The front desk is often the first thing members will encounter when stepping into a facility. As a result, their interaction with the front desk can make or break a person’s visit.
If they are met with a friendly staff member welcoming them in, it sets the tone for a great experience. However, if a new guest walks in with questions and the desk is empty, it could cost you a membership sale and grant you a negative review.
“The desk staff must present our members with that first smile, welcome and ‘I’m so glad you made it in today,’” said Lisa Thomas, the director of member services at Club Greenwood. “And after a hard workout or a relaxing yoga class, the desk person is there to congratulate them for their efforts and remind them to return the next day. ‘See you tomorrow!’ might be the only encouragement they need.”
The desk staff at Club Greenwood is responsible for more than saying hello and goodbye. They are also in charge of the safety and security of every member. Thomas said this means each person entering the facility is screened as either a member, a guest of a member or a guest not sponsored by an existing member. Proper identification, liability waivers and fees are collected by the frontline employees.
“Our Welcome Desk staff are the first and last people our members see, so our team members are friendly and attentive,” said Thomas. “This is also a place for sales transactions with our boutique and any point-of-sale transactions for programs and services offered by our club.”
QNTM Fit Life has similar roles assigned to front desk employees.
“Our front desk staff is the hub of connectivity for our members to the facility and different departments,” said Carolyn Grasse, the general manager at QNTM Fit Life. “They are responsible for answering phones, greeting members, assisting with POS purchases from the pro shop and day passes, greeting potential members and connecting them with our membership team, re-racking/reorganizing of weights and accessories, cleaning equipment, reporting broken items in the facility, and anything that would generally improve the member experience.”
It’s clear having a friendly staff member to welcome people in has paid off at QNTM Fit Life. Grasse said they frequently receive feedback that members love the fact front desk staff knows them by name and inquire about their day, their workout or something they may have seen on social media.
However, it is important to keep in mind since the COVID-19 pandemic many people now prefer touchless experiences. Because of this and the labor shortage, some facilities are doing away with front desk staff all together and implementing scan-and-go kiosks.
Thomas said this trend might catch on in small, stand-alone spaces, but it isn’t a trend she believes will work in larger, all-inclusive clubs.
“The major issue I see with it is security. Secondly, you lose the one opportunity to provide top-notch customer service many members have come to expect,” said Thomas. “Today, everyone is glued to their mobile phones and devices. Our front desk staff attempts to promote face-to-face interactions, at least for the five seconds it takes to walk through the entrance gate.”
Grasse added in her opinion, scan-and-go kiosks take away the personal touch and sense of community many people are seeking from being a part of a gym.
“They may initially seem to help people get into their workouts more quickly, but technology has hiccups and fails,” explained Grasse. “Even with everything we all had to pivot to during the recent pandemic, people are showing the interpersonal relationship still is something that is sought out when people think of their fitness.”
Both QNTM Fit Life and Club Greenwood have scanners for the members at their front desks. However, the desk is manned to welcome people in, assist with any questions or issues, and check in members if their app isn’t working or they are missing their key fob.
Overall, the front desk at your facility is more than a physical desk. It’s the starting point of a member or guest’s experience at your facility.
“In our club, I find we constantly remind our staff we are not in the gym business but the relationship business,” said Grasse. “People have so many resources they can take advantage of for their fitness. We have everything from digital to in-person options. Ultimately, the way someone feels about their engagement will not only bring them back but make them seek out the feeling and in turn get better results over this type of interaction. Relationships are built through common interests. We are in a position to share that common interest and make it welcoming for anyone who wants to participate simply by being present and making them feel welcome.”