When Leading Spas of Canada put out a call to spas to join their Quality Assurance Approved (QA) pilot program, Ten Spa in Winnipeg was one of the first to respond. Thirteen years later, spa director Elena Zinchenko reflects on the impact the program has had on her business.
Why did you decide to join Leading Spas of Canada’s QA program?
From the very beginning, when Ten Spa was in the development stage, the whole idea was I wanted to change the industry. I wanted to raise the standards. Eighteen years ago, [the spa industry] was behind in terms of standards and quality, and in terms of the quality of treatments, the protocols, the professional supplies and equipment. There were no such things as disposables back then. Everything was washed in the sink and if you had any type of autoclave you were lucky, you were unique. For me, coming from Europe and having a different background, this was unacceptable. When Ten Spa came into being, we knew we wanted to raise the standards of the industry and we wanted to do everything different from the beginning. The surfaces at Ten Spa are stainless steel so it doesn’t require a lot of chemicals to clean, most of the supplies are disposable so they are never being reused or require washing or sterilizing, and we have medical grade autoclave equipment which is inspected by the company that supplies us. So when the Quality Assurance Approved program came out, that’s the time when we joined LEADING SPAS OF CANADA, this was all happening at the same time. I was among the first to volunteer for the Quality Assurance assessment because I wanted to show everybody, this is what we do, this is where we should be and this is just the start; we can only grow from here. For us it was the reassurance that what we were doing it right, but also, it made us better. Everything became more efficient. It became an important program for staff, because as much as I advocate for this, for staff it was a reassurance that this is the standard.
What have you found is the value of your investment in the QA program?
Again, it’s a reassurance, but it’s also having that seal of approval. Our guests know what [the QA program] is, the media knows what it is. Local news stations have come to us, because we are a QA spa, with questions regarding complaints that someone had gotten a pedicure somewhere else and they got an infection – it was all over the news. We were the first spa they were referring to and getting consultation from, and I was interviewed numerous times by them. It’s a proud designation, and even though I thought we were doing everything right, it only made it better. When you go to the QA checklist and you read all the criteria and requirements, it makes you think, it makes you deconstruct everything and go into details, and you make your operations even better. So it’s a win-win for business, for customers, and for the industry as a whole because raises the standards of the industry across the country.
How should a spa manager prepare their staff for a QA assessment?
It’s all about knowledge and education. Your staff needs to be fully aware of the process of the QA assessment. I like to do is make it a special event for [my staff] so that they understand that this is going to make them and the whole spa operation better, this is going to raise our standards. [The staff] all get very familiar with the guidelines, they all receive the same information the spa manager receives about the criteria [of the assessment], and they all get ready in their own areas for it. But I always try to make it positive.
How long does the assessment take?
It depends on the spa size, it depends on the operation. There are a couple of stages of the assessment. The assessment starts with an initial phone call, [then there is] a review of the website, a review of the spa menu and services, looking at how the spa makes appointments, customer services. The physical assessment on the property depends on the spa. It could be a full day or a couple of hours. The assessor is supposed to come and experience the spa through different services – that’s the ideal, sometimes it’s not possible – somewhat like a secret shopper.
Over the last 13 years Ten Spa has been operating as a QA spa, having been reassessed every two years, what have you learned from that process?
Considering the high qualifications of the assessors, it makes me want to do a better job. The assessors are qualified people who are coming from the industry and know the standards. They either have a medical background, they work in the hospital system or in the restaurant business and this is what they do, they have done these types of assessments throughout their career. I want to make sure they like what we do and they approve what we do. They are very open and transparent when they are doing the assessment. Even if they recommend something, you make it better, you change. Basically you always upgrade your operation every time you do an assessment. You find better, more efficient equipment, or maybe you find better product supplies that are more cost effective. There is also an upgrade in staff’s professional attitudes. It’s not just what kind of autoclave do you use or what kind of gloves do you use, it’s also about how the staff’s standards are rising as well. In the end it’s our guests who benefit.
What would you say to spas that are considering becoming QA or getting ready to go through their first assessment?
Do it – don’t be afraid of it. It will make your business flow better. You will be way more relaxed about everything that you’re doing because you know there’s less risk of any kind of bad outcome. As a spa director, when people ask me what I do, I say “Well, I’m a fixer. I fix problems.” With the QA program you have fewer problems to fix. And the customers trust you. You get that seal of approval.
How do you promote your status as a QA spa to customers and to the media?
We are listed on our website as a spa that participates in the QA program. We have a plaque on our wall as you enter the spa, as well as the QA seal on our website. But I think the best thing was being listed on the Leading Spas of Canada website which all media refers to. That’s how we got all the exposure through the local media and news papers. Speaking as a LEADING SPAS OF CANADA chair person, I hoping that’s the piece that we’re going to promote as much as possible, because it’s through the media that we connect to customers directly.