Originally Posted: 02/15/09
I have sat in a lot of clubs this year and it is disgusting how most owners and their staff people treat their customers. We want so much from these people yet we offer them so little. No wonder we lose so many members in our clubs; if the members wanted to be treated badly they would just have stayed at home with their spouses and teenagers.
Common courtesy, the heart of customer service, is dead in the fitness business. Members, who pay us anywhere from $9 a month to as much as $2500 per month in our training centers, can actually spend hours in the club and never even be acknowledged by anyone who works in the club. It is actually quite funny to watch the antics staff goes through to actually avoid the members, especially those not deemed the "good or beautiful members”.
If you're leaking members to the competition, or just driving large numbers out on your own without any outside help, you can ease the outward flow if you just practice the most base levels of service in your club. Customer service is an art form that can be practiced at a high level of play, but to make a difference in most clubs art is less important than establishing a few basics that even your dumbest staff (still hiring those relatives and friends are we) can deliver.
Start with a little mental imagery. The club is your house and the members are guests that are invited on a regular basis to a party at your place. My house and my guests are much more important than my staff and remember, it is much easier to replace badly mannered and poorly dressed staff than it is to replace good members.
Ignore my guests, who are the ones paying for this party through their monthly dues and other fees by the way, and you won't work here anymore. You will be kind to my guests. You will acknowledge my guests. You will be courteous to my guests in my house. If you don't, you go and the guest will stay. As a guest in my house I promise at least these few kernels of common courtesy will happen each time you visit us:
I promise to greet you each time you visit my house as an honored friend and guest
"Hello, welcome to the club today. It's good to see you”. Not "hey”. Not, "what's up man?” Not "Whatssup?” Stop what you're doing at the counter and greet our guests in our house. I don't care if you have 50 members or 5000 and can't even breath on a Monday night. Your guests, your house, and we always respect that relationship.
I promise to know your name
We will learn your name. We will use a computerized check-in system with your picture and name displayed prominently so we can cheat, but we will use your name. And we will find you on the floor and use your name. And our group exercise instructors and trainers will learn your name. Joe Millet, a name I have mentioned before in other writings, has a club with about 3500 members. During a club visit, he used a first name with every, single member we encountered throughout the entire day. Joe, along with his partner Mike, are some of the best club owners I have ever worked with, and who run several other fitness businesses too, but Joe still took the time to acknowledge the guests in his house that day.
I promise to show my thanks for your support
Every single member is thanked every single time they leave the house. "Thank you for coming in today. We appreciate your business”. It doesn't have to be harder than this. Use these words exactly. Don't use, "thanks man”. Don't just nod and wave. Say thank you like you understand who really does pay for the bills in this house. If you have staff that can't do this, or who find it embarrassing, fire those people and get new staff. The guests in this house are far more important than a few self-conscious staff idiots with social issues.
I promise to keep my house clean so your visit is a pleasant one
Your club is never as clean as you think it is. Get a cleaning staff that can get it done but keep the staff moving during their shifts. I don't expect the staff to stay after work cleaning this place. We will get a professional crew, or simply a retired couple, to clean, but I do expect all staff to walk through the club throughout the day keeping the house clean for our guests. We will give equipment a quick wipe. We will pick up crap off the floor. We will take care of the locker rooms every 30 minutes. Our house is always clean because it is one of the main reasons our guests quit us for other clubs in the area.
Customer service really isn't that hard. Say hello, know a name, say goodbye and keep your house clean. Visit a typical club and you see members walk by the check-in without an acknowledgment. Walk through almost any club and see litter on the floor. Watch a member leave and the staff is too busy to say thank you as he quietly walks past the desk and three staff people leaning on the counter.
Many club owners complain about competition, but most of you would be better off buying a big mirror and hang it on the wall across from your desk. Sit at your desk and look up. There, in the mirror, that is the rat bastard (skinny bitch?) that is crushing your business. If you want more money, and want to keep more members, remember that your members are guests in your house and not a number in a business that can easily be replaced if lost.
What I read this week: There was a great article by Martin Rooney, the resident genius for Bill Parisi, in Men's Health, centered on some of the training he does with his athletes. Martin is a talented writer as well and has a best selling book on mixed martial arts fitness training. See Martin speak if you get a chance this year. His hands-on workshops at the Perform Better Summits are hugely popular.
An interesting side note: One of my friends just attended a mentorship at Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove's club in California. He said he was stunned to see their trainers working all of their clients out using the same training techniques that guys like Martin Rooney do with their athletes. He was especially amazed to see a woman in her 50's doing dead lifts and one-legged squats. Probably one of the biggest mistakes we make in the business is that we believe serious people need serious training and mainstream people need to be locked into fixed equipment and use stupid little shinny weights. Alwyn and Martin have been training real people as athletes for years no matter what age or sex they are. Use the techniques that get results in athletes and you might get results from your other clients as well.