24 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Jeremy McCarthy – Shaping the future


Jeremy McCarthy – Shaping the future

Jeremy McCarthy makes his debut as a Spa Business contributing editor, asking if spas are ready for AI which – with the emergence of ChatGPT – is literally on our doorstep

Would AI assistants pick up on your spa’s Valentine’s packages? Photo: Getty images_unsplash

OpenAI launched its new artificial intelligence chatbot, ChatGPT, in November, skyrocketing its valuation to US$29bn in the first few months. Although ChatGPT is still a fledgling system, the AI technology behind it is likely to change the world on a scale akin to the advent of the printing press or the internet. And given AI’s ability to use its own superhuman intelligence to learn and evolve, we can expect the changes to come more rapidly than anything we’ve ever seen.

So what does this mean for spas, and how can we prepare? The best way to think about AI is to imagine that every person in the future will have a hyper-intelligent personal assistant who reads almost the entire internet every day to stay up-to-date on what’s going on. These assistants will help people personally and professionally, by gathering relevant information for them, teaching them what they’d like to learn, making personalised recommendations and guiding purchasing decisions, and generally helping them live more efficiently.

These AI ‘assistants’ have the potential to become an intermediary between brands and consumers. Business leaders must think not only about how they build consumer awareness of their brand but, potentially more importantly, how they ensure that the AI will learn about and advocate for them. Here are a few things I think spas need to take note of:

1 Having a digital presence is more important than ever
It sounds basic, but if you don’t have your spa menu, hours of operation, address and core philosophy on your website, you don’t exist in the age of AI. When you write website copy, you’re not only providing consumers with basic information about your services, but you’re also literally teaching future AI chatbots what you want them to know about your spa.

2 The return of FAQs
The internet has a love-hate relationship with ‘frequently asked questions’, but in the age of AI, you want to make sure your content helps train the AI how to answer queries about your offerings. If someone asks their AI assistant “what should I get my wife for Valentine’s day?” or “which spa in town has the best therapists?” would it have information about your spa to share?

3 Customer reviews are king
We’ve already seen how online reviews reflect purchasing decisions. But we also know how time-consuming it can be to scour the internet trying to get a clear picture of consumer feedback on your upcoming Phuket resort or your planned underwater camera purchase. The AI assistants will streamline this process and take customer reviews into account when making their recommendations. The quality and quantity of reviews about your spa are crucial.

4 Think holistically about your digital footprint
As important as it is to build your own digital knowledge database about your spa, you have to remember that these AI assistants are no dummies and are likely to view your own marketing materials with a bit of scepticism. They will want to see the information about your spa validated by third parties such as online reviews, discussion forums and journalists. It’s more important than ever to make sure your spa is being written about (positively) by other people on the internet.

5 Digitise your operation
Operators can use AI personal assistants, as well as consumers. And if you’ve done a good job of digitising your spa, your AI assistant can help you run your business too. Do you have an intranet for employees with training manuals, SOPs and treatment protocols in a digital database? Do you have all your financial statistics and KPIs neatly organised electronically? Having more and better organised digital information about your business will allow your future AI assistant to help you run your business efficiently.

We’ve been hearing for some time about how AI will shape the future in some fantastic (and sometimes frightening ways). The emergence of ChatGPT shows us that the future is now, and AI is literally on our doorstep. Are you ready?

Jeremy McCarthy has worked in the spa industry for 34 years. As group director of spa and wellness for Mandarin Oriental, he oversees spa, wellness and leisure operations at 35 luxury hotels globally. Contact him with your views on Twitter @jeremymcc

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 1

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