Surveys are showing a “COVID bump”—are you seeing the same in your practice? In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Kristin and Darren speak with Lisa Starr, collaborator with Mindbody and principal of Wynne Business Consulting and Education, to discuss data findings of the 2022 Mindbody Wellness Index, consumer sentiment toward wellness services right now, the top challenges practitioners are overcoming, and trends massage therapists should consider in their practice.
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0:01:37.3 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford.
0:01:38.5 KC: And I'm Kristin Coverly.
0:01:40.4 DB: And welcome to the ABMP Podcast, a podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Lisa Starr. Lisa is a frequent collaborator with MindBody and the principle of Wynne Business Consulting and Education, which specializes in SPA, Wellness and Salon businesses and brands. She has over 35 years of experience in the beauty and wellness industry, spending the last 22 years as a consultant and educator, helping wellness businesses optimize their operations while providing exceptional experiences for their guests. Lisa is a task force Chair for the Global Wellness Institute's consulting initiative, a contributing editor at SPA Business Magazine, a regular contributor to global trade publications and a highly rated speaker at industry conferences. She also offers live SPA management courses, both online and around the globe. For more information, visit wynnebusiness.com. Hello, Lisa. Hello, Kristin.
0:02:35.8 Lisa Starr: Nice to be here, thanks for having me.
0:02:36.8 KC: Thanks so much for being with us. Listeners, today we're talking about the results of MindBody's 2022 Wellness Index findings. Lisa, let's start with the big picture. What's the overall consumer sentiment towards spending money on wellness, including massage and bodywork and beauty services right now?
0:02:53.7 LS: Thank you for that question, Kristin, let me give you a little background on the survey, if I will, that will help people understand what it's about. This is the fourth year MindBody has done it, and we survey Americans. It's not done by MindBody, we employ a survey company to do it. This year we had 16,000 respondents all across the country, all demographics. So it's very random and accurate, we feel, because of that. It's a very comprehensive study and we don't believe anyone else does anything like that, actually, in the industry, specifically around wellness, this is our fourth annual version. So what we learned is consistent with what we've seen in the last few years, which is that Americans are very interested in wellness and beauty services right now, more so than ever. We're calling this The COVID Lift, if you will, because we've been telling them for years, I know any massage therapists listening understands that clients need to do these services to feel good and have great health. So we've known that, but we have had less buy-in from consumers. Of course we have our loyal clients, but the consumer work place in general has decided, "Oh, maybe what these folks are doing is actually really useful and I should do that." So in the survey, 78% of Americans said they felt wellness was more important than ever.
0:04:19.3 KC: That's great. And so true and accurate, but then having that understanding of the importance of wellness and then spending money on services can sometimes be a big divide. So I'm glad to hear. And I love the phrase COVID Lift, I'm glad to hear that The COVID Lift is happening. That's great.
0:04:36.9 LS: Well, it is great because we know that they work. What we do works. What we all dedicate our lives to is not just like an hour of fun for people, it has a long-term effect and, of course, it's better the more you do it. So employees are feeling really good about their careers in wellness, and we're here for the customers. I mean, honestly, I don't know anyone in this industry right now who is not as busy as they could possibly be. There has just been no shortage of demand for what we offer.
0:05:06.2 DB: So Lisa, let me ask you a little bit specifically about our profession, does the data show that massage services are rebounding specifically?
0:05:14.1 LS: Absolutely, the data shows that. I think it was about 37% hike from the previous year, yes. And of course, the previous year being 2020, where there was already something down. But we are seeing huge demand, also, in chiropractic, has seen a lift as well.
0:05:32.6 KC: Let's shift gears a little bit and start talking about some of the top challenges that SPAs and practitioners are overcoming right now.
0:05:40.5 LS: Well, that's an easy one. The top challenge that I'm seeing as a consultant that works across the country in SPAs and salons and wellness facilities is staffing. No surprise, right? We're seeing in all customer-facing businesses, from hospitality to retail to restaurants to what we do, that the only thing preventing us from doing more business is that we don't have enough bodies. Now, you might ask, "Well, where are they? What happened?" And certainly some of the wellness practitioners have been impacted by less schooling, cosmetology schools shut down for a bit, people weren't getting licenses at the same rate, testing has been held up. But it's generally been, we feel, that people have re-evaluated their lives and don't wanna work as much or thanks to the internet, which is enabling this, but it also means people have other ways of making money. Especially for massage, which is a job where you don't necessarily work a 40-hour week. I mean, most massage therapists will do 20-25 messages a week at the most, and so that leaves you a lot of time to do other things, and perhaps you've discovered that you like those other things, so we're not sure.
0:07:00.1 LS: I would love to do a survey of practitioners and say, "Hey, what has changed?" I think there was a lot of fear also about being in a small room with a stranger during a pandemic, understandably. So that has, I think, held people back from returning to the craft. But I have to say that, as I saw my clients re-opening, the first ones I would say were June of 2020. In fact, one client is a massage studio, they only do massage, 10 massage rooms, and they were full immediately. I mean, as full as they could be given capacity restrictions and timing and masking and sanitizing and all the things we were doing back in June of 2020. And that theme has continued. Every SPA, Salon, Wellness facility that I work with is just absolutely as booked as they can be. So massage therapists, hopefully, we'll come back to the SPA or studio and continue to practice because clients are looking for you. They definitely want what we're offering.
0:08:03.6 DB: Lisa, in your consulting role, are you seeing anyone do anything with attracting and retaining staff during this right now?
0:08:14.4 LS: Darren, that's the million dollar question. And some people say, "Oh, well, we need to pay more." And you know, that's not it. It's not about the money. And honestly, with massage therapists, it rarely has been about the money. They're very interested in what they do and have great Ethics, and they just wanna lead a life that's purposeful. So I think that we're going to see more smaller places offering benefits, paid time off, education stipends in as much as they can afford to. But most of the people that own them are passionate about what they do, so I do think we will start to see more ancillary perks and benefits for people that work in the industry.
0:08:57.9 DB: Okay, Lisa, what are some of the top wellness trends from the 2022 MindBody Wellness Index that SPAs can consider in their practice?
0:09:06.1 LS: I think one of the huge impacts that we saw from the study was the increased interest in immune health, which no surprise in the situation that we're in. But it speaks to the fact that consumers have decided, and they understand better now, that their health is in their own hands. And it's not going to a physician and getting a pill or a prescription, but it's about, "Well, what do I do the rest of the time? Am I eating well? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I moving my body? Am I seeing to my brain?" So the interest in immune health has really become marked, in fact, in the survey, 55% of the people surveyed said they wanna strengthen their system to withstand illness and disease. And nearly two-thirds of the respondents, 65%, said they were more focused on health and wellness because they want to live a long and healthy life. So I feel like the pandemic made us all realize how short it can be. You know, you know every day when you get up, you don't know, is this it? Is this, you know, what's gonna happen today? But those were more remote chances and the pandemic, I think, brought to everyone this fact that we don't live forever and we need to maximize our time.
0:10:20.7 LS: So that's, I think, a wonderful side effect. Another was an interest in mental wellness, that has become much more sought after. And I'm sure you know, there are now apps and ways to communicate with a mental wellness provider without having to leave your house. Which is excellent, and especially for younger people. They're very comfortable pulling their device out of their pocket, talking to a counselor from their couch, they don't have to go somewhere, they love that, it's convenient. So it was actually ranked as the most important dimension of wellness by the most people in the survey. And almost half, 49%, said that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental wellness.
0:11:08.1 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.
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0:12:29.3 DB: Now, let's get back to the podcast. Lisa, did you find anything specifically with regards to gender? I mean, were there any results that specifically in the demographics that came back that certain people, males versus females, responded more positively to something other than another?
0:12:47.5 LS: I would say that the women were a little more high on the mental wellness stress scale, which would be expected. But I think the big surprise for us was the Millennial men that came out, that demographic is very interested in new services and products in a really surprising way, I thought. So that's another great way to think about your marketing, like how are we going after that segment? Because they do wanna take care of themselves, and I'll tell you, men are excellent clients because they do what you tell them. When you get male clients, they buy what you tell them to do, they come back when you say. They're very good that way. They're not like women who are busy shopping the next thing on their device. They're like, "Okay, you tell me to do it, I'm gonna do it." So let's get those Millennial men in there and have experiences for them, they're interested in feeling well and having wellness experiences, massage as well as red light therapy and NormaTec boots and all the other devices we have seen being introduced.
0:13:54.4 KC: I love that. Two pieces of follow-up. Number one, yes, we need to look at the way we're marketing our target markets, and is there opportunity to expand and really try to reach out to a new market? And two, Darren, just a little check-in as a male client, is that true?
0:14:10.0 DB: I can't speak as a Millennial because I'm a Gen Xer, but I can speak to absolutely, I love a good list. [laughter] Tell me what to buy, tell me what to do. And if you've said, "If you do x, y, z, it's gonna show these results." I'm all in. I love a list. You know that Kristin, I'm super organized when it comes to that stuff, so yeah. We've talked about it on this podcast a number of times. If I'm coming to you for various services, I'm all in that you're the expert. And I want that information, I actually don't wanna leave, for instance, if we're just talking about massage therapy. I don't wanna leave the session just being like, "Okay, we'll see you next time." I actually wanna check-in. "These are the things I noticed, these are the things... Here's some stretches you can work on in the meantime, let's go ahead and book that next time. Have you thought about these products?" And Kristin, we've done it here on the podcast numerous times. I'm always looking at it in relation to aesthetic services or hair services, because I feel like those two areas are so good at doing that and making sure I know my next steps or I have my next product. And we know that massage therapist, sometimes there's a lack of comfort in that area, or they just don't feel like that's part of their job. They wanna be all focused in on the hands-on, but not necessarily back bar sales and those types of things that we see in other services.
0:15:33.8 LS: Darren, that's an excellent point that you bring up, and I wanted to follow up on it. Because that is something that, in my work as a consultant, we constantly struggle with. When you're looking at the performance of a business, who's bringing back clients, what are the average tickets on each item, who's selling more, how productive are our rooms? And I am often a secret shopper, and I'm always surprised when I have a massage or a facial somewhere and the practitioner says, "Thank you for coming," and that's it. And I'm like, "Okay, where is my next step?" I know you feel like you're selling, but okay, okay, you're selling yourself, but that's how you make money, and it's not in a blatant way. Because to Darren's point, clients want direction. They think we're professional, and they want to know, "Okay, what do I do next?" So you say, "It was great to meet you, here's my card. I wrote on the back, I'd like to see you again for such and such treatment, five or six weeks would be great, but every three would be ideal." And that way when the client goes to the desk and checks out the desk person can say, "When did Sally say she'd like to see you next? Oh, let's get you in the book, you know how busy it is." So it's everyone working together. And if you don't invite them back, they feel a little bit like left at the altar. So let's be careful to make sure we give those next steps directions.
0:17:02.3 KC: Yes, absolutely. And when I'm working with massage therapists who are a little intimidated about doing that, I always like to say, just like you were saying, Lisa, switch it from, it's not necessarily a sales mindset, but switch that mindset. You're offering and helping the client get something that they want, that's good for them and that you're not pushing something on them that they don't wanna buy and that there's gonna be this awkward moment. As we've heard from Darren, they'll be grateful for the guidance. So put yourself in that position where it's okay to communicate because ultimately it's best for both of you and it's what the client wants. Lisa, I'm so curious from your consulting work, what other tips do you have for our listeners? What else do you find is sort of a common thread on areas where we can improve?
0:17:48.3 LS: Well, I fill out an intake form, "Did you look at it?" I mean, I'm often surprised when I fill out... Sometimes it's still a paper form, often it's an online form, as you can do with programs like MindBody. And I wonder when I get started, did the practitioner actually reference that form? I think you need to be a little bit focused in what you offer, because that is your clue to building a long-term client in any modality. The client says, "I have a pain in my shoulder." You note, "I see you said you have a pain in your shoulder," or you get that in your verbal consult. "Here are some things I'll do in the massage to help that, and when we're finished, I'll give you some stretches at home to do or I'll recommend a product for you to use in tangent with these exercises. And then the next time I see you, " forecasting. "The next visit, we'll work deeper." You're not a magician. I don't care how amazing a massage therapist you are, you are not gonna solve anything in 55 minutes. So you've gotta be future-casting about, this is the beginning of a relationship that's going to go forward and here's how it's going to work. And I think if you weave that language into your treatment, you'll see much higher retention and engagement with your guest.
0:19:09.5 DB: Lisa, let me ask a follow-up there, I know with your consulting service that you really pride yourself in creating world-class customer service or experiences. What does that mean?
0:19:19.9 LS: That's a loaded question, Darren, 'cause it means something different to everyone. There's no definition of it. But to me, I think it means we anticipate the needs of the guests and we have them answered already. We've made a comfortable space, we're welcoming, it smells good. When a client enters a space where they're having a personal service treatment, the senses should all be affected. It should smell nice, the robe should feel nice. There's a place to sit with a good book to read, not a People magazine. People are kind and generous and smiling to me and solicitous of me and when I leave, they tell me what to do next. They invite me back. And so I feel cared for from the moment I call, not just enter, remember the client experience starts when they first find us on the website. So I feel cared for and guided that whole way, I think that's what we're looking for. Of course, there are staffing challenges today at the front desk too. Those people are also not coming back, and we may have listeners who are trying to man their own phones and desks while doing massage. I do think you have to think about the technology options to help you, like in MindBody, there is an AI component that can answer your phone and answer people on your chat online and kind of almost like a person is handling that while you're busy. So we do need to use those tools, but we cannot forget the personal touch.
0:20:51.4 KC: Absolutely, and I'm gonna piggy-back on something you said earlier too, Lisa, about you being a secret shopper as part of your job in consulting. I wanna really encourage our listeners, when we're thinking about customer service, don't be afraid, actually be excited about going and receiving bodywork and sessions at different locations from different people than you're usual, the ones you love and you go back to over and over. Because you never know when someone's gonna do something differently that either is, "Absolutely, I'm gonna start incorporating it." Or "Oh, that's a great reminder to never do that in my practice." So you learn so much by going and having these new and different experiences in different places. I'd encourage listeners to think of customer service as an evolution, and it's not, "Oh, I have my customer service practice down and I'm never gonna revisit it or change it."
0:21:41.4 LS: That's a great point that you're making, Kristin, because it's very difficult to feel what it feels like to get your massage when you're giving it. And of course, you can never do that for yourself. But it is important to experience what it's like in other places, and to your exact example, you see things and you think, "Oh, that was something really enjoyable and inexpensive, we should try that." Or on the other side, "No, that's not what I want to do." And part of the thing you discover in secret shopping is that, especially if you're an owner of a facility, and let's face it, what we offer is done behind closed doors, we cannot see. It's not like a hair salon, we don't see what's going on. You take your guest, you go in a room, you come out, we don't know what happens in there from a management perspective. So I've had owners say to me, "Oh, can you help me with my business, I have such and such a challenge?" And I say, "Okay." And I come there and I do a secret shop as the inception of my experience with them. And there's often times where I end up saying, "You know what? You don't have that problem at all. You have this different problem." But they don't experience their business the way a client does, and so that is really the pedal to the metal there, like a real client experience from calling to Booking to arriving to checking out to see how that's handled. So it's important to visit other locations, definitely. It's part of your craft. It's R&D.
0:23:09.7 DB: That's right, you know what? I'll add to that as well. I ate at a diner at a ski resort about two weeks ago, I'm still remembering that experience because it was exceptional. It wasn't like fancy, it wasn't super nice, the customer service from the second I walked in to the second I left was off the charts. And another thing that's happened in the past few weeks, I took some golf lessons, right? So when I go in from the check-in to the hello to the warm-up to the lesson to the homework to take home to the booking the next sessions, not session, sessions in a group. That was critical. They nailed it. And so, those are again, things to take home, practitioners.
0:23:51.0 LS: That's a very good point, Darren. As you go through the world and you experience businesses in one way or another, you're always noting what worked for you and what didn't. And just make sure that you hone your own practice to be the best that you can be. Being friendly is free, as far as I know. There's no fee for smiling or extending your hand or asking someone "How's your day?" But it makes such a difference to a client coming in, especially first-timers in an unknown space who are often a little intimidated. Let's know that in the next year, we're going to continue to see new guests come with that COVID Lift. It's not gonna last forever, this is not going to go on forever, but right now we have their attention and let's make the most of it by just putting our best foot forward every time.
0:24:38.6 KC: Okay, I'm gonna shift gears a little bit. Lisa, when Darren was reading your bio, he mentioned the Global Wellness Institute. Tell us more about that.
0:24:47.8 LS: The Global Wellness Institute is an amazing organization. It started about 15, 16 years ago, and it started with an event, which was called the Global SPA Summit. Susie Ellis, the CEO, had gone to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and she thought, "This is neat, we should have this for our industry." So she came back to New York and started an event, I think the first one had 50 people at it or whatever. Well, 16 years later, it's been held all over the world. We usually have 500-600 attendees, and so it's the Global Wellness Summit, happens once a year. It happened in December in Boston, and the parent umbrella is the Global Wellness Institute. One of the best things the Institute has done, and you can go to the website, globalwellnessinstitute, and look up all the pillars of it. But something relevant to this discussion is that several years back, we realized we needed more data about what we do. We're in the wellness practitioner mode and people would say, "Well, where is the data dispositions? Show us why this works." Well, we have a website called wellnessevidence.com, write that down. There are, I think, 24 modalities on there with peer-reviewed studies by three highly recognized organizations with data on how we help humans.
0:26:11.8 LS: And it's ear candling, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, all kinds of wellness modalities are there. So why is this good? When you're re-doing your marketing materials and you want a little data or an angle, that's a place to go to come up with something to add, to add some spice and some credibility to what you're offering to your guests, wellnessevidence.com.
0:26:36.8 DB: Listeners, I can attest, I was on the site this morning. The organization of it, and then the research that you have that follows up on each one of those modalities or offerings is excellent. So thank you so much for that.
0:26:46.9 LS: Happy to share. It's the work of many, many people. The institute, I'm not an employee of the institute, but I am a task force Chair for one of their initiatives on consulting, so it's just a lot of people around the globe that are passionate about what we do and try to make it better.
0:27:03.4 DB: I wanna thank our guest today, Lisa Starr. For more information about Lisa, visit wynnebusiness.com. And Lisa, can you give our listeners any information about when there's going to be a release of MindBody's 2022 Wellness Index findings?
0:27:20.0 LS: Well, we've been busy behind the scenes, you cannot believe the size of these data tables, they're daunting. And so, they're gathering all of the main takeaways and the final reports, both for Salon and SPA industry and fitness will be available on the MindBody online website in late February.
0:27:36.9 DB: Excellent, thank you so much for joining us today, Lisa. And thanks, Kristin, as well.
0:27:40.7 LS: Thank you for having me, it was fun.
0:27:41.9 KC: It was fantastic. And thanks for sharing such great information, I can't wait to dig deeper into that survey when it's released.
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