Is your struggle with inconsistent customer service leaving you no extra time to focus on big-picture items? Wouldn’t it feel great to know that if you had to step away from work, everything at your facility would still run smoothly? If you’re always feeling behind in your business, the solution is to have an operations manual. I have mine! Do you have yours?

In the first article in this series, we looked at the top 5 reasons why you need an operations manual. In this second article, we’ll focus on workflow processes. When applied correctly, these processes will promote better customer service, which will enable you, the owner/manager, to have more time for family and adventure, and, of course, reassure you while you’re away.

It’s About Consistency

We all have our own way of doing things. And we usually think our way is the best way, right? Are you frustrated that your employees don’t interact with members and prospective clients with the same level of care and professionalism that you do? Well, that’s not their fault if you haven’t trained them or outlined your expectations and best practices in an operations manual. Without such a tool, consistency is hard to achieve and hard to maintain.

Don’t overcomplicate things. You may think you’ve got something completely different from what’s being offered by other fitness professionals, when in reality we all seek to give our customers essentially the same services—attention to their physical well-being, recommendations for proper nutrition, guidance on setting goals, and so on. We even use similar equipment for similar workouts. Why, then, should people choose you? What sets you apart? The answer is simple: You must provide consistently great customer service. To do that, you need to create an operations manual with detailed workflow processes, so that everyone on your staff is on the same page.

Successful businesses pride themselves on doing things the same great way every time. Take McDonald’s®, for example. The stores in this restaurant chain are popular not because of their unique burger recipe or their storefront ambiance, but because of their consistency. The experience starts with a greeting at the counter, extends to the preparation of your food, and tops off with a final “Thank you.” How is it that you—the customer—know that no matter which McDonald’s you visit or who greets you at the counter, your experience will be about the same each time? McDonald’s employees didn’t haphazardly come up with the slogan “You deserve a break today.” That phrase is likely found in the McDonald’s operations manual as part of standard operating procedure.

Greeting the Customer

Are your customers greeted the same way every time? Does the person who answers the phone know what to say and how to say it? When speaking to prospective clients, do your employees know that the goal of the phone call is not to answer a few questions and then hang up, but rather to get someone to come in for an appointment and, hopefully, become a member? Are your employees trained in how to collect a prospective client’s name, marketing referral source, fitness goal, email address and phone number? To ensure that no potential client slips through the cracks, you must have a phone script, which should be included in your operations manual so that every employee can learn it and apply it every time someone calls.

Your phone script for prospective clients might look like this:

  • “Thank you for calling (your company name here)!”
  • “This is (name of employee). With whom am I speaking?”
  • [Write down the prospective client’s name. This is your first piece of information.]
  • “Great, (use prospective client’s name here and throughout the rest of the phone call)!”
  • “How did you hear about us?”
  • [Write down the market referral source. This is the second piece of information.]
  • “Let me ask you, (use prospective client’s name), what are you looking for in a gym?”
  • [Write down the prospect’s fitness goals. This is the third piece of information.]
  • Answer with “Well, you have called the right place! That is exactly what we do here.”

Make sure your staff knows how to convey what it is that sets you apart and makes your facility the best option. Give if you want to receive. For example, offer prospects a free fitness consultation so they can visit your facility and get a good look at it. If what you’ve trained your employees to say about your business is good enough, along with an enticing offer, then setting the appointment and getting the rest of the information will be no problem. Note: This series on operations manuals will address the appointment process itself, along with the logistics, in an upcoming article on sales.

Making Good Things Happen

Reflect again on the McDonald’s example. After you’re greeted, the team prepares your order. What great things happen when a customer (whether that person is an existing member or a prospective one) experiences your facility’s services? How is the proverbial “burger” made? At my business, Journey Fitness, we specialize in what we call group “personal” training, and we strive to make the experience of training in a group feel very personal. Here’s how:

  • We have systems in place to make sure that each customer walks into the same clean environment every time, with the weights displayed in the same sequential order.
  • Customers are greeted by name, and we have systems in place to help our coaches learn those names.
  • When customers come in on Mondays or Tuesdays, they are given a chance to weigh in. That data is always collected the same way by each coach.
  • Each week, at the weigh-in, the customer is given the opportunity to turn in a food journal for review, for which we have a 48-hour turnaround time. The journals turned in on Mondays are returned on Wednesdays, and the ones turned in on Tuesdays are handed back on Thursdays. Just as at McDonald’s, it’s not the 90-second drive-through that counts; it’s the consistency.
  • The coaches review the journals each week, but all coaches write the same notes for the various situations, thanks to the guidance provided in our operations manual.
  • We give our customers brand-new workouts each week, on Fridays. The workouts use different pieces of equipment, but they always include the same movement patterns.
  • We practice “team training,” where multiple coaches train the same clients. To stay consistent, all of the exercises are called by the same names, and the same coaching cues are used across the board.

None of the above would be possible without an operations manual to spell out established systems (and train new hires).

Leaving a Lasting Impression

When the workout has been delivered, how do you say thank you—or do you? Are you like the hotel where mint chocolates are left on the guest’s pillow? There are many things you could do. Why not give members a cold towel at the end of the workout? Or stand by the door and give members a “high five” goodbye and a “Thanks for coming”? Post a sign with these words, and say them often: “Thank you for your visit! Without you, this club would not exist.”

It all comes down to this: Whatever systems you have in place, choose to be great—from the time customers walk in the door to the time you say goodbye. Include detailed workflow processes in your operations manual, create consistency, and train your entire team on how to do their jobs well. Then you can enjoy more freedom, knowing your business is running exactly the way you want it to.

In the next article in this series, we’ll take a closer look at how marketing ties into your operations manual. Look for it in the premier issue of IDEA Fit Business Success.

Travis Barnes

"Travis Barnes is a certified personal trainer who grew his multimillion-dollar fitness company, Journey 333, to five locations in less than 4 years. He started at less than zero, building his future with an unemployment check while living in a FEMA trailer. Now, his company is known for its exemplary customer service and business systems, and he is franchising it across the globe. Travis is a co-author of two books, 52 Amazing Journeys and Journey Fitness."

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