"This is just like New Orleans."
In the wake of the tragedy in Boston this week, we were reminded of that quote from 2005. It came from one of our health club members and is seared into our brains. And it reminds us never to become the kind of people who would say that. Such a statement colors our opinion of customer service and how we respond to difficult situations.
It was the first week of September, and Hurricane Katrina had just devastated New Orleans.Remnants of the storm had made their way to the Northeast, where our clubs are located. We had just begun a major expansion project and created a temporary entrance through a back door. It was not convenient, nor was it attractive. Our members had to walk across several yards of grass and then go down a set of stairs and into our weight room. It was like walking through a backyard and going into a cellar. With the heavy rain, we placed mats, wood and anything else we could to keep our members out of the mud — guilty as charged, we had not properly prepare for that much rain — but it was, without question, a lousy way to enter the club and prepare for a workout.
After walking through that less-than-ideal entrance, one of our early-morning members checked-in, glared at our front desk person and said, "This is just like New Orleans."
It took everything our staff person had not to lose his temper. "No, ma'am," we're sure he wanted to say. "This is not like New Orleans. People in New Orleans have lost everything, are helpless, sick, dying and devastated. Families have been separated and lives have been changed forever. You, on the other hand, just walked through a bit of rain and mud in order to get to your health club for your morning workout."
If that's the biggest problem in your life, then you're doing okay.
We thought of that statement again this week in light of the Boston Marathon bombings. We want our members to love coming to our gyms and we want them to be happy. We want to be that "third" place, in addition to home and work or school, where they spend their time. We want to be important to our members, but we reject the responsibility of being the most important part of their lives. As a result, we don't get worked up about stupid things.
You had to park too far away today because we were crowded? That's awful that you had to walk a few extra yards before you got on that treadmill to walk in place.
You couldn't get your favorite bike in Spinning class? Hey, at least you beat that guy into class and got a bike before he did!
You had to wait for a shower because we're down to just two while we do maintenance on the third? Yes, we broke that third shower on purpose just to piss you off.
We do our best every day, and we're pretty darn good at it. The vast majority of our members appreciate that. We were not in New Orleans in August and September 2005, and we weren't at the finish line in Boston on April 15. We were at the gym.
Let's count our blessings.