James Jackowski, Owner
Owner of Revive Massage Therapy and Spa in Chicago, IL
Massage Therapist, Licensed Aesthetician
Specializes in Advanced Corrective Skin Care
Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
We are a boutique spa located on the North side of Chicago. I originally started Revive almost 10 years ago offering massage services only, but we have now expanded into two storefronts offering both massage and skin care services.
How long was your business closed?
In early March we started to slow down and within two weeks every phone call was to cancel an appointment. We were forced to close on March 17th through June 5th. Finally, on June 6th we were allowed to reopen massage services under phase 3. We had to wait until phase 4 to start doing skin care services because our customers would need to take their mask off during their appointment.
What are some of the plans you’ve put in place to prepare Revive?
We invested a lot to prepare Revive for reopening. In March I started searching for supplies but found it difficult because hand sanitizer was on backorder for three months, and masks from China had a 60-day delivery time. When we first closed, we thought it would be for two weeks, not three months. I started collecting what I could with limited supply from Amazon, Ebay, and our skin care distributors. I wanted to make sure both staff and our customers felt comfortable and at ease. I bought touchless hand soap dispensers for the bathroom and set up a hand sanitizing station as soon as you walk through the door, and hand sanitizer at the water cooler and the front desk. I came across a disinfecting product from Clean Republic that is EPA approved to use against COVID-19 and is also nontoxic. I was worried our rooms would smell like bleach and ammonia, and that’s the last thing you want when going to a relaxing massage. We put the product into an electrostatic sprayer which can sanitize a room within 5-7 minutes without having to wipe everything down after.
What was it like when you reopened?
We had less than 36-hours’ notice to open. It was nerve racking because we didn’t know what the turn out would be – we could have a rush of customers or no customers the first day. It felt like I was opening the business for the first time all over again. We had to get the word out that we were open, what we offered, and our protocols to get people in the door. We sent out email and text blasts through Vagaro to let everyone know that we got the green light to open, and our emails are linked to our social media. We also worked with our Chamber of Commerce to announce that we were open through the Neighborhood Newsletter than kept the community up to date on what phase we were in and the businesses that were open. The first two weeks we had a good surge of clients coming in and I think it was the pent-up demand from being locked down for three months. Our customers were great, super accommodating, and very generous with tips.
What were some of the challenges your business encountered prior to using these features?
We are in the personal service industry, so there is no such thing as “social distancing”. We spent a lot of time looking at all parts of the business and how to make customers feel safe and comfortable every step of the way. We knew customers were going to be super critical, so we had to get it right. The one touchpoint we could not avoid was checkout. We were still passing credit cards, pens, and receipts back and forth. We launched Vagaro’s contactless features the day they were released as they were the solution we were waiting for. I remember sitting at work and I got the email about new features being launched and I’m a big techy – I love technology, so I started playing around with the features and I thought, “Oh wow, this is really cool. And it’s free, even better! [Laughs].
How did you communicate with your clients about these new COVID-Clean features?
We posted our protocols on our website, and we also used Vagaro’s email marketing to keep in touch with our clients. We have been reinforcing our health and safety standards with every line of communication to ease customers’ concern.
How has the COVID-Clean Checkout helped with reducing shared devices and high contact areas?
Customers are super critical right now and they don’t want to be handling money, credit cards, pens or iPad screens back and forth. So the COVID-Clean Checkout has really helped. We simply ask customers to access their phone so we can turn the transaction over to them to complete. We have also seen our customer reviews increase since they are prompted to review the service and our business at the end of the checkout.
How did your clients respond to these features?
Our customers are impressed with what we have been able to deliver as a small business in such a short time frame. The COVID-Clean Checkout is pretty slick. Not having to exchange credit cards, pens and receipts adds one more layer of cleanliness in customers’ minds and they are more likely to return or tell their friends about their experience.
Have these features helped streamline processes for your business?
Absolutely. The checkout process is much faster, and we no longer have a bottleneck with multiple customers ending services at the same time and trying to check out all at once. We even had one client leave his phone in his car and he was able to check out from his car!
How long did it take for your business to receive the COVID-Ready Badge?
We had about 15-20 immediate reviews and received the COVID-Ready Badge within the first week of using these features. When the reviews started to come in, I was anxious to read through them all. What did they see? What didn’t they like? But we kept getting 5-stars, so we’re doing a great job and our customers feel comfortable.
In what ways has the badge helped your business reassure clients?
We got a lot of repeat business for just being COVID-Ready. I think once our customers saw that we had it all together they were much more comfortable rescheduling their next appointment at checkout.
Has your business attracted new clientele since you’ve received the badge?
We actually had one customer come in for a massage and when she checked out I was working the front desk and I asked her how the service went, and she said we did great and she felt comfortable to book again. She then disclosed to me that she is a nurse. She was scrolling through the local business pages and came upon us and saw that we had a COVID-Ready Badge. She said she wanted to experience as a healthcare worker what it meant to be “COVID-Ready”.
Would you recommend these features to other professionals and if so, why?
I would highly recommend these features. Customers are on a huge spectrum of “comfort level” with regards to COVID-19 and we need to do everything possible to make them feel safe and comfortable. I don’t think any business can say they are back to normal. We are fighting just to get 50% of our customers back. Clients are on edge and mentally paralyzed as what to do – social distance, don’t leave the house unless unnecessary, order take-out, work from home, etc. Yet we need them to come in for a personal service. Customers should leave your business saying “Wow, they really had it together”. Even a year from now, hopefully we’re not talking about COVID-19, but everyone wants to go touchless in general, so these are awesome features that are super easy.
Any advice you would like to share with other Vagaro businesses?
We can only do so much in this industry, so you have to feel confident in your protocols. Make your business look and feel as clean as possible, and use technology, like Vagaro, to streamline as many processes as you can. Use email and text marketing to let clients know that you’re open. It will be a slow start, but one customer is better than zero. That one customer will go home and tell a family member or a friend, “Hey, I went to Revive for a massage, and I felt totally comfortable you should go”. If you don’t get your business out there and start the reopening process people are going to think you’re closed for good.