Hand & Stone Sees Surge After Reopening, Despite High-Touch Services
Tony and Brittany Rodgers, multi-unit Hand & Stone Massage franchisees in Houston, Texas.
Many restaurants and businesses are struggling with how and when to safely reopen after COVID-19 shutdowns, but Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa owners are seeing surges in appointment bookings at locations that hired back employees after furloughs and reopened, despite the obviously high-touch services offered.
The 450-unit franchise partnered with Service Management Group to survey more than 6,700 consumers, evaluating what customers expect from spas as they return to normal routines. While 60 percent of respondents said they were concerned about catching the novel coronavirus while out in public, 55 percent of Hand & Stone members said they plan to visit their local spa within the next month. Even more encouraging was that 90 percent of members said they were likely to continue their monthly subscription service.
“The reason why so many members continue to see our value is because we provide a safe space for people to come and escape the stress and anxiety of the world that happens on a daily basis,” said Brittany Rodgers, a multi-unit Hand & Stone franchisee in Texas. “If anything, we know that stress levels are a lot higher right now.”
Rodgers, who opened up the first Hand & Stone Massage Spa in the state of Texas, has seen the impact firsthand at her four stores in the Houston metro area. Her spas have been far busier than they were before mandated shutdowns began, Rodgers said, partly due to the nature of their membership-based model. Customers build up multiple credits and get excited to use them again, and can also gift a massage or facial to friends and family.
During the shutdown, Rodgers established a ‘Hometown Hero’ giveaway at her spas, where Hand & Stone clients could nominate an essential worker to receive a massage or facial credit. Nominations ranged from grocery store employees to nurses to delivery truck drivers—“Anyone they felt that’s made a difference,” Rodgers said. “The nominations were so heartfelt."
A separate initiative gave any clients who remained members for March, April and May a free gift card for a massage or facial when they returned. For customers who experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic, Rodgers’ spa employees helped them either cancel or freeze their memberships.
“We didn’t see a lot of people who wanted to cancel. Instead, we saw people who paused so they had something to come back to,” Rodgers said. “That was extremely heartwarming, in that they knew we had a bright future ahead of us, and they loved their memberships so much they didn’t want to let it go. We really felt the love during the shutdown.”
Rodgers made sure their team had a coordinated plan in place before reopening. Employee shifts are staggered by 15-minute increments to allow for private pre-screenings and temperature checks at the door. All staff members must also pass a spa illness prevention course, along with a practical assessment, which includes tests such as hand washing. Both employees and customers must wear masks at all times, and service providers also wear gloves during treatments upon request.
Due to the close proximity of the front desk workspace, Rodgers had to reduce the number of front desk associates to follow social distancing rules. This led Rodgers to create a new full-time position these employees could shift to called a sanitation specialist that helps with check-ins, screenings, laundry and hourly common area sanitation.
Front desk associates also had the option to pick up hours at the Hand & Stone call center Rodgers opened two years ago to assist in scheduling appointments for her four locations, which each have a separate socially distanced station within the call center. Though members have had the option to book appointments online since 2017, many still prefer to speak to an employee, which results in high call volumes.
“We actually got the idea from an owner in Orlando, Florida who had done it for years,” Rodgers said. “We are definitely one of the first in the nation in the franchise to do it, but many other owners have reached out in interest to do the same. As a multi-unit owner, you reach a point where in order to keep the same level of excellence we strive to achieve, things like a call center are absolutely necessary.”