An interview with Ms. Sun Yan, the Manager of Love Story Hangzhou
Since its foundation in 1997, Love Story Hangzhou has continually upgraded its services and programs based on a deep study of the market and customer feedback. From the personalized training of therapists and spa staff, to an exploration of physical, mental and spiritual healing elements, to a consistent interior design reproducing Nature, an integration of art, culture and fashion, and health cuisine offerings, Love Story aims to deliver a diversified wellness approach for modern customers. SpaChina interviewed Ms. Sun Yan, the Manager of Love Story Hangzhou, who has been working for 15 years, since very beginning of Love Story, to share with us the development path and philosophy of Love Story. As a representative of China’s day spa operators, she also shares with us her insights on China’s spa industry.
Please introduce Love Story Hangzhou to us, including the foundation story, brand philosophy, business concepts and more.
In 1997, Love Story Image Design Limited Company was founded, a hairdressing fashion chain brand widely known in Eastern China at that time. Many famous styling salon owners in Hangzhou today once worked there. As time passed by, Love Story began to deliver spa services to customers and gained many loyal fans. Meanwhile, we felt the need to open more branches in order to meet the increasing demands of the market. Then in 2006, we opened our Love Story day spa flagship store with a total area of 7,000 square meters in the bustling old town center of Hangzhou. Five years later, we opened another branch, a more typical day spa, inside Hangzhou Xinqiao Hotel by the West Lake, designed exclusively for modern young people. In 2015, for the newly-opened branch in Qingchun CBD, we, through great effort, collected precious old pictures and art pieces in the old streets and lanes of Shanghai to reproduce a characteristic grand mansion feel during the Republic of China time in Love Story. One year later, we also opened in the renowned Hangzhou Capital Star Hotel and welcomed guests from different countries during the G20 Summit period. In 2017, Love Story came to Xiaoshan. This year in 2021, Love Story Tianyuan store grandly opened, with the Qiantang River in the east and the Grand Canal in the north. It’s also close to the Grand Theatre, the Forest Park and the Century Garden. The space design and elements of the Tianyuan store is quite young in spirit. A combination of minimalist style and luxury has overtaken the previous decoration style of Love Story, offering a tranquil haven for the modern elites.
Over the years, Love Story has stuck to the key words of “green, advanced, and manual techniques”. We believe that “to slow down for a while can help us restart more effectively.” So with “love”, we are dedicated to delivering a more profound spa experience to customers.
What do you emphasize in particular during staff recruitment? What characteristics should an excellent therapist and staff possess in Love Story?
During recruitment, we emphasize the comprehensive quality and mental outlook of candidates. We check whether they are loving and grateful. We believe that only staff with such characteristics are able to represent our corporate culture and serve every customer with “love”. Meanwhile, the customers’ recognition and impression of our brand directly come from our staff who serve them. So the comprehensive quality of the staff is quite important.
A qualified therapist and staff member in Love Story should respect and love both the customers and their work. They are also required to behave in a decent manner, have a good conscience and be self-disciplined during the work. Only in this way can they offer more quality services to the customers and help build the professional image of Love Story day spa.
Who are the main customers of Love Story? What requirements do China’s wellness and spa customers have? In the past one or two years, what new programs have you launched? What new plans do you have in the near future?
Our customers are aged from 20 to 55 and have a keen pursuit in health and life quality. People at different ages have their distinctive requirements. People aged from 20 to 30 are our main customers. They emphasize exquisite lifestyles and mental healing. They also have stronger brand awareness and love to share their experience in Love Story with others. Customers of 40 and 50 years old are usually successful in their careers. They seek more of a comfortable environment, advanced and complete facilities and equipment, quality products and a comprehensive sense of pleasure in the spa journey. Customers over 60 years old have more interest in health maintenance and are usually more demanding concerning the professionalism, relaxation and health effects of the programs.
We attach great importance to the experience of customers. We study and gather customers experience feedback in three ways. First, our therapists try to understand customers’ feelings during the treatment both in verbal and nonverbal ways. Second, after the treatment, we give customers a rating form to gather their feedback. The receptionist will ask about their feelings as well. Third, we read online comments from customers every day in order to summarize our merits and shortcomings.
In recent years, especially after the pandemic, more customers put health as their priority. They seek not only techniques and services, but a holistic healing from body and emotion to mind and spirit. So we continue to explore how to better integrate body & mind healing elements with spa services and techniques. Now, in addition to TCM principles, we have begun to study bones, muscles, and even psychology, and life care in Western medicine. In addition to introducing these modern techniques in the treatment development, we have also launched relevant classes for the therapists and training team.
Modern young people face a lot of pressure and commonly suffer sleep problems, and even hair loss. They have become more aware of scalp and hair care than before. Therefore, we launched scalp programs the year before last to meet their needs as well as complete our program portfolio. The scalp programs are quite popular among young people in Love Story. In the near future, we will introduce facial and body equipment in order to deliver more effective beauty treatments.
Compared to hotel spas, what are the advantages and disadvantages of day spas? How does Love Story give play to its advantages and improve on disadvantages?
Compared to hotel spas, day spas have a bigger and steadier customer flow, a stronger influence in the industry and more impressive sales growth. However, one major disadvantage of day spas is that they don’t possess the natural or cultural setting of resort and hotel spas. Customers at day spas lack the chance to experience healing from nature directly. So over the years, Love Story keeps exploring the possibilities of integrating natural elements into the construction and services and build a deeper reconnection with nature. In the newly opened spa, we invited the famous aesthetics designers of China to create an exclusive natural environment for Love Story. Based on the theme of nature awakening, we borrow natural textures and elements like stones, wood, marbles and natural landscapes, complemented by plants, essential oils and soothing music for a deeper body and heart healing. In this way, we have built an interior natural environment that touches the five senses of the customers.
About 70% of our customers are from 25 to 45 years old. Female customers take up 45% and male customers 55%. Our body treatments usually last 80 to 120 minutes at a price of 398 to 1,980RMB. Our facials last 75 to 90 minutes at the price also from 398 to 1,989RMB. All of our body and facial treatments are safe, effective and comfortable. We use essential oils in most of the treatments. And our therapists don’t do any sales during the treatment so that the customers can carefreely enjoy the whole service.
To gain customer trust and loyalty is of great significance to day spas. What have you done in this aspect?
Unlike other day spas which do too much sales during services, we focus on our service quality and techniques. We take great care of customers’ feelings. We respect their privacy and will by no means try to bother them in their daily life. We win customers’ hearts with services, environments and professional skills. They truly feel this is an urban oasis where they can have body and mental recovery. Moreover, we pay attention to customer feedback and try to solve any of their concerns with specialized knowledge and earnest attitudes. As a result, we gain their trust.
How do you carry out effective personnel training to maintain consistency in service quality and brand concept at different stores?
Personnel training is an important component of Love Story’s human resources management. It plays a vital role in improving staff quality, enhancing corporate culture, and forming the core competitiveness of the company. Love Story features a complete personnel training system and we keep updating and adjusting the training themes, content and ways based on the actual situation of the individuals. The training is carried out around four aspects. First, corporate culture. We encourage every staff to possess an autonomous attitude to actively discover problems, share experiences and learn from each other. Second, techniques. We carry out different training to different people and try to make the training full of fun in an innovative way in order to increase the staff’s confidence, passion and motivations to learn. Third, comprehensive quality and professional integrity. We try to improve staff’s insights, analysis ability, memory, communication skills and the power to sympathize with others so that they can both sense their own emotion state and emotional changes and tell the emotional needs of the customers timely and accurately. Fourth, we set a trainer at each store to supervise and support the staff and therapists, improving their techniques in every aspect from operation, management to treatment delivery. In addition, our aroma therapists continue to be trained by experts home and abroad. Therefore, they are able to pass the essence of aromatherapy better to the customers.
How do you get staff to stay and continue to enhance their loyalty and enthusiasm for the company?
Love Story has a transparent management system, complete stimulation and promotion mechanism, and a clear performance appraisal system. We advocate justice and equity and we communicate with our staff regularly and in a timely way. We provide them with quality accommodation, canteen and shuttle bus services. During the work, we not only teach them knowledge and skills but also help them to do career planning according to their own core capacity so that they can have a clear goal and direction on the career path.
Please introduce your online business to us.
So far, Love Story has three online platforms. First, the official website of the company. It’s a platform to present our corporate culture, brand concept and products and treatments, enabling customers to have a deeper knowledge of who Love Story is and what we can offer. Secondly, we have a group-purchase platform. We built this platform especially to cater to the consumption habits and preferences of young people today. With this platform, we manage to promote our brand awareness and let more people know us. Thirdly, we launched our official WeChat platform. We have organized various We-Media activities with this platform, speeding up the integrated construction of online and offline communities.
What’s your opinion on the prospect of China’s big health market? What’s your development plan for the next five years?
Rapid pace of life and severe environmental pollution hazard people’s health. Various geriatric diseases and chronic diseases befall on younger people nowadays. According to the data of WHO, 70% of total population worldwide suffer from sub-health conditions. So no other industry has such a close relationship to every one of us as the health industry has. In fact, since ancient times, our forefathers have come up with the theory: “The best doctor helps people prevent the occurrence of diseases.” Today an increasing number of people have also realized that it is much better to do something in advance to prevent illness than to spend a lot of money curing the illness afterwards. So naturally, the concept of “wellness” becomes popular. Under the combined drive of favorable policies, advanced technologies, increasing demands, and improved life quality, the big health industry in China is greatly flourishing. Due to consumers’ growing demand for diversified wellness approaches, the spa industry, which addresses a holistic healing from body to heart, has undoubtedly brought new inspiration to the big health world. Day spa will surely be the choice of more and more young people.
In the next five years, we will emphasize on enhancing our brand IP. We will forge a new image of Love Story Day Spa: professionalism goes with fashion and health blends with culture. We are dedicated to creating more unique spa spaces where customers can enjoy more diversified healing modes.