Blog: Our E-Suggestion Box Is Prompting Better Communication

We often remind our staff that how something is said is just as important, if not more important, than what is said. Tone, body language and other factors play a huge part in what a health club member hears and recalls, so our staff training and day-to-day staff feedback frequently involve this subtle topic.

It's a shame that we can't really do such training and post similar reminders for our members.

Members will deliver feedback in every way imaginable. A favorite among our members, and our least, is cornering one of us or our staff on the fitness floor and saying, "You know what you guys should do is…" That can be offensive on so many levels, not the least of which can be member's state of perspiration and freshness of breath.

Other feedback is often delivered with smiles and passive-aggressive humor. That happened last week while we were bringing in a carload of janitorial supplies. As our members saw us engaged in the obviously glamorous task of delivering boxes of paper towels and toilet paper, several of them, who have been eagerly awaiting much needed replacement exercise implements for our pool - noodles, floats and so on - took the opportunity to laughingly ask, "Oh, are those the new things for the pool?" We just as happily responded, "No, but that'll all be arriving next week!" We decided not to say, "We get your point. Thanks for being so subtle."

Facebook isn't the realm of subtlety, either. A prospect recently used our Facebook page to ask why she had not received a response to her e-mail inquiry and added, "Why would you have e-mail if you're not going to respond?" We refrained from questioning what was happening in her life that would cause such snottiness and just let her know that we had, in fact, responded immediately to her e-mail the prior week. We apologized for her not having received it and said we'd send it again, which we did immediately, making sure to forward the previously sent message.

We're trying to help our members communicate better, just as we do with our staff. Since being friendly, adult, thorough and professional carries a lot of weight with us, and since we can't see or speak with all of our members directly, we now ask members to submit their suggestions and ideas through a new page on our website. The web allows us to ask key questions. Who are you? Do you want a response? If so, of what sort? With these and a few other questions, we do a much better job of capturing and acting on suggestions, and for whatever reason this works better online than asking the same questions on a paper form within the clubs, which we have tried in the past. We've even gotten rid of our old-fashioned suggestion boxes in favor of using the web. Our suggestion boxes were too prone to collecting poorly thought-out, anonymous observations ("More Step classes!", "Stay open later!").

Using the web has made a tremendous difference that has allowed us to capture useful suggestions. One recently submitted idea was that we temporarily offer Saturday morning child-care service while we rolled out a new class. The class was very popular but, due to a limited number of instructors who could teach it, we couldn't offer it very much during weekday mornings. This suggestion didn't simply say "Saturday-morning babysitting!" but suggested a reasonable solution to a short-term problem. We appreciated it and accommodated the request.

We know we're still going to get cornered, that members will still shout out whatever is on their minds, and Facebook is a perfect place for someone to have an audience if they want one. But we really want to know the good stuff, so hopefully this small step will help us do so.

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