How Hand and Stone listened to customers at critical moments and delivered highly satisfying experiences amid COVID-19

Josie Gaeckle | Dec 3, 2020 Josie Gaeckle 12/03/20

As a massage and facial spa, the pandemic created significant operational challenges for Hand and Stone. To help guide its reopening strategy, the brand wanted to take member feedback into account and implement operational changes to ensure customers felt safe during their visit.

Hand and Stone worked with SMG to solicit member feedback with a reopening survey in May. They then followed up with a second member survey in September to understand how expectations and behaviors had evolved.

Let’s take a look at how the brand listened to customers during a critical time of change and implemented a plan of action that resulted in improved Overall Satisfaction and an increase in membership.


Measure the customer experience during key timeframes to compare data + pinpoint gaps

Through its two waves of feedback collection, Hand and Stone was able to see where satisfaction was decreasing as well as the specific reasons it was happening. They also uncovered some key differences that provided meaningful insight. First, perceptions of catching COVID-19 and spending habits had shifted differently by state—meaning the brand could have some challenges delivering a consistent brand experience across locations.

They also saw an increased desire for value, with nearly 1 in 4 customers planning to seek out deals or promotions more often. And, not surprisingly, the expectation of staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) jumped 5 ppts.


Reassess + shift experience management program priorities as customer expectations evolve

Insights like these help key stakeholders understand the best way to move forward. Because as your customers’ expectations shift, so must your XM strategy. What mattered most to your customers a month ago doesn’t always carry over to the next.

As we’ve seen consistently in our consumer research throughout the pandemic, cleanliness + safety protocols are now the foundation of a great experience. And this is exactly what Hand and Stone saw in their analysis.

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With this emphasis on safe + healthy experiences, Hand and Stone understood customers are no longer blindly loyal and the brand needed to take the proper precautions to earn their trust.

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Create a targeted action plan that drives immediate, meaningful change

As successful brands know, it’s not just about the quality of feedback you collect from customers—the real impact comes from what you do with the data.

With consumer trust + loyalty on the line, Hand and Stone didn’t waste any time implementing an action plan dedicated to the health and safety of their customers. The comprehensive action plan included:

  • Developing + distributing a 60-page handbook of reopening protocols
  • Working with their SMG team to create a clean and safe service training alert; these triggered notifications were sent after any mention of improper cleaning or safety service procedures, or when a customer was less than highly satisfied with health + safety
  • Communicating all operational changes to customers so they knew exactly what to expect during their visit
  • Providing franchisees with “This room has been cleaned” door hangers to show customers cleaning was completed before their treatment

These actions had a big impact, resulting in:

  • Improvement in all key measures since spas reopened
  • Satisfaction with changes made in response to COVID jumped from 16% to 41%
  • 6% increase in respondents who are highly likely to sign up for a membership

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Deliver a consistent experience—even in times of disruption

As we head into 2021, it’s impossible to know what’s around the corner. But we do know one thing for sure: businesses must be prepared for change and remain agile. Customer and employee experience feedback is crucial when navigating these changes, but you shouldn’t have to do it alone. Make sure your XM vendor is equipped to provide you with the support you need.

If you’d like to learn more about how SMG helps brands listen to customers and drive changes that boost loyalty and improve business performance, please reach out.


Josie Gaeckle | VP, Client Insights

Customer Experience Update