Internal auditing and mystery guest evaluation – a potent combination to enhance consistency.

| October 25, 2011 | Comments (0)

Peter Krug – Managing Director of the Gingko Spa Consult and Celeste Peters -Certification Manager TUV Rheinland Inspection Services recently explored the value of mystery guest evaluations and internal process auditing for spa operations at the South African Spa Association Networking breakfast in Cape Town.  Both Celeste and Peter are Board Members of the South African Spa Association promoting spa standards in South Africa.

Customer Service no doubt is the distinctive difference between the success and failure for many spas. Spas should be evaluating, documenting, auditing, verifying and measuring the level of service their clients are receiving.  Are employees performing to meet these optimal levels? Are these principles being applied consistently and competently enough to improve your bottom- line?

Mystery guest evaluations and internal auditing methods can assist spas to check whether specific standards, regulatory requirements, customer requirements or rating systems have been met and upheld.  Mystery Guest programs look primarily at the Guest Experience and help us to see things from a consumer’s point of view, ensuring that actual expectations are as they were intended to be. Internal audits on the other hand evaluate all areas within the spa from service to product quality and are crosschecked and referenced and verified against standard operating procedures.  Quality standards must be upheld consistently on a continual basis. Areas, which need improvement to meet the standards set by management are then easily identified and rectified immediately.  Data collected from both these evaluation methods can only be effective if properly followed and utilised to get improvements in place.

Guest service satisfaction sovereignty is the main business model, which will help spas survive the current economic times. Focus your spa’s revenue model by repositioning your focus on revenue generation toward guest service satisfaction levels and watch it become the proven revenue generator. As Peter Drucker, the business management guru says, “The only profit center is the customer.”

Mystery guest feedback is only valuable, if reports pinpoint services, which can be improved or complemented, thus ensuring that guests have an ultimate experience. The completed report should focus on relevant issues and provide detailed responses affording informed managerial decisions and identification of training needs. Your mystery guest is there to give you feedback on the experience they have had so that you can use this as a benchmark for your spa processes. Most mystery guest feedback reports or checklists all contain similar criteria evaluating the following: reservation process, confirmation, arrival, wellness or pre- treatment consulting, treatment experience, home care sales- retail, departure and overall impression.

For many therapists and spa managers the aspect of “managing of service quality” is done with indifference and this tends to be the last item on their daily list!

A Service Quality Management Tool is a “self Managing” Tool and has 4 core elements to consider:

Inspect what you expect – staff need to be regularly inspected! Some staff members are naturals and provide service as per expectation while others need their performance to be monitored – reviewed, assessed and if necessary to allow for appropriate corrective action to be taken.

Utilise multiple sources of input – client comment cards are good but these invariably only show extremities and not everyone comments on their experience. MYSTERY Guest Visits supplement the above and give good, balanced and regular feedback on customer experiences. Internal audits are a vital additional tool which improve monitoring and measuring on all levels.

Peer Review leading up to internal auditing  – Create a service point checklist and get staff buy in to participate in this “review system”. Each member of staff must observe the performance of another staff member and report compliance and observations against the service points check list. This is based on the system airlines use when they say over the intercom “Cabin cross check!” Do this at least every three months and maybe even try to implement it for 30 minutes a week and note the difference. Ensure that different members audit their peers, their management as well as their subordinates. This will create an atmosphere where everyone is trying to do their best for each other, the team and the spa! Taking it personally gets minimized as people become aware that looking at details is everyone’s task to make a success of the whole operation.

Employ service/hospitality orientated “Naturals” – While training is important, employing “hospitality” orientated staff creates self-sustaining service quality in our spas. These “Naturals” want to please, impress and serve! Thirty percent of you team should be “Naturals” – so to encourage and “Train” the others (leading by example)

Derek Wood – President of Guest Check Inc – said: “Building quality into an organization is a premeditated act, not a mere coincidence. To increase your property’s reputation and occupancy numbers, build a self-sustaining service organisation”.

There is a direct link between REVENUE generation & GUEST SERVICE! Obviously UNHAPPY guests don’t come back.  A study conducted by the University of Michigan Ross School of Business has determined that a guest service value carries so much weight in the service/ spa’s financial performance that it supersedes price promotions! Although pricing can be effective as a short-term growth opportunity, it has been proven through American Customer Satisfaction Index -ACSI’s research that price-cutting is almost never sustainable in driving revenue growth!

Mystery guests:

  • Are the eyes of your clients identifying customer service behaviour and client needs
  • Identify outstanding performance of staff members which can be measured and rewarded
  • Provide independent and impartial feedback reducing any perception of favouritism in incentive programs
  • Determine whether customer’s actual experiences are as intended
  • Identify training needs and opportunities for improvement
  • Identify areas that are working consistently well
  • Identify attitude or indifference or rudeness of a staff member –  (did you know that 68 % of you clients stop coming because of this?


Auditing is a systematic and independent examination to determine whether quality activities and related results comply with planned arrangements are implemented effectively and are suitable to achieve objectives – ISO 8402.  How often have you evaluated your system and processes?

If you continually monitor processes and evaluate outputs which are critical for the growth of your system effectiveness and continual improvement become firmly entrenched affording you time to market and grow your spa clientele more. Internal auditing is the ideal toolbox to improve you system. Most systems fail because customer satisfaction is unsatisfactory, management lacks commitment, scheduled audits are low priorities, roots causes of failures are not identified to eliminate problems, and the internal audit process remains underdeveloped because the internal auditor is not competent enough to deal with the whole process approach.


It is important to understand this new wonderful tool. All management standards use internal auditing tools, however ISO 9001: 2008 is probably the most well known of all the system standards. Too many people miss the point about internal auditing and just use a standard checklist disregarding the process based auditing approach. Audits need to be process based to assess process effectiveness and evaluate the interface activities with other processes. Don’t just look for non- compliance. Process inputs and outputs need to be evaluated and sequences and outputs need to be linked. Just to link up with the mystery guest feedback the process of monitoring and measuring is absolutely essential. Audits need to be based on status and importance.  Status is a particular department, discipline/facility or process performed against established policies, goals, objectives and expectations. Performance indicator history and root cause analysis of the result of corrective action can monitor if problems reoccur.


Changes to any department, process or management team also fall into this category.  Importance on the other hand could be critical areas of your business, service and attitude of your staff.  Once importance is linked to status – a review of past history performances and effectiveness of training can be evaluated.  Monitoring and measuring status can concentrate on potential shortcomings and weaknesses, thus focusing on areas, which could be the root cause for the non- conforming situation.   Let’s take an example.  A thirty-minute audit is planned for the change rooms and on inspection; towels are dropped next to the laundry bin because it is full.  What is the root cause of the situation? Lack of resources, poor time keeping from housekeeping, lack of training for attention to detail or laundry bin is too small. If the situation is properly evaluated the real root cause will be identified and you will get to the bottom of the problem.

Planning is vital for good feedback. Competent internal auditors need to think out the box and concentrate on potential weaknesses not the only the obvious ones. Planned audits, which are 30 to 60 minutes per week, can be less disruptive and more effective.  Shorter audits are less disruptive and staff become more comfortable with regular audits, and enjoy improvements which emanate from the audits.  Auditing is a skill and practice makes perfect. Some spas only audit when problems arise.  However the more you audit, the more the system becomes firmly entrenched.  Positive comments and observations ensure that the system is improving and creating a perfect platform to over deliver to your guest.  Internal audit results will only be effective as the follow up and improvements implementation, have been actioned in time and shared with all.  At the end of the day all these processes will have a direct link maximizing customer satisfaction and ensuring that you retain current customers and attract new ones.

A combined evaluation method using mystery guest evaluations and internal auditing adds a new dimension to achieving customer satisfaction levels on an optimal level. Research has shown that it costs five times more to attract a new client compared to retaining just one current one.

Evaluate your guest feedback, analyze your mystery guest evaluations and perform regular internal audits to prevent the loss of your most valuable asset, your regular client.

It takes years to gain a client – but just seconds to lose one. If you don’t look after your clients, some one else will. 


TUV Rheinland is proud to introduce their

latest new Product Offering:

Specific Approach

Mystery Guest Evaluations

– performed by qualified spa management professional auditors.

Satisfied guests are the ones who like to come back. They also recommend your spa to others.

 Think out the box and improve your quality service to meet your guest’s expectations. With our regular guest evaluation programme and our qualified incognito spa auditors, we evaluate your operations using the criteria you want us to use, giving you maximum information about your strengths and helping you rectify your weaknesses. Find out what really goes on in your spa – you will be surprised or maybe complimented.

Our Approach

Together we define the criteria you want us to evaluate with qualified spa auditors.

We establish if consistency and competency are present in your services.

We provide you with a detailed evaluation report listing opportunities for improvement after our mystery guest visit.

Contracts for 3 months or 6 month programmes are available.


Contact Celeste Peters or Michelle Mellet at

TUV Rheinland

tel: 012 667 7700 or

email: or for further information.

Experience the difference and turn your guests into a regular ones, those who give you the best  marketing edge.


Category: Spa Articles

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