Expert advice: Teaching soft skills to boost spa revenue

Spa operator and training expert Neil Orvay shares the importance of soft-skills training in boosting spa revenue


By European Spa

30 May 2023

Spa training is typically focused around delivering treatments and building a deep product knowledge, so teams can upsell.

While these two capabilities are essential for running a profitable spa, they fail to maximise revenues. This is because many spa staff lack the interpersonal skills needed to develop relationships, understand client needs and position themselves as a trusted advisor.

This is not a criticism, simply a reality. How can a 20-year-old straight out of training be expected to have the skills and emotional awareness to connect with a client who could be twice their age and from a different socio- economic background or culture?

Neil Orvay

"Soft skills refers to the way staff communicate: choice of words, tone of voice and body language, therapists’ ability to develop connections with a client and ultimately establish rapport. Simply put, it’s about relationship building."

Neil Orvay

Owner, Sense of Touch

Making a meaningful connection

A large sales study by management consultancy Gartner Consulting found 53% of customer loyalty is driven by sales experience – not by brand, price, service or even the product.

This is a sobering insight for the spa industry, which seems to focus on having the latest technology, the newest ingredient or the next trend.

The research strongly suggests that, to maximise revenues, spas need to invest in delivering a better sales experience. That means training staff in soft skills.

From 20 years of owning and operating spas, I estimate up to 30% of revenue potential is lost through a lack of soft-skills. This is revenue most spa owners don’t even realise is walking out of the door.

Spa reception
The largest single revenue leakage exists at spa receptions

Where are you leaking revenue?

Too many clients visit a spa only once. This is a huge potential revenue leak as attracting a new client to your spa has a cost.

Spas tend to depend on the quality of a treatment to bring clients back. In any given market segment there is an expectation of a treatment quality level that must be met to justify the price. As the Gartner Consulting research suggests, this becomes commoditised and is not the key differentiator that dictates if a client returns.

The differentiator is the sales experience, which is governed by the level of soft skills a spa team possesses.

Picture of a woman being massaged
Spas tend to depend on the quality of a treatment to bring clients back

First, last and everything

The largest single revenue leakage exists at spa receptions. These are the first and last point of contact most clients have and are therefore where the first focus for soft-skills training should be.

One of the most important techniques in soft-skills training is tone of voice. When a client enters the spa from their stressful life, they are looking for an escape for a few hours, which our industry provides like no other.


At a time where the spa industry is struggling to attract and retain talent, it is vital that we equip our therapists with the skills needed for them to maximise their revenues


• A confident therapist and receptionist team trained in soft-skills techniques is the missing ingredient that most spa operations need to achieve greater staff stability and increased revenues.


• 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience – not by brand, price, service, or even the product. There is a clear case for training our spa teams in soft skills.


• People tend to mirror the tone of voice they encounter. A calm tone has the capacity to lead people into a state of calmness.


• When speaking on the phone with a new client, be aware that the variation in tone and pitch between the callers has a direct impact on the likelihood of a successful outcome.

The welcoming smile, lovely spa smells and relaxing music are all part of a sensory journey. But accompanying this is what I call the ‘spa persona’; a calmness that emanates from a soft, low tone of voice. This calmness has the capacity to lead others to a state of relaxation and is already used by most well-trained spa professionals.

This is just one example of how a small change in our communication style can have a huge impact on our results.

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