I recently had a moment of clarity in my health club, a large, well-known multipurpose facility that I have belonged to for more than 20 years. It was as simple as this: an employee named Herb came over to say hello and introduce himself. I had seen him do this with other people when he first started working there a month ago, and I was sure that as a personal trainer he was mainly trolling for new clients. But as the days passed, I thought that even if that were the case, he was unique because he was actually talking to the members. He was making people feel special. Where had he been all this time?
In 20 years of calling on customers in fitness equipment sales, I jumped through my fair share of hoops to create clients and keep them happy and loyal to my products. Why has this level of service seemed to be the exception, and not the rule, in my experience as the customer of a club?
It's possible that my expectations for this (or any) club are too high. Yet, it's telling that I have a favorite restaurant, clothing store, bike shop, church - and even feel my dry cleaner needs to get honorable mention here. The more I visit these places, the more rich the experience becomes as I get to know the owners and employees, and they in turn learn more about me, my family and my interests. However, there is one place I go regularly that does not provide the rich and rewarding experience one might expect after two decades of membership - my health club. Come to think of it, I seem to have similar experiences when I visit most clubs in my global travels. I think I have just come to expect little to zero customer engagement when I visit facilities.
People like to belong, and they want to be proud of and feel happy about the places where they spend their time and money. Where better to have a positive experience than in the place where we go to improve our health and wellbeing?
I think it is a good time to consider the human touch in our business and our lives. How might a facility consider the impact their employees make on their members? Consider asking some current members these two questions:
1). "What if memberships and services were free and you paid solely for the experience?"
2). "Would you be willing to pay the same or more, or want to pay less, for your regular experiences here?"
While there are many challenges in building and running facilities, people who join often have many choices of where they can go to invest their time and money. Small things, like what Herb demonstrated, can make a big impact on the value of their experience and the success of a club.