The product of the health club business is the member experience. Just as the product of a restaurant is not only the food, but the overall experience. Say this in a group of gym owners and most will agree. Asked if they deliver an excellent, average or poor member experience, and at least 80 percent say “excellent.” However, you could bet 80 percent of members would say “poor to average.”
This indicates a gap in the implied strategy and the ability to deliver the strategy. If your strategy includes delighting your members, design your business to deliver. This requires more than telling your staff to say “hello” and “goodbye.” Whether you’re a full-service club or a low-cost, fitness-only gym, there is no excuse for poor service.
It is important to understand the member experience is defined by the member, not the operator. Operators create policies and train staff. The effects of those decisions will be positive, neutral or negative in the member experience — only the member can make that determination.
Great customer service that builds loyalty begins with:
Many businesses fail at this because policies are done to protect the company, not the customers. A member’s experience is disrupted with policies that make no sense to them and cost them money. The front line staff is left with the most aggravating words in customer-service history: “that’s our policy.”
A member doesn’t care if that’s your policy or not, he/she wants to know how your policies bring value to him/her, your member. It is very important to differentiate between the intent of a policy or process, and the feeling the policy creates for a member. Intent means nothing. Feeling is everything. Design your systems with the end feeling of the member in mind.
In addition to burdening front line staff with too many policies and procedures, the time spent training staff to “enforce” policies becomes disproportionate with time spent teaching values, complaint resolution and delivering pleasant surprises. You could even argue an over-regulated service environment with disempowered staff does not attract the best employees.
Service environments that allows the front line staff to do whatever it takes to make the member happy will attract employees who love helping people. If you truly empower your staff to deliver great service, you grant the authority to say “yes” as well.
If your strategy is differentiation, not commoditization, this points in the right direction — there are very few who will have the courage and patience to deliver a true customer care strategy. Chances are you will be the only one in your market, and that is true differentiation.