Addressing a member when they have a past-due account can be a touchy subject, especially when done so in person. I witnessed this first hand when the other day at my gym, the member in front of me scanned their key card, at which time the front desk employee said, “Sir, your account is past-due. I can’t let you in without balancing it.”
Although the employee wasn’t unfriendly in the tone she used, the member still looked embarrassed, and proceeded to explain that he had gotten a new debit card and had forgotten to update his account. The situation was resolved — but not without the member being a bit embarrassed in the process.
I asked Shawn Stewart, the general manager of Gainesville Health and Fitness in Gainesville, Florida, if there’s a better way to approach this scenario. He offered, “We simply tell the member that there is a message on [his or her] account and ask if they would like to take care of it now.” If the member says yes, they’re directed to privately speak with a receptionist who politely explains the situation and hopefully resolves it. “Or, we can page a membership counselor up to resolve in private as well,” he continued.
If the member doesn’t have time to chat with staff right then and there, another option would be e-mailing the member. “If the member is in a hurry, you may say, ‘That’s no problem Steve, I will just e-mail you the message and you can take care of it the next time you’re in. Do I have your updated e-mail?’ Desk management software is beginning to catch up to the times and will automate a lot of this, but like us and most clubs, we still depend on the receptionist to relay the message.”
Although it’s important to balance past-due accounts, Stewart stressed the importance of doing so in a way that doesn’t alienate your members. “When you have EFT, there will be no shortage of accounts that have cards expire or change,” he said. “You never want to make the customer feel embarrassed or called out, yet you need to give them critical information about their account.”
Doing so delicately can ensure both parties are happy. Although this may seem like a small issue, the way your staff communicates with members at every turn is critical.
Rachel Zabonick is the Editor of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach out to her about exciting events or programs your club has implemented, or to share the amazing accomplishments of a member.