An inspired business model is one in which employees genuinely want to generate a positive vibration that makes members feel special. In this membership culture, people not only join your facility; they thrive there. The first part of this series focused on what inspired customer service is and why it is vital to membership growth: the “what.” In the second part we discussed the importance of gathering a group of inspired employees. Accomplishing this may require a company culture paradigm shift through the development of inspired leadership and management: the “who.” The third installment focused on five keys to developing a great culture through revisiting the vision and mission: the “why.”

Now that you know what you want to create, who you are and why you do what you do, it’s time to talk about how you’re going to make it all happen. This part of the series shares the best behaviors for creating an inspired customer service experience. We’ll discuss how to inspire employees and build strong teams so that brand standard and service values are delivered consistently. We’ll also briefly examine facility standards, so you can ensure that your facility reflects your values.

The Power of Customer Service

Customer service is about human interaction. This may be obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Everyone has the power to influence what others feel, think and do, and we communicate a lot through our body language, facial expressions, vocal tone, behaviors—even our posture. We also influence each other’s vibration, or energy. The way we interact with each other and with our members consistently and over time creates a community, a culture. What sort of culture do you want to create for your brand? How do you do it?

Your brand comes from your people, programs and place (the facility itself). If your employees are not clear on how to behave in order to exude the brand image, then the programs and place will never be experienced the way you want them to be. Think about the best behaviors you want your employees to deliver in order to have your customers understand, and thus be attracted to, your brand.

What happens when a person smiles? Is a smile sometimes contagious? Do you feel good giving a smile as well as receiving one? We all know what it feels like to have someone smile at us perfunctorily or with a disingenuous vibe. The point: Not only do you want to encourage behaviors that elicit an inspired interaction between employees and members, but also, and more importantly, you want your employees to give a good vibe. Authenticity is the key, and you get yourself and your staff there by following the steps below. When you feel calm and happy, you make others feel good.

These are the five steps and best behaviors of an inspired customer service experience:

  1. Be prepared.
  2. Know how to greet members.
  3. Offer superb service.
  4. Create a community.
  5. Know how to say goodbye.

Be Prepared

Create a transition ritual for you and your staff to apply before setting foot inside the facility each day. Know how to move from the “outside world” into the workspace so you can create magic. Leave your stress outside, and raise your vibration. Consider the following tips for doing this.

  • Be well trained and informed about the business. Make sure that you’re on the same page as your superiors and that you’ve communicated all relevant business information to staff.
  • Put on your uniform and nametag thoughtfully. Make sure that the nametag is not hidden from view and that you’re giving off a proud vibe.
  • Take a deep breath, and feel good energy running in your body.
  • Stand tall and smile; feel calm and present.
  • Walk confidently to your station, whether it’s the front desk, the back office, the indoor cycling studio or the training room.
  • Greet everyone along the way, and use each person’s name.
  • Feel good about yourself and why you do what you do.

Know How to Greet Members

This point may seem obvious, but countless fitness facilities drop the ball on this very important brand builder. Make a good impression with members by saying hello and being genuinely happy to see them. This practice goes a long way. Try the following tips, and encourage all your employees, not just the front-desk staff, to do the same.

  • Stand tall with your heart open; this builds trust.
  • Take a deep breath, and be relaxed.
  • Smile, and let that smile come from deep within. Be authentic.
  • Make eye contact with members, and be happy to see them.
  • Thank members for coming in.
  • Be attentive to members’ moods. If a member has had a bad day, don’t reinforce that bad mood. Instead, respond with a supportive but positive vibe.
  • Use members’ names when speaking to them.

Offer Superb Service

Below are some ways to excel in customer service.

  • Anticipate member needs and concerns, and make suggestions. For example, if you know of members who have been wanting to try a new class but it hasn’t been offered at a time that matches their schedules, be sure to let the members know when the class time changes.
  • Be proactive in your management strategies. It’s easy to have an “open door policy” yet sit behind your desk and wait for people to come to you. Walk around the club, greet everyone and be readily available to serve.
  • Educate your members, and share with them what wonderful programs and services you offer. If you get to know your members, you’ll get to know their needs and be in a good position to help them reach their goals. Remember, selling is a “best behavior”; every employee needs to feel comfortable with it, because your members are looking to you to help them find solutions to their health and fitness problems.
  • Provide clear, frequent communication, and share updates and alerts as soon as possible. Return phone calls and emails within 24 hours.
  • Handle concerns and complaints in a timely and professional manner. Also, be aware that taking care of how members feel is more important than any explanation you might provide, because the problem is rarely about an actual issue but rather about their disappointment. Be careful not to become defensive. Instead, listen completely to their questions, concerns and complaints. Be sensitive to financial issues, and don’t talk about finances in the open; take members to your office for that conversation. Let people know you genuinely care about their needs, and tell them, “This is what I understand, and this is what I am going to do.” Always thank them for their valuable feedback.

Create a Community

Use the following guidelines to make your facility like a home away from home.

  • Be proud of your business, and express this often.
  • When you see new faces, introduce yourself. Also introduce members to one another.
  • Promote your colleagues’ professional credibility.
  • Don’t just organize community events. Participate in them.
  • Recruit employees and members who have a similar community mindset.
  • Focus on effective marketing that tells a story of support and inclusion.

Know How to Say Goodbye

Don’t leave your members’ experience open-ended. Acknowledge their time and energy; let them know that they are welcome at your facility and that you look forward to seeing them again.

  • Always thank people for coming in and for being members.
  • Ask them how their visit was. “Did we make you feel special?”
  • Make it easy to cancel a membership, but ask members what you can do to make them stay.
  • If members choose to leave, wish them well and tell them you hope they will return.

Checking in with members about their visit as you say goodbye helps them close this visit and get excited about the next one. If they had a bad experience, you want them to tell you—rather than ruminating about it and possibly telling others. If they had a good experience, they get to confirm that for themselves by telling you.

A bonus: Being inspired at work will spill over into your personal life. Take steps now to create a culture where the five best practices covered in this article permeate your facility. Then watch as members flourish and share the good news about your positive vibration!

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Sidebar: Phone Etiquette

It’s critical that you properly train employees about professional phone etiquette, since this is often where potential members form their first impression of your facility. Here are some basic tips for your employees.

  • Stand or sit tall, and activate your calm, positive vibration.
  • Smile and take a breath before you pick up the phone.
  • Say hello and read the script with a smile.
  • Repeat callers’ names back to them.
  • Listen completely before responding.
  • Ask skilled questions in order to discern callers’ needs.
  • If you need to put callers on hold, first ask for their permission to do so. Then, do not keep them on hold for longer than 10 seconds.

Patricia Kirk, MS

Patricia Kirk, MS, is regional manager and director of training and development for commercial clubs for Club One Fitness. She has been in the fitness industry for over 25 years and began her career as a group exercise instructor and personal trainer. She has been in fitness management for the past 15 years. Her passion is developing and implementing employee development training programs, particularly in customer service and management leadership development.

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