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Do you remember how excited you were when you opened up your health club? Although you were 25% over budget and you opened four months late, you and your staff couldn’t wait to greet the hundreds of new members who would be joining your gym. You thanked each and every person for taking the time to come in and see your club. Your enthusiasm was contagious and your pride of ownership was reflected in the eyes of every one of your staff. After your prospect became a member, you or your manager personally thanked that member for their business. When the member would check-in, your front desk staff would scan their membership card, and they would say; “Have a great workout, Frank,” or “Good to see you again, Sarah.” In short, you established a great foundation of customer service and your members soon felt like this was “their” club. Life was good.
As time went on, you became busy with the day-to-day distractions that every club owner goes through. Your men’s room toilet backs up, you have a leak in your ceiling, your equipment needs servicing, and your once enthusiastic staff are now a pain in your backside. You notice that your new sales are dropping off and some of your existing members have stopped coming to the gym. Your front desk staff has forgotten how to smile, and now when your members check-in to the club, they feel like they are interrupting the person behind the desk. The membership card is scanned and not one single word is spoken. Your sales team is now under a lot of pressure to sign-up every single soul that enters your club, and they slowly develop sales techniques that begin to take on the feeling of a used car dealership. Even when you do sign someone up, your team is too busy to introduce the new member to the rest of the staff, and the member soon blends into the sea of workout patrons, never to be spoken to again.
As soon as your club reaches this point in the business cycle, customer service begins to deteriorate and your club is more susceptible to having an incident turn into a claim. Everyone knows that people will slip and fall in the shower; get thrown off the back of a treadmill, and someone will occasionally twist an ankle in a group exercise class. Over 50% of the claims we receive are caused by what we refer to as, “member malfunction.” In other words, members hurt themselves through their own carelessness or lack of concentration during their workouts. Often, what keeps these incidents from escalating into a phone call to an attorney is how each member is treated before an accident even occurs.
There is no risk management tool more powerful than creating an environment where everyone knows each other. Nothing can replace good customer service as well as the foundation for a claims-free club. Clubs that excel in legendary customer service not only benefit from having fewer claims; they also have superior member retention and increased sales as a result of word-of- mouth advertising in the community. Think of your favorite restaurant. Do you go there because the food is good, or do you go there because of the way you are treated? My favorite restaurant, bar, bank, and dry cleaner all have one thing in common; they greet me by my first name every time I visit. The thought of suing one of these establishments would never even occur to me.
So, here is the risk management tip for 2006: Require front desk staff to greet each member by their first name every time they enter the club. Again, they have the name of the person right in front of them on the check-in monitor, so no excuses. You may even have a check-in system that will show how long it has been since their last visit. Can you imagine if your front desk girl said; “Hi Jim. Where have you been? Get your butt in here more often, and I better see you three more times this week.” Not only will it put a smile on the member’s face, but you will have just increased your chances for getting that member to renew, and soon he will be known by nearly every one of your employees. He now feels like he is part of your culture and a member of your club’s family. Also, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for you, as the club owner or manager, to go through the club, pick out a member you’ve never met before, introduce yourself, and ask how their workout is going. Remember, friends don’t sue friends.