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Team Development: The Perfect Member Experience

Leverage your perfect team and create excellent customer service.

If you had only one chance to make a good first impression, you wouldn’t want to blow it by providing potential clients with a subpar initial experience. Yet, a shoddy introduction and a useless tour followed by a hardcore sales pitch are what people sometimes get when they walk into a fitness facility. They come in looking for inspiration, motivation and guidance, and instead they get a big dose of disappointment.

Don’t let that happen because of you and your staff. This series has explored ways to elevate your team’s game and have that positive rush flow out to all areas of your fitness business. At no time is it more important to be on your “A” game than when a potential customer walks in your door. In this last installment, we discuss how all the components of developing a high-performance team come together to create an outstanding customer experience. It’s the final stage in building your dream team; this is where the customer sees, hears and feels how well everyone works together.

Let’s look at two experiences a potential member could have, and then decide which one to align ourselves with.

The Dream World

Julie is a middle-aged mother of two young children. She used to be very active, but life obligations multiplied and made time management more challenging as the years passed. However, she is now in a good position to start exercising again, and she’s feeling very motivated to lose the 30 pounds she has gained over the past 7 years. So she decides to check out your facility.

As she approaches the front desk, guest services specialist Ron offers her a genuine smile and greets her with energetic friendliness. He listens actively as Julie explains why she is interested in becoming a member. Ron enthusiastically describes the features the facility offers. Julie can tell he takes pride in this place, because he speaks passionately. She starts to feel excited about the prospect of becoming a member. Ron offers her tea while she waits for the membership advisor, Ann, to take her on a tour.

After greeting Julie warmly, Ann shows her the space. Julie is impressed by the open floor plan, the inviting décor and the clean smell. She and Ann stop to talk to several members, all of whom are friendly and engaging. Julie speaks to numerous staff, and each of them seems sincerely pleased to meet her. The general manager even comes out to greet her. Julie feels special.

During the tour Ann asks Julie questions about herself, and Julie is eager to share her favorite activities. Ann tailors the tour to Julie’s likes and dislikes, and she points out equipment that might help Julie with her favorite pastimes of running and hiking. She shows Julie the group fitness studio, gives her a schedule and suggests classes that might suit her hectic lifestyle, her interests and her fitness level. By the end of the tour, Julie can see herself working out there.

Julie is invited into a beautifully decorated office. She’s offered a healthy treat while Ann reviews her membership options and the facility’s personal training services. At no point does Julie feel pressured to become a member or buy a personal training package. She is offered options that suit her lifestyle and, more important, her budget. She feels the facility’s employees have shown a genuine interest in her, and she purchases a year’s membership and 10 personal training sessions.

Julie feels great about her decision and is looking forward to coming back and getting to know some of the people she met on the tour. She can’t wait to tell her friends about the facility—maybe they will join too and they can work out together. She feels as if she has found the perfect “home” for her new fitness lifestyle.

The Sad Reality

The above scenario is how Julie’s experience should go. Below is, sadly, how her experience is more likely to unfold.

Julie walks into the facility to find the front-desk attendant engaged in a casual conversation with a personal trainer, who is bragging about the previous night of binge drinking. She waits 5 minutes before she’s even noticed. She is asked to take a seat, and she waits another 10 minutes before she is taken on a 3-minute tour. Although the young man showing her around asks her name, he never uses it. He shows Julie the washrooms and the fitness studio, but he never asks her a single question about herself. He also points out various pieces of equipment that don’t interest her.

Julie feels that her guide is just going through the motions. He walks in front of her the entire time, so it’s difficult to hear him. They stop to chat with some members—or, rather, he stops to chat while Julie stands there feeling awkward.

Julie is finally led into a small, windowless room where she is asked to fill out some paperwork while the membership advisor goes “to get something.” Julie finishes the paperwork and then waits another 10 minutes. When the member specialist finally returns, he has a cup of coffee and a muffin (yet offers nothing to Julie). He sits across from her with his snack and quickly reviews Julie’s membership and personal training options.

He suggests that Julie might benefit from purchasing 20 personal training sessions to get in better shape and help her lose weight. Julie is shocked! She never mentioned that she wanted to lose weight, and she feels very self-conscious. She wants to run out of the facility and never come back, but she is there for another 30 minutes before he finally stops his hard-sell tactics and lets her go. Julie decides that gyms are not for her, and her motivation to exercise goes from a 10 to a zero.

Make the Dream a Reality

Julie’s “real,” negative experience—which was the result of the behavior and attitudes of the people she encountered—is all too common in the fitness industry. Julie’s ideal experience shows how a harmonious team can create an outstanding occasion. From the first point of contact at the front desk to her conversation with the general manager, Julie feels special. Clearly, when you have the right people in the right roles with the right motivation and attitude, magic happens. The client’s experience is positive and unforgettable.

A few key elements made Julie’s ideal experience great. First, a visually appealing and clean-smelling facility makes a good impression. Next, the front-desk staff member was warm, genuine, engaging and passionate about his job. He enjoyed helping Julie, and he took pride in where he worked.

The membership advisor knew how to establish a rapport with Julie. She understood the importance of making the tour relevant to Julie’s interests. The general manager helped make Julie feel special by taking time to greet her; she modeled the behavior she wanted from the staff. Every person Julie came in contact with seemed to share the same philosophy, which was to make her feel welcome.

The fitness industry is closely related to the hospitality industry. Both offer services that require a great deal of customer care. Your high-performance team should share the same philosophy and execute it all the time—not some of the time, not because of a mandate, and not because a performance evaluation is coming up and a salary increase depends on it. Superior customer service blossoms when you have hired people who fit your culture—and you then keep them inspired, give them autonomy and offer them opportunities for growth.

When all the elements from this series are implemented, the outcome should be a customer service experience just like Julie’s fantasy. Building your dream team is not an easy task, and as any supervisor, manager and business owner knows, it’s a constant process. The balance can be affected by each change to this thoughtful formulation. Ensure success by putting processes and systems in place that help you understand the nature of your business, the culture that defines it and the people who sustain it. Now go out and start creating your own dream team!

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Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Donna Hutchinson

Donna Hutchinson owns On The Edge Fitness Educators. Based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, she is a fitness business coach and author of How-To Guide to Starting Your Own Personal Training Business. In 2007, she was nominated for the Women of Excellence Award and the Business Person of the Year Award. Find out more at www.edgefit.ca.

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