Above and Beyond Customer Service: A Worthy Experience

Personal Training Director:

Put yourself in first place by putting your clients first!

Creating a great member experience is one of the key success factors for personal trainers. To differentiate yourself in an environment that is moving toward more regulation and codification, you must maintain unwavering focus and dedication. One way to demonstrate such commitment is by consistently providing an excellent experience for your clients, with clear concentration on achieving their goals. By offering great value, you make it easy for clients to justify your services as a worthwhile investment. Here are some universal keys to providing a “membercentric” experience.

Show Clear Value

As the industry has grown, consumers have become more discerning. They are aware that there are disparities in the competencies and qualifications of trainers. In this environment, you need to show the clear value of your offerings—which include your marketing materials, your dress code, the way you carry yourself, and other tangibles and intangibles that demonstrate your professionalism. Clients are always window-shopping, so if your marketing materials state “best trainer in town,” you had better have the packed schedule to back it up. If you advocate a cutting-edge training style, then you need to have the skill, training and knowledge that demonstrate mastery of that style. A client who feels taken for a ride by misleading advertising can quickly become an assassin to your business. If you can clearly and consistently demonstrate the value of your services, potential clients will have you in the front of their minds when they are ready to make a purchasing decision. To show value, look at all the areas where potential clients may connect with you—marketing, in-person, word-of-mouth referrals—and work to solidify the potential of each interaction.

Be the Gourmet Burger!

Accepting the fact that you are one of many in the facility and that potential clients have a choice is the first step in releasing yourself from the confines of self-doubt. Don’t focus on the flash or attitudes of the other trainers and try to benchmark or mimic their activity. Sure, you can adopt aspects of other trainers’ behaviors that match your style, but the main point is to be the best you, not to be a second-best someone else.

The reality is that we are all meals on a menu, and some clients will connect with other trainers’ attitudes or styles, while plenty of others will want what you offer, with no substitutions! Picture the scene: you walk into a restaurant, open the menu, and all you see is milkshakes. Would you go ahead and order? Probably not, unless you came in looking for a shake. Stamp your own style, show your attitude, be your own trainer, and become the gourmet burger on the menu! Members who want that choice will see you on the menu and choose your services.

Label Yourself With a Reputation for Excellent Service

In the book Satisfaction: How Every Great Company Listens to the Voice of the Customer (Portfolio 2007), Chris Denove and J.D. Power discuss the impact of great service. If you label yourself with a reputation for great customer service, you can charge a premium. Conversely, with a reputation for poor customer service you can only gain market share by discounting your product. This holds true in the world of personal training as much as anywhere else. No matter what qualifications or continuing education credits you have earned, if you provide weak service you will struggle to pick up clients. If you have only a basic qualification yet provide excellent service, you can be extremely successful. Whether a basic qualification is ideal or not is a question that each trainer must answer for him- or herself. My point is that I have seen many novice or inexperienced trainers become hugely successful just by focusing on providing excellent customer service. Luckily, this same attitude has pushed those newer trainers to study further and become experts.

When you obtain a basic qualification as a personal trainer, it is a piece of paper that gives you the right to practice in your field. But a mature attitude and a forward focus that drive you to learn, grow and take the steps necessary to become an established professional are what will make you a success. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, a great customer service attitude will certainly take you places.

Be the Expert

Whatever skill level or qualifications you have, you can differentiate yourself from others by becoming the consummate expert in your field. Start with your systems—have great systems in place for every point of member interaction, from the welcome letter and screening questionnaire to the medical referral and program card. Wear your company clothing and logo with pride, and put forward a positive image of the business. Carry this integrity through to your marketing materials.

Last, make your credible, client-focused business platform come alive in the facility through forward-thinking, innovative programming that focuses on giving your client an excellent experience. Walk the walk, and talk the talk. Show the way forward for your clients by leading by example. The quickest way to get attention is to do something different and back it up with good science. If you are an academic introvert, put this to good use with monthly newsletters and strong communication to your client base and potential clients. If you are a good communicator, put together workshops that allow you to display your knowledge. And if you are a strong technician, position yourself as such with workshops and training sessions for your colleagues.

The Future Is Now

Into the future, excellent customer service will be one of the biggest drivers for success. To forge relationships and build trust, create a connection with your member base. The art of excellent customer service does not come easily to many people; it is something that needs to be worked on and practiced daily. Real customer service is about consistency, credibility and being “membercentric” at all times. Your bottom line is customers and how you treat them. Starting with the frontline staff, everyone must be genuinely interested in being ambassadors of customer service and must have the members’ interests at heart. Provide an experience that goes above and beyond expectations and you will have success now and into the future.

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Darren Jacobson

IDEA Author/Presenter
Darren Jacobson is head of fitness and product for Virgin Active South Africa. He holds a degree in ... more less
March 2010

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