You Get One Chance to Make A
Great First Impression
Think of ALLLLLL the new people coming through your doors this week, hoping
and praying you can help them to get fit and lose weight for the Fall.
Where do over 90% of your prospective members first connect with your club?
Who gets the only chance to make that CRITICAL first impression?
Nope. It's your Front Desk Team. Most health clubs fill the position with someone who's credentials consist of nothing more than the ability to wake up early. Big mistake.
Every owner we speak with asks us, "Why is customer service so difficult?" or "Why are most people so bad at it when all it is, is just common sense?" It's a fact that front line employees in nearly every industry make between $6-$16 an hour. Yet you typically don't see many of these people flying first class, staying at five-star resorts, or driving a Lexus. However, you expect these same people to deliver world-class service to your members, who often experience these types of things. Common sense is relative to your life experiences. Often times the challenge is created when management assumes employees know how to deliver great service in all situations when in fact, most front line employees haven't even experienced real, world-class service before.
That doesn't mean you are supposed to pay everyone $100k to perform front line duties. Nor does it mean you need only hire a certain class of people. The ability to deliver world-class service has everything to do with a person's "service perception." How I define service perception is a person's ability to recognize opportunities and exceed a customer's expectations, regardless of the circumstances. The key being "regardless of the circumstances." When an instructor calls out sick, the power goes out, or you are shorted staffed. It is then that the front line employees need to be able to think on their feet. It is then that one's true service perception is revealed.
We had the pleasure of starting up with a new client as soon as they returned from an over due vacation. They were raving to us about the service they received from this island resort. "We were treated like royalty!" they exclaimed. As soon as they returned to the health club they had a staff meeting to re-train their staff on customer service. A noble effort. The problem was they were trying to explain an experience, not a technique. Their great message fell on deaf ears. How can a person who vacations in a cabin understand the ability to make someone else feel like the most important person in the world in a 5 star resort?
There is a high-end hotel in New York City ,which has a database of every client who has ever stayed with them. When new client books a reservation, they begin to create a report of EVERYTHING they can find out about that person. The staff is then trained on WHO you ARE, before you arrive. If you book your room under the name Robert, they will find out what you PREFER to be called and you will be greeted by every staff member you pass with a very sincere "Good Morning Bob".
Health Club Retention is in Direct Proportion
to the Level of Customer Service Provided.
Granted, when selling memberships, customer service ranks very low on a prospects hot button list. But once the sale is made, renewals are tied in directly to customer service. If your membership is ready to expire and you feel like the 'invisible member' because no one even says Hello when you arrive, it is much easier to skip renewal and try out somewhere else. If you belong to a club where everyone knows your name, it is much more difficult to leave a place where you will feel missed.
It is that simple (yet, the hardest inside reality change you'll ever implement).
Find out what they want and give it to them.
There is Hope
In order to truly be world class, health clubs have to develop learning and training programs based strictly on service and soft skills that remove gray areas and personal interpretations. This is done prior to any training specific to the functions of the actual job. Club's must first settle on what their customer service training program should be modeled upon and stick to it. Why reinvent the wheel?
An example of customer service training is a Service Boot Camp, which may piggyback new employee orientation. New (and existing) employees should receive training manuals listing all the company's customer service standards, or "non-negotiables." All team members should be tested and required to get over a certain score before they are allowed to start training for their specific role and come in contact with customers. This training should be an annual requirement for all existing employees with constant refreshers quarterly, ensuring continued awareness of your company's world-class service standards.
Some of the BEST health club's in the U.S. spend as much money on staff training as they do on advertising. Why? It is much easier and cost-effective to get an existing member to last longer than it is to get some lazy slob to turn off the TV and join your health club.