In Amy Berry’s office at CHI, The Spa in Vancouver’s Shangri-La Hotel, a certificate rests on the wall proudly announcing that this is one of Canada’s Top 50 spas. The briefest of tours reveals exactly why. It’s stunning. Having perfected the art of Vancouver Spa Management at arguably Vancouver’s best hotel, it’s Amy’s responsibility to ensure that every single client experiences a level of service that matches her spa’s exquisite design.
“What we have at CHI is a spa within a spa,” explains Amy. “Each treatment room is its own private spa. You walk into the suite and you have your own fireplace, relaxation area, washroom, changing area, steam shower and hydrotherapy bath. You don’t have to worry about lockers or common areas. It’s all for you. Once you’ve had your consultation you’ll be taken to your suite and you get to stay there in your own private space whether you’re getting one, four or more treatments.”
As Spa Manager Amy doesn’t provide treatments to guests. Instead, her role is one of team leader and standard setter. CHI, The Spa is more than a well-oiled wellness machine. It’s far smoother than that.
“Each morning starts with a morning briefing with the Hotel’s general manager and all the department heads. We’ll do a run down of the day – who’s coming in, what kind of volumes we’re dealing with. We’ll discuss any promotions we may be having and I can inform the other managers of any new treatments we’re offering. We’re the spa department but we’re working with the entire hotel. I’m keeping the spa together on a daily basis – scheduling and working on promotions – but I also get to work with our marketing department and the Shangri-La digital marketing manager in Toronto. I’m making sure we’re one step ahead – working on the marketing for next year and creating new treatments.
“I still work very closely with our service leader, who is one of our senior therapists, as she does the training for all our treatments. She’ll focus on the treatments themselves, and I’ll focus on the guest experience and service, ensuring everyone is at the same standard. Of course, if they need someone to step up during training and receive the treatments, I’ll take it!”
Naturally, the position of Spa Manager at a location as prestigious as the Shangri-La demands a sky-high commitment to customer service and a beyond-meticulous attention to detail. Those just happen to be two things Amy learned and embraced during her year on the Esthetics Program at Blanche Macdonald.
“I first thought about esthetics as a career in High School. A family friend of ours is an esthetician. She’d describe the experiences she had with her guests and the relationships she’d formed. It seemed such a rewarding job; to do something every day where you can make people smile and make them feel good about themselves.
“I’d heard from many people throughout Vancouver that Blanche Macdonald was the best school with the best training. And it was amazing! Every instructor I had was really wonderful and I still have great friends from that course. It was so fun to go to school every day. Body treatments and facials were absolutely my favourite thing, but I loved the business part of the program too. I loved doing business plans, deciding what treatments I’d provide and how I’d market it, even thought I had no idea I’d be going into management at the time.
Everyone comes out of the Program with the knowledge we need. It’s a great qualification to have.
“A lot of things stick out from my time at Esthetics School but I particularly remember talking about how you relate with guests. Being self-aware about how you’re going to affect their experience with how you’re feeling and your emotions. There was a lot of detail about how that can affect guest experience. Excellent service goes beyond the treatment and into the experience you’re offering.”
Amy’s original career plan was to get a job as an esthetician in a top spa in Vancouver, potentially opening a business of her own at some point in the future. An opportunity at Absolute Spa changed everything.
“When I applied to Absolute Spa there weren’t positions for estheticians available. My friend from Blanche Macdonald was already working there, and she told me they were looking for a receptionist. I thought that would be a way to get my foot in the door and move over to esthetics when there was an opening. Within a year I’d been promoted to supervisor, which was my first step into management. I loved it, seeing how things worked and how improvements could be made. What could we do to cater to the guests more?”
Amy’s rise at Absolute Spa bordered on the meteoric. The one-time receptionist ended up managing branches in Richmond and Downtown Vancouver, developing marketing strategy, and setting and maintaining standards.
“After seven years at Absolute I was looking for a change and knew that I wanted to go big,” she continues. “The Shangri-La was a whole new level! It’s a worldwide corporation with 21 CHI locations around the world. It’s such an amazing company! With those locations there’s plenty of possibility for travel and different educational experiences within the company. There’s so much room for growth.”
Before I took this position I called Blanche Macdonald and explained to Simona Gozner that I was looking for something new... It’s amazing to know Blanche Macdonald is still there to support me.
With an array of different duties, it’s the variety within her week that keeps Amy excited about getting up for work every morning.
“I really enjoy the different aspects of the job; putting the puzzle pieces together. I love the marketing side, being able to work with our marketing director and PR team, getting to show off what we offer.
“It’s such an amazing team here. We have a group of 12 estheticians, body workers and registered massage therapists. Away from the spa the rest of the management team in the hotel are so amazing to work with. It’s a pleasure to come to work every day. You can tell the right people have been picked to maintain the Shangri-La’s reputation.”
It’s that professionalism that prevents Amy from naming any of the many celebrities that have been through CHI’s doors. And it’s that level of professionalism that Amy demands when she’s selecting the perfect team of estheticians to represent the Shangri-La.
“Of course skill is important. You’ll have that from the Esthetics Program at Blanche Macdonald. Everyone comes out of that Program with the knowledge we need. It’s a great qualification to have. We’re also looking to the genuine care and personality of the esthetician. We need to see that they’re caring, gracious and humble. Are they going to focus on every single guest the same way? Will they provide an amazing experience? We need to know that our estheticians can offer that.”
Although the future may very well take Amy across the globe to another of Shangri-La’s fabulous locations, one thing she’ll always bring with is her education and the connection to the Esthetics School where it all began.
“I draw on my education all the time. I learned how to provide a service and how to focus on the details. Even when I’m assisting an esthetician here perfect their polish, I go back to how it was taught to me. It’s always in the back of my mind.
“Before I took this position I called Blanche Macdonald and explained to Simona Gozner that I was looking for something new and would love her suggestions. She told me to come into the office for a chat. She said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you graduated ten days ago or ten years ago, you’re still part of our family and we’re here to help and guide you.’ It’s amazing to know Blanche Macdonald is still there to support me.”