US alone has reported more than a hundred thousand casualties.
Whenever such events take place, people change their ways of living for their survival. You are likely to see a similar change in your client behavior. People will be more careful and cautious.
Also, since people have been locked in their homes for long, #DIY has been trending.
Can this be a replacement for your spa?
Not at all! People will realize that the experience delivered by a professional cannot be matched by their own attempts at home.
Moreover, the stress due to the pandemic and associated lockdown will make people seek relaxation. And who can deliver a relaxing experience better than a spa?
It will take time for you and your customers to get used to the exhaustive sanitation and protective practices. But this is a great opportunity for you to make your clients feel that you truly care for them. You can instill trust in your business in your clients and win them all over again.
Resources and Tools
1. Reopening checklist
Here’s a spa reopening checklist from ISPA which will come handy in following all the guidelines and preventive measures without fail.
Feel free to add anything that you want to this checklist and customize it for your business.
2. Spa management tool
With everything that you have to take care of given the current crisis, technology can be your best friend right now.
While many spa owners and barbers have always used spa management tools, due to COVID19, many first time users are trying new tools to help them run their business – especially all-in-one online scheduling tools.
The industry is fast adopting appointment scheduling software to help them through these challenging times.
We at Appointy have been receiving hundreds of requests from spa and massage center owners to set up online scheduling for their business over the last few weeks.
Being an easy-to-use, cloud-based appointment scheduling software, Appointy can help you implement social distancing guidelines, adapt to the post COVID19 world, and manage your business efficiently.
Disclaimer: The information which is summarised herein does not constitute medical or other professional advice and is general in nature. It does not take into account your specific circumstances and should not be acted on without full understanding of your current situation and future goals and objectives. In doing so you risk making commitment to a strategy that may not be suitable to your needs. Whilst we have tried to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the contents of this website, you should verify all information and facts independently.
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium business face every day.
If you have any thoughts on this blog, or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below.
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