As a hotel & spa management company, we like to think that we know a little bit about, well, managing hotels and spas and we work very hard on our service standards and like many of the best operators, we undertake regular mystery shop visits as part of this process.
We have implemented this practice hundreds of times but there is one particular occasion which will forever be etched in our memories.
We had invited a highly respected Regional Director from a competitor hotel chain (someone we knew well) to do an informal mystery shop visit at a new property we had just taken on so we knew that the business was in for some close scrutiny, which is exactly what we wanted.
Now, by a strange quirk of fate, it transpired that our new hotel manager had worked closely with our mystery guest before joining our employ and they knew each other quite well, so it’s fair to say that some departments were fore-warned about our ‘surprise’ visitor and we were pleased to see that there was an extra spring in the step of the team as they carried out their duties on the day in question.
But there are some departments that even the most experienced hotel manager has difficulty getting to grips with - one of these departments being leisure (in general) or more specifically, in this instance, the spa - a fact we were rather starkly reminded of.
We had made sure that our guest had checked in and enjoyed his dinner and accommodations and agreed to meet in the hotel lobby after breakfast but when we arrived the next morning we bumped into her as she was emerging from the manager’s office with a concerned look on her face.
‘I think one of your famous motivational speeches might be needed’ she whispered.
Bewildered, my fellow Directors & I entered the office to find the manager with their head in their hands and tears in their eyes.
Unknown to us, our guest had booked a spa treatment as part of his visit and it was the recounting of his unusual experience in this department that had brought tears to the eyes of our manager.
“I booked a massage last night with Jenny” she had told our manager, “and as I’m not sure how these things are supposed to work I really just put myself in Jenny’s hands - no pun intended - and it was fabulous, a real treat, although I had to chuckle to myself at one point” she said.
‘How so?’ asked the manager.
“Well, I asked her where she had worked before coming here and she was so pleased to have the opportunity to discuss some of the funny things that happened to her when she was working on a Cruise ship that I think she kind of lost track of what she was doing”
‘What do you mean, ‘lost track?’ asked the manager, becoming increasingly concerned.
“Well, the treatment was going beautifully until at some point she just stopped and asked me ‘Oh, have I done that leg?’
And at this, our manager who had so desperately wanted to impress not just his new employers but his old boss too simply turned white and his eyes filled with tears!