Rubbed the Wrong Way…Coyle Hospitality Group Investigates the WORST Spa Experiences

Rubbed the Wrong Way…Coyle Hospitality Group Investigates the WORST Spa Experiences

Pushy sales? Too much chit chat? These are just some of the complaints from spa goers in Coyle Hospitality Group’s survey of the worst of the worst. Coyle researchers analyzed over 1300 responses from spa goers about the things that ruined their spa experience, asking two basic questions:

  1.  What spa provided you with the worst experience last year?

  2.  Why?

Why the negative approach? A research project completed jointly with WTS International showed unequivocally that word of mouth was the most important driver of new business to a spa. Good to know, but word-of-mouth cuts both ways, and those that leave unhappy present a bigger cost to spas in the long run. Perhaps the biggest conundrum that faces spas is that a lot of guests would feel too embarrassed to even complain.

Coyle reasoned that if spas were aware of the most common ‘significant negatives’ and their root causes, spas could take action.


“Overall we think the story for spas is very positive,” said Jim Coyle, President of Coyle Hospitality Group. “The things that people complain about most are almost all entirely correctible, something a savvy spa owner can address.”

Each open-ended survey response was read and catalogued into the following categories: People, Product, Post-Treatment and Price.

Some highlights:

* 62% of the respondents mentioned “People” as a significant contributor to the bad experience. This includes everything from inappropriate pressure/touch to too much conversation, body odor or a rushed treatment.

* Massages account for 300% more negative comments than any other modality. Though massage is generally the most frequently scheduled service, this demonstrates that it is also the most volatile in terms of guest response.

* Only 35 out of the more than 1300 surveyed complained about price. This shows that the price paid is not at the heart of the problem, which in turn suggests that discounting will not create demand or improve perception of value. It’s about how the guest felt, not what they spent.

* The post-spa results constituted 10% of the worst experiences overall, including pain, allergic reactions, or not feeling pampered.