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The 'Issue' Is Customer Service

The 'solution' is to create a policy of superior service by getting to know your members, communicating with them often and well, and showing them how much they're appreciated.

Better late than never? Not necessarily. Most people never tell a business how it messed up; they just leave. Your facility isn't the only game in town, and your members are more than willing to try out your competition, rather than complain. This is true not just because complaining, for many, is awkward and uncomfortable. Experience shows that complaints are rarely followed up with an appropriate response - or one that makes the member feel like the problem has been fixed.

Name, rank and serial number

Sometimes, the oldest and most-often-repeated advice is the best advice. So, while you've heard people tell you to get to know your members, try actually doing it. Your members (at least most) are more than willing to share information about themselves - beyond their name, which pops up on the computer screen when you scan their membership card. Encourage your staff to strike up real conversations with members to find out about their spouses, children, jobs, hobbies, schools, community involvement, etc. Doing this not only helps to build relationships that are good for your business, but they can actually create some real friendships, too.

The horse's mouth

Relationships between staff and members make it easier to determine what's working and what's not. When a relationship is established, it's easier for staff to ask what members like and don't like about the facility. This, in turn, allows the member to say when something about the facility is bothering them, without them feeling like they've come to you to "complain." It's a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one. It says to the member that since you cared enough to ask, you probably are going to fix it.

Every 3,000 miles

Not every member is approachable. Some members just want to get in and out, and some just want to be left to themselves. Therefore, you need other ways to make a connection. Just as you need to get your car's oil changed on a regular basis, you also need to communicate on a regular basis with all members. Send postcards, emails or, even better, a newsletter, on a periodic basis. Let members know what's new at the fitness center, including classes, equipment and personnel. Ask them for suggestions, either through email or through your website. Send out copies of interesting articles or research on exercise and training methods. Just be sure that your members know that you are thinking about them, and that they are part of your "club," so to speak.

From the top, down

The experience your members have when coming to your facility all starts at the top. It's up to you, the manager, to establish a service culture. That means adopting a proactive management style that conveys to your staff what's expected from them - from their appearance, to their attitude and how they interact with members - as well as implementing policies and procedures that give your staff the tools they need to effectively do their jobs.

The articles in this Special Report are intended to help you to develop managerial strategies, and to give you some ideas to put to use not only at your front desk - the first point of contact with your members - but also through efforts that show your members, on a regular basis, how much you appreciate them.
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