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Ask an Expert In Print

Ask the Expert: Dori A. Nugent


You have questions, we have answers.

This month Club Solutions sat down with Dori A. Nugent, the membership director at Club La Maison Health and Fitness Club.

Club Solutions: Why is good customer service important for a health club business?

Dori A. Nugent: In the health club industry, where competition is at an all-time high, a health club’s customer service needs to not only be consistent, but memorable. It’s vital for clubs to understand that exceptional customer service directly results in improved member retention and loyalty, and drives member referrals.

What are some ways Club La Maison strives to provide great customer service?

DN: Our main focus is to take “old-fashioned” manners and perfect them when interacting with members. As a staff, we implement the words “please” and “thank you” into our member conversations and make a strong effort not only to introduce ourselves to every new member, but to get to know them on a first-name basis. And let’s not forget about the power of a friendly smile. We strongly believe a smile can go a long way. What is unique about a smile is that no matter your religion, culture or native language, you understand what a smile means. It’s the universal sign of friendliness. 

How do you measure member satisfaction?

DN: Referrals. The management team at Club La Maison confidently identifies member satisfaction through member referrals. As a general rule, consumers usually remember either an outstanding customer service experience or a really bad customer service experience. Somehow, the in-between doesn’t resonate. So if we are looking for member referrals, our only option is to make sure our members have a customer experience they can brag about to their friends and family. Our general manager, Paul Meshyock, constantly reminds us that if our members truly know and feel we care about them, in return they will be loyal to the business and be excited to refer friends and family. 

Say a club is getting negative feedback from members — what are some things they can do?

DN: Start with genuinely listening to your members. Make sure they feel heard, make eye contact, pay attention to what they’re saying, and most importantly, don’t interrupt them. This all goes back to “executing good manners.” 

Usually, the No. 1 reason a consumer gives negative feedback is because their expectations aren’t being met. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, at that moment, the consumer is disappointed. 

Secondly, follow up with the member on their negative feedback. If it is something that is fixable, let them know what action is being taken. If it isn’t something the club feels needs attending to, then be honest and explain the club’s stance. 

Three Ways to ‘Wow’ Members:

1. Know your members’ habits and be prepared. If a member requests two towels and bottles of water every time they check-in, have those items ready so they don’t have to ask for them.

2. When checking in, greet members by their first name and ask a question that will catch them off guard. For example, instead of asking, “How are you doing today?” ask, “Are you having a good day today?” 

3. We always have Starbucks gift cards on hand. We love to surprise our members with “have a free drink on us” from Starbucks. It never gets old watching their face light up over a free latte.  

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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