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Entries in customer experience (12)


To Grow Personal Training Revenue, Teach Staff to Create Positive Experiences

This post is a preview of the October 12 webinar, "Top Tips for Growing Fitness Revenues."

Photo: Healthtrax

When you’re looking to increase your gym’s personal training revenues, your first instinct may be to crunch the numbers. But, while the financials may shed some light on opportunities for cost savings, you may be better off starting with the core of your business—the people.

Continue reading "To Grow Personal Training Revenue, Teach Staff to Create Positive Experiences."

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4 Steps to Deliver a Service Culture in Your Health Club

Over the last decade, the number of health club member experience survey tools have proliferated. But, no matter which results you choose to examine, the same five terms keep popping up among respondents who are loyal to a club: 

  • Friendly staff
  • Plenty of equipment
  • Variety of classes/programs
  • Clean facility
  • Good customer service  

“Particularly in the health and fitness industry, we can find individuals to perform most of the specific job duties required—that talent is out there,” says Brent Darden, CEO of Brent Darden Consulting. “We all know how important it is to hire positive people who enjoy customer service and embrace that challenge, and the greatest reason people don’t do that is they don’t have a system in place to make sure it’s happening.” 

Darden will explain how health club owners and operators can such a system in his Thursday, August 4 IHRSA Institute session, “Member Retention, Experience & Engagement.”

Here some of are Darden’s steps to delivering a service culture:

  1. Make customer service a central part of your club’s core value system
  2. Recruit talent based on their ability to deliver service. (This is much more important than any technology training they might have.)
  3. Provide onboarding education and continuing education for employees so they understand and are constantly reminded about the importance of the member experience and how to make it happen.
  4. Set up a reward and recognition system that is specifically tailored to recognizing people that are delivering on those customer experience values. 

In his session, Darden will also help attendees learn how your organization can become more customer-centric and succeed at building member loyalty; discover the importance of utilizing Net Promoter Scores® and member feedback to deliver great customer experiences and gain the competitive advantage; and develop strategies to help your staff engage and retain members and explore practical approaches to deliver a service culture.

Learn more about the IHRSA Institute, August 2-5 in Chapel Hill, NC.


9 Takeaways from the California Clubs of Distinction Spring Symposium

From member engagement to pricing strategy, there were many takeaways to be found at the California Clubs of Distinction (CCD) Spring Symposium in Palms Springs, CA, held April 19-21. 

IHRSA staff was there, attending sessions and gleaning insights for health club owners and operators who weren’t able to attend. Here are our top nine takeaways from the three-day conference. 

1. Focus on customer experience, not customer service. Building a great team is critical to any health club’s success, said Chris Stevenson, owner and founder of Stevenson Fitness, during his session. By hiring the right staff—and keeping morale high—club operators can deliver a member experience where “everyone leaves feeling better than when they arrived.” 

2. Build membership through community engagement. Karen Woodard of Premium Performance Training explained the many benefits health clubs can gain by getting involved in their communities. Doing so promotes member engagement, builds brand familiarity, and may ultimately increase memberships.  

Karen Woodard leading a team building activity.

3. Perseverance is the key to success. Shaun Quincey of DebitSuccess became the second person to row across the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia at age 25, but the feat didn’t come easy. In his keynote address, he detailed the preparation and training that went into the 1,200-nautical-mile journey, including the 390 sponsors that turned him down. 

4. Strategy and execution go hand-in-hand. Bill McBride of BMC3/Active Wellness and Brent Darden of Brent Darden Consulting stressed the importance of creating a goal-oriented strategic plan, and also assigning the right people to execute that plan with the needs of members in mind. 

5. Pricing is a mix of art and science. McBride and Darden also spoke to the art of finding the pricing sweet spot. They recommended starting by by determining a product's or program’s usefulness, usability, and desirability. 

Brent Darden

6. Make time for team-building activities. Different team-building and team-bonding activities can help to improve relationships between co-workers, said Karen Woodward. Club operators should consider incorporating team-building exercises into existing meetings or holding team-centric events outside of work.

7. Think like a customer. Club operators should wire customers’ mindsets into their decision making process at every level, said Blair McHaney of ClubWorks. This will help operators better understand how to develop an emotional connection with customers, and thus increase loyalty.

8. Health club medical wellness programs can curb obesity. Successful medical wellness programs facilitate the relationship between fitness and healthcare professionals, said Mark Kelly of Principle Centered Health. Doing so may slow the rise of obesity, which is related to more than 50 preventable diseases. 

9. Differentiate your club by doing meaningful, purposeful work. Mike Alpert, president and CEO of The Claremont Club, which received the Outstanding Community Service Award at IHRSA 2016, shared his experience with partnering with the medical community to help people live healthier lives. In addition to serving as a differentiator, this practice will improve the overall member experience, which will lead to higher retention.


IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Discover How to Deliver Quality Member Service

Technological advances are changing how consumers experience health clubs—largely for the good. But implementing new technology in your club isn’t enough to improve customer service.   

“Some clubs are starting to rely too much on technologies and scripting,” says Bill McBride, president and CEO of Active Wellness & BMC3. “These are tools, but service starts with philosophy, hiring, training, and—most importantly—leadership.”

McBride will explain how health club operators should approach technology in a way that enhances the customer experience in his IHRSA 2016 session, “The Service Fallacy: Discover How to Deliver Quality Member Service.”

He suggests that club management set themselves up for success during the hiring process by bringing service-oriented individuals on board. Then, it’s up to leadership to make sure those staff members understand the brand culture and train them on customer service and customer experience.  

“Focus first on foundations,” he says. “Then use technology solutions to support your foundations and belief system of member experience and member engagement." 

Attendees will leave McBride’s Monday, March 21 session with: 

  • Clarity on how to approach service
  • How to use tools to enhance commitments
  • How to create a value system for ROI

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How to Lose—or Keep—Members

© Faysal Farhan - Fotolia.comMany clubs lose members—in spite of themselves––as industry attrition rates clearly show. In this installment of CBI Unbound, Patricia Amend, who’s been a club member and a writer and editor for CBI for many years, offers some pointed suggestions for clubs in an effort to help them keep their most loyal members.

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A Great Team is a Health Club’s Dream

By Shannon Fable

While Teamwork seems like a passé notion, creating an environment where every employee strives to take care of each other for the good of the company can prove priceless. Many clubs function quite well on the surface and consider this teamwork: shifts are covered, the facility is clean, classes run, and personal training sessions are purchased. But, if you pull back the covers – this is merely COOPERATION. Teamwork is something completely different.

“Teamwork involves getting the right people on the bus, seated in the right seats, and heading in the right direction – towards a common goal”(Good To Great, by Jim Collins … a must read). When a group is led this way, they begin to view their co-workers as their number one customers. And, when employees are taken care of, your customers are taken care of better. Now isn’t that worth taking some time to investigate?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your team KNOW the mission and vision of our facility?
  • Does EVERY team member (regardless of how part-time) know how their role intersects with the mission and vision? In other words, do they know their significance?
  • Do you have a method for tracking teamwork each and every day? Do you reward those who excel? Do you set expectations for all?

If you answered NO to even one of these questions, it may be time to sit down and develop a teamwork strategy. Yes, it will take some time to establish the framework, implement it, and reap the rewards. But, it will be well worth your time.

Use the word TEAM to help you develop your plan:

T – Team

Begin by reviewing what TEAM means: research it, read about it, and get real about it! Observe what’s going on at the club and how you’d like to see things change to take your company to the next level.

E – Empower

Make sure your department heads are on board once you have it all figured out! Creating a team, or restructuring an existing one, starts with this group. Each department head should be responsible for fully explaining and managing teamwork expectations within his/her department, but the GM or Owner should weigh in on the progress from time to time. Regularly observe the teamwork in action and offer constructive feedback to keep all team members on board.

A – Assimilate

Conflict is when expectations don’t meet reality. To avoid this common pitfall: part of your recruiting process should focus on the purpose, mission, and vision of the facility. Make sure every potential employee knows the value you place on teamwork and the consequences for not ‘playing nicely with others.’

M – Mentor

Begin by hiring for attitude and training for skill. Sometimes your best employees are not your most skilled … initially; but they’re willing to do anything you ask if they come with the right mindset. Choose role models and mentors in the TEAM arena and highlight their efforts consistently.

Teamwork is essential to providing the best customer experience possible. Get started today! 

Shannon Fable is a 2006 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year & 2009 Top 3 Finalist for IDEA Instructor of the Yearis the founder and CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources and the owner of Balletone.  Shannon is an international presenter, program developer and Master Trainer for several well known companies including the Schwinn Fitness, ACE, BOSU, and Power Systems. Additionally, Fable consults for fitness professionals on a wide variety of subjects covering career development in the fitness industry. 


Sweat the Small Stuff

By Dr. Michael R. Mantell

Back in 1988, I wrote a book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: P.S. It’s All Small Stuff. What I didn’t realize then was that—while I was right for creating a calm, peaceful, healthy life—NOT sweating the small stuff was wrong for creating a business.  Read on and see what I mean.

If Ken Blanchard, author and business consultant, belonged to your gym, would he be able to call your customer service program an exemplary model that creates what he calls raving fans?

Do you know what I mean by your customer service program?  Do you know what raving fans are? Do we need to talk about the lifeblood of your club, gym, or spa?

It’s good, old-fashioned customer service and yes, in today’s competitive fitness world, with every imaginable alternative—from free outdoor boot camps, to no-contract, no-commitment, low-cost slimmed-down gyms, to free classes at fitness clothing stores—it’s time to do more than just put a smile on front desk personnel, which is there until you turn away.

Consistency, answering the phone, being a great communicator, doing your fitness research, and even tracking the success of Groupon sales may all be necessary, but they are not sufficient when it comes to putting on the full-court press in terms of powerful, business-growing know-how-WOW. 

It’s been said that a good salesperson can sell someone a gym membership, but it’s the quality of every detail, every nuance, every repair in your club that sends your members home feeling thrilled—chatting and posting about how great their gym is, and coming back as raving fans with friends to join their gym.

How do the top-tier pros do it? How do they form these business-boosting relationships? Here is what I’ve found that they do: they sweat the small stuff!

1. Never ever be satisfied with “customer satisfaction.”  If they are satisfied, then you don’t be.  Think instead, “they are just satisfied.” To leap ahead of your competition, you want them to be “ravingly satisfied” and entirely devoted to your gym and the services you offer.  Only by over-offering will this happen.

2. Make your entire focus on your guests—oops, I mean members.  In fact, find out what your members focus on and make their focus your driving force—one that you never ever take your mind off of. Don’t rely on anything short of a well-communicated system and a rock-solid “member is king” organizational culture to insure this unrelenting focus, so that every member of your staff is passionate about “the king’s focus” as well.

3. Ignore the unmistakable power of perception at your own business peril.  If you aren’t obsessed with the smallest details of your gym, someone else reading this will be obsessed with the smallest details of his/her gym. And guess where your guests—ugh, there I go again, I mean members—will be working out next week?  Stained carpet? Burnt out light bulb? Exercise machine computer display acting weird? Toilet not working properly? Weights left lying around instead of properly stacked? Sloppy counter? Old, torn magazines strewn around?  Trainers not consistent in delivering a message of friendliness?  

These telltale signs of “broken windows” are everywhere except at the finest gyms. If you read this and feel defensive, annoyed, bothered that you have to pay attention to “silly details” and pesky, complaining, unhappy, or “just satisfied” members, I suggest the fitness industry will leave you in its dust. If all you care about is sales numbers, you are a relic. 

To become a raving fan of your own gym, fix every “broken window” you can find every day, sweat the small stuff, and you’ll watch not only the numbers grow but the spirit of your gym grow as well. 

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D., earned his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania after completing his M.S. degree in clinical psychology at Hahnemnann Medical College where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. He is a writer, speaker, and fitness expert for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and a regular contributor to the “San Diego Fitness Psychology” column for The Sporting Club in La Jolla, California, where he is a member of the Sports Medicine Team, specializing in fitness psychology.


The Keys to Building Community

By Jon Feld

In a recent post, I mused (briefly) about the choices IHRSA makes for its International Convention & Trade Show keynote speakers. While I mentioned my discussions with CEO Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness, I never really delved into my thoughts about why he was uniquely qualified to present at the event.

In comparing the ways in which Zappos and clubs serve their customers, Hsieh  says, “In a lot of ways, we built our brand around customer service through the phone. With the face-to-face contact that clubs enjoy, you have a bigger advantage in creating a personal, emotional connection than through telephone or e-mail.”

In that previous post, I discussed the passion most entrepreneurs share for what they do and for those they serve. Hsieh takes it a step further with Delivering Happiness. Certainly, creating the best possible experiences for customers is the driving force behind what Zappos does and what club operators seek to achieve. But Hsieh’s vision has taken root and he’s beginning to achieve what we in the club industry already have: a community growing around his service ideals.

One point he makes in the book is that you need to have the mindset that you will “seek to change the world.” And that point has taken life beyond his pages. The Delivering Happiness Movement has raised funds for charity and more. “We wanted the book to be the spark that caused Delivering Happiness to take on a life of its own,” Hsieh related. “We’ve heard that there are physical communities around the world and we want to continue to build out multiple communities online.”

In my view, that’s the strongest link Hsieh has to the club industry: He’s found a way to spread the gospel and have a positive impact on lives outside his business. It’s a goal we’ve spoken to with regard to reaching the deconditioned and other markets for several years now. To that end, his presentation may unlock some secrets to building community that we can put to work for the long term.

Check out the full interview with Tony Hsieh in the March issue of CBI , available next week.


What NOT to Wear at the Gym

By Jean Suffin

In October, our lovely and talented Mia authored a two-part series on “pet peeves” at the gym (click here to read Part One; click here for Part Two). Mia, being younger and less curmudgeonly than I, was extremely nice. I submitted my rants to her, which she chose not to include, probably because, admittedly, I’m a particularly cranky gym-member. But seriously folks, let’s talk about what we really can’t stand to see at the gym. Let’s talk about “What Not to Wear.”

I frequently see a woman at my gym working out in her running clothes that she might wear were it 90 degrees outside. You’ve seen running shorts. They’re very short and loose, to keep us cool when we’re running. They’re not meant for the gym, where we twist and turn in precarious positions. Aforementioned woman has a very interesting workout routine during which she vigorously flies her spread-eagled legs in the air—in her short shorts that don’t cover anything. It makes me want to cut my workout short and LEAVE the gym. Same is true for the man wearing his running shorts while doing leg presses. I happened to have been directly across from him on the squat rack the other day, and it was not pretty. Other members notice, too—I know it’s not just me—and I just don’t think this promotes membership retention.

I think people forget when they roll out of bed in the morning and show up for their workouts that they’re going out in public. I mean, presumably most people in the gym care what they look like or they wouldn’t be there in the first place, so why—oh why?—do they forget to look decent while they work out?

There are a number of brands devoted strictly to making us look good when we’re working out. They design clothes that cover us up while wicking away odorous moisture. They cover, and yes, even enhance, our butts. They support and shape us. Designers spend a lot of time and energy trying to make us look good while we work out. It is their raison d’etre and yet too many of us don’t take advantage of them. Granted, many of these brands can be costly, but if they are sapping your budget, check out discount stores.

Here’s my top-5 list of what NOT to wear at the gym:

  • Short shorts

  • Spandex

  • Threadbare tights—they don’t hide anything

  • Little, itty-bitty sports bras

  • On men, sleeveless “wife beater” T-shirts

Mostly, just remember that the gym is a public place where other people congregate. And like it or not, they’re looking at you.

Next rant: Smelling clean at the gym. It’s not hard to use deodorant.


Truly Personal Training

By Mia Coen

Mike Z. Robinson opened his gym in the small town of San Luis Obispo, California, with a remarkably different approach. MZR Fitness is dedicated to the member who doesn’t want to feel like just another number. He is able to do this by offering truly personal training by means of using equipment you wouldn’t normally see in a gym, but above all, by creating an intimate, friendly, personalized atmosphere where the client’s goal is the main objective.

For Robinson, money and sales goals are not a priority. Helping his clients achieve success is the most important thing.

“With my type of facility, we don’t need 1,000-plus members to get by, so our focus is on the member and their results—not just increasing our membership totals,” says Robinson.

Different from traditional personal training studios, MZR Fitness has a large facility with a staff of seven, who dedicate their hours to customizing fitness programs to clients to help them reach their goals. Whether they’re training for triathlons or high school sports, attempting weight loss or a lifestyle change, members of MZR get their money’s worth out of their experience.

Sessions range anywhere between $79 per month to $599 per month, depending on the training package.

“Sure it’s more expensive for people to come to my facility, versus going right up the road to a commercial gym where they’ll pay only $39 per month. But here at MZR Fitness, people know that they will get more for their buck. They get personalized attention, more motivation, and increased accountability.” Robinson says his members are very results-oriented and will rarely blow off a session.

Due to the different levels of training that go on within MZR, Robinson equips his facility with a variety of pieces to ensure he is able to accommodate his clientele. He uses TRX suspension-training equipment, ropes, power slides, drive sleds, tires with ropes, rebounders, boxing equipment, power bands, medicine balls, and so much more. This type of equipment allows Robinson and his trainers to engage their members in functional training. “In my opinion, it’s the best way to train, along with various dynamic drills that include bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, calisthenics, free-weight training, and, of course, cardio,” says Robinson. In fact, it’s exactly this form of training that’s helped many of his clients succeed.

Suzanne Hiltbrand from San Luis Obispo wrote a heartfelt letter of recommendation about Robinson, lending credit to his personal training methods after he helped her lose over 100 pounds. “Mike has a passion for healthy living and sets the standards to follow. He has become a credible and valued friend,” she wrote. “Even on days when I don’t train with him, I think about him when faced with daily challenges and temptations. Consistently, I pull strength from all that he has taught me. I will never be able to thank him enough for his inspiration, faith, and tolerance.”

Being part of a small community also helps Robinson connect with potential members on a daily basis. “Our membership base is around 200 people, which is much easier to manage,” he says. “We work with individuals from all walks of life. Most of our personal training/semi-private clients are baby boomers, mostly between the ages of 45-60, and happen to be mostly female. However, our group programs are specialized. We have a program for seniors, high school athletes, collegiate athletes, bikini body training for women, etc. We try to cover as many niches as possible and have successfully reached a lot of people with this model.”

The success of MZR came from Robinson’s unique approach to fitness and his passion for sharing it with others. His first experience with personal training was at the age of 15, when his parents hired a personal trainer to give him an edge over the competition in high school. He played basketball, football, and ran track. It was at this time that Robinson realized what he wanted to be when he grew up. “Almost immediately, I fell in love with all that my personal trainer stood for and just the uniqueness of his job. He obviously loved it, was helping people, and it was profitable. Those are three traits that I think most people seek out when choosing a career.”

After graduating from high school, he became certified in personal training and began working at several local gyms while pursuing a business degree. In 2009, MZR Fitness became a reality. “The idea of my business came from my dream of opening my own facility,” Robinson explains. “I knew that I wanted something more intimate and personalized because I felt that it best matched my personality and I wanted to help people reach their goals. Having a personal trainer in my life years ago was incredibly significant and I just wanted to share that experience with the world. I truly feel as if I was born to do this.”

Robinson is not just active at work, though—he’s active in all sorts of events and charities in his area. Cindy Jones, a member at MZR, testifies to Robinson’s outreach. “Mike incorporates a philosophy of giving back to the community with participation from his many clients and friends,” she says. “Some of these local events include: Miracle Mile for Kids, Hunger Walk 5/10K, Central Coast Cancer Challenge, and hosting blood drives at his fitness center. He also offered free Saturday community fitness classes this past summer. He generously gives of his time doing volunteer work and is an advocate for children and individual fitness, and promoting healthy lifestyles.”

She also adds, “Everyone who knows Mike really likes him. Couple this with his great fitness program and you get success!”

For Robinson, the success of MZR is not just about one-on-one personal training—it’s about being involved with community, people, and lives in order to make a difference.