As a board member of the South African Spa Association and a quality auditor I am constantly questioned by many spa goers about the consistency of their treatments and differences experienced from one therapist to another from the same facility. This seems to happen more frequently of late. Last week, a friend of mine, a regular spa goer explained her dilemma about her favourite spa. Although she goes regularly and has for the past few months, her monthly usual treatment involving a signature treatment was just so poorly performed by a new therapist, that she questioned why certain steps and procedures were left undone. The answer, was a shrug off the therapist’s shoulders. She too is a quality professional and knows the value of regular quality audits to support consistency, so it was no surprise to her to find out that on further enquiry with the manager, it was confirmed that the new therapist had not been through induction training for the signature treatment because there had been no time allocated, because her predecessor had left prematurely and as the treatments were already booked, she just had to jump in. Does this sound familiar to many? Why was the training process for new employees not followed? Why was the system so compromised? Why did her competency evaluation not exist? It is the same situation as usual. Profitability and making target are what really count in most businesses. So, quality was left at the door. This was not the first time she had experienced an incident like this and now she has decided to change her service provider of course. While researching for this article I was quite shocked to see how verbal clients are getting about poor spa experiences and how often the same problems keep on occurring. Maybe not enough time is spent on evaluating exactly what is going on in facilities, and training is only done if time permits so quality is not really given a second thought. How can a spa alleviate these issues? I decided to unpack the words quality and audit to see if this can support the spa industry further.
The quality glossary definition of audit as defined on American Society for Quality – www.asq.org follows:
Auditing is the on-site verification activity, such as inspection or examination, of a process or quality system, to ensure compliance to requirements. An audit can apply to an entire organization or might be specific to a function, process, production step.
We all understand the need for financial audits, but sometimes, less time and effort are spent on quality audits because of time and cost. Unfortunately, this results in poor experiences and bad reviews as quality aspects are ignored.
There are three different types of quality audits that are normally performed which can support businesses – first, second or third-party audits. The audit depends on the relationship between the auditors and the person/s being auditing. First party audits are normally called internal audits and this type of audit is done by someone within your organization who evaluates your process to ensure that processes meet the company procedure. Hotel Spas or large groups are normally very consistent on this level, if they have a good internal auditing system. This kind of audit does not only focus on processes but also ensures that all rules and regulations which are set down for the company are followed. This audit should identify areas, which are not in line with company processes and areas where there is a need for improvement. The effectiveness of the system should be evaluated, as this will support levels of consistency. These are possibly your most in- depth audits, as you really investigate and see where there are potential problems, corrections and improvements that need changes, so you can align with your company strategies and process to ensure consistency. In depth Internal audits are a great value add type of audit if performed correctly. These can be outsourced to consultants, who act on behalf of the company or group if time and resources of a spa are constrained.
Second party audits are those audits which are performed on your supplier to ensure that they are meeting the requirements specified in the contract you have with them. Special control over hygiene standards, customer interests, certain processes or specific documentation could be part of this audit. Second party audits are more likely to be used in larger manufacturing companies compared to service orientated companies. However, if you have outsourced services like laundry and cleaning facilities, a second party audit becomes invaluable ensuring that you keep services in line with your own standards.
Third Party audits are performed by an independent organization, which should be independent of any relationship so that there is no conflict of interest. These audits are likely to be set against quality management criteria like ISO 9001: 2015, audited by qualified third-party auditors who then verify conformance to the standard. Independent third party companies called certification bodies conduct these third party audits. The value for third party auditing ensures independence, demonstrates legal compliance, objective evaluation and normally auditors come in with a fresh set of eyes and a different approach which results in a good analysis of results supporting improvement potentials. Third party audits are linked to certification bodies, which are normally accredited giving clients the formal independent recognition that certain standards have been achieved. With the achieved certification, compliance is achieved, and this gives greater trust to potential clients who make informed choices when choosing competent suppliers. As standards like ISO 9001 evolve with the seven quality principles like customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, evidence decision making and relationship management, it is easy to see why quality audits can provide so much support to any business.
Consistently evaluating your system and processes takes time, but if you do it properly you can enhance your offering and keep your guests coming back for more because you exceed their expectations.
Peter Drucker says, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Auditing is one way to measure your business and can improve all processes. If done well it can also keep your name out of the social media complaint section and increase revenue.