A Bad Policy Sets Stage For An Off-Brand Experience

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Recently my wife and her girlfriend spent 2 days a very popular spa St. Anne’s Country Inn and Spa. It primarily caters to women, although men and couples are also welcome. This has been a yearly ritual for these 2 ladies — a chance for a little personal “me” time — to get away from kids and responsibilities with a good friend.

Overall the visit was very enjoyable — but one particular experience raised an interesting question.

When she went for one of the treatments, she discovered the person administering the treatment was a male. She was surprised to find herself in a state of near undress while a male administered the treatment — without being asked if that was okay with her. The session was professional in all regards and she reported the quality of his work was also excellent.

However, that nagging discomfort of not being asked if she was alright with the situation remained.

Upon reviewing the website she discovered the following prominently displayed under their FAQ section

SPECIAL REQUESTS FOR THERAPISTS
Ste. Anne’s Spa employs both male and female professionally trained therapists. We are committed to the principle of Employment Equity, which means we will provide equal treatment in employment and will not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, religion, or creed, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, physical handicap, age, ethnic origin, or political belief, or other grounds prohibited by Provincial or Federal Legislation. Therefore to protect the rights of our employees we are unable to accommodate any special requests for therapists.

While the spa may have the best intentions for their employees — which is a good thing — where exactly does this policy consider the customer?

My wife is not a prude in any way — but not having the opportunity to indicate whether she was comfortable with a male attendant seemed very odd. It certainly didn’t make her feel like a “valued” customer. This policy seems out of alignment with there own brand promise as taken from the front page of their own website.

Far too many of us neglect what our body and spirits need most: relaxation, revitalization and a chance to heal from the intensity of our daily routines. Ste. Anne’s philosophy focuses on creating an atmosphere to help rebuild your strength, recapture your energy, and reflect on what’s truly important in your life.

After all, it would be very hard to relax and enjoy a session if you were uncomfortable with the person administering the treatment — regardless of whether you or I agree with their reasons.

Yet the spa has taken the position that the customer has no choice. Shouldn’t a paying customer have some input. Shouldn’t they have the option to decline service from a male if they were uncomfortable.

What if she had been someone with strong religious beliefs, or possibly overweight, or potentially having had surgery — possibly a mastectomy. All of these might have caused significant embarrassment or discomfort to the patron to have their treatment performed by a male.

One the other hand — some women would love the idea :) .

Yet the spa has taken the position that the customer has no choice. Shouldn’t a paying customer have some input. Shouldn’t they have the option to decline service from a male if they were uncomfortable.

The spa may not be prepared to have guests request certain employees — but surely deciding on a male versus female should not be out of order.

My Perspective: First it is a strange policy to place so prominently on the website. This suggested that it has been an issue in the past — possibly certain therapists were more “in demand” than others which led to scheduling difficulties or disappointment by returning customers that their favourite therapist wasn’t available.

But isn’t that the job of every great employee — to build loyalty by creating a service experience that causes customers to request them by name.

Wouldn’t it be better to “recognize” great employees that have encouraged customer loyalty and then train those who need support achieving the higher service level.

This policy seems to be going in another direction entirely and definitely isn’t “on-brand”. Maybe I am missing something — but this policy is focused on the organization and doesn’t inspire employee excellence or customer loyalty.

A bad policy to start — and it sets a tone for how customers are viewed by the organization across the entire experience. Is it “on-brand” or “off-brand”?

Do you have any policies that aren’t focused on the customer and aligned with your brand promise?

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