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Fix the “Little Things” to Make Your Facility #1

by Fred Hoffman, MEd on Dec 15, 2010

The past few years have been challenging for the fitness industry. Retention has become more and more difficult. Even previously loyal customers are likely to leave your facility if another club better meets their expectations. So what can you do to ensure you stay at the top? It is the little things that matter most, along with how your facility functions overall. This dynamic duo will make the difference to your customers. Functional exercises and programs abound, but now may be the time to determine if your gym is as functional as it should be, and to take a look at what you are (or aren’t) doing!

To avoid client dissatisfaction and improve overall functionality, start by paying attention to the areas discussed below. They strongly influence how the club functions, and collectively they determine the overall customer experience.

The front desk is the first and last place members interact with the facility during any given visit. This is where the tone is set, not just for that particular day, but for future visits as well. When members arrive, they are usually in workout mode with a desire to sign in, get to the changing rooms and start exercising as quickly as possible. To avoid any hiccups along the way, the reception area should be designed for easy flow in and out. The following checklist offers guidance on how to take care of the specifics.

  • Avoid bottlenecks by ensuring there is adequate space around the front desk, with sign-in and sign-out areas clearly indicated.
  • Automate! If membership cards are handed over or scanned, the process should be quick, simple and easy for both members and staff.
  • Keep the front-desk area free of collateral materials such as brochures, timetables, etc. Designate a specific area for these items so that members don’t congregate in front of the reception and check-in area.
  • Streamline the procedure for borrowing towels, locker keys or locks, if you offer these services.
  • Design the area behind the front desk so that staff can move freely, permitting easy access to computers, phones, drawers, towels, keys, etc.
  • Schedule adequate staff, knowing that the reception area is busier on certain days of the week and at certain times of the day. Remember that members expect the same high level of service, regardless of the time or day of the week.
  • Make departing the facility a hassle-free experience. Signing out or returning a towel, locker key or membership card should be easy and quick.

A Place for “Things”

When members arrive at your facility, they expect to be able to put all of their personal items (clothes, shoes, toiletries, valuables, etc.) in a clean and spacious locker specifically designed for that purpose—a mini closet of sorts. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. Unclean, nonfunctional lockers have become the norm. Members are obliged to fold and place clothes on top of each other, along with a computer bag, briefcase or handbag—not to mention a knapsack or gym bag plus soap, shampoo and towel.

The best lockers are clean and smell good. They have shelves; a designated place for shoes; and hangers for coats, shirts, pants, and skirts or dresses. Yes, upgrading your locker room means incurring additional cost, but having easy access to personal items creates a more positive and enjoyable visit for members, and you can market the upgrade as an additional amenity. If you simply can’t replace existing lockers, you can still make them more functional by adding individual shelving and extra hangers or hooks.

Let’s take this a step further. A member has now changed into her workout gear, and she heads to the cardio area for a long run on the treadmill. Carrying a towel, water bottle and iPod with her, she decides to go to the bathroom before starting her workout. Once there, she looks around to see where she can put everything. What she ends up doing is placing everything on the floor of the stall, on top of the toilet roll dispenser (inevitably, something falls on the floor), on a sink counter (which is always wet) or wherever she can find a spot. Save your members this frustrating scenario by simply installing small shelves in the areas where they are likely to put their belongings. At the very least, install hooks for towels and clothing items on the inside of stall doors or on the walls.

To learn more about fixing the little things in the strength and cardio areas, please see the full article, “Functional Fitness Facilities,” in October 2010 IDEA Fitness Manager in the online IDEA Library. If your current membership does not give you access to IDEA Fitness Manager and you would like to upgrade, contact IDEA member services at

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About the Author

Fred Hoffman, MEd

Fred Hoffman, MEd IDEA Author/Presenter

Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., is the owner of Fitness Resources Consulting Services and the author of Going Global: An Expert’s Guide to Working Abroad in the International Fitness Industry. The recipient of the 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Award, Fred holds a Master’s Degree in Health Education from Boston University, and has over thirty years of experience in the fitness and health industry. From 2013 to 2016 he served as a member of the ACE Industry Advisory Panel. Fred’s expertise has taken him to nearly 50 countries on six continents to speak at more than 200 conferences and conventions. In 2001 he was elected to the International Who's Who of Professionals. Certifications: ACE and ACSM Education provider for: ACE