That person who could have joined your club goes down the street to your competitor and signs up. Could this have been prevented? Yes, if your staff had been trained to provide services outside of their own departments.

Lakeshore Athletic Club in Chicago (LAC) has launched a program called cross training to combat problems such as this. Cross training guarantees that the club's staff is prepared to help in other areas of the club when needed. LAC implemented this program last May and has already experienced many advantages from using it.

Why should a club consider spending the time to train their employees in so many areas? The reasons are plentiful. For instance, throughout the operating day different areas of the club may see peaks in their operations. The café may become busy during lunch or the front desk may be flooded with members at the end of the workday. If cross training is used the staff from other departments can fill in during these busy times. More employees will be available in these areas to service the members better.

THE ANSWER IS…

Cross training also makes it easier to address member issues. When a member has a question or a problem it is important that it is answered correctly and promptly. Many times members do not direct their questions to the correct departments; they may inform the front desk about a maintenance problem or ask a personal trainer a question about the childcare center. If employees are cross-trained, then they are more likely to be able to help the member with that issue. Even if they cannot fully answer the member's question, that employee understands the structure of the other departments and will know how to direct the question. Members want to deal with people who eliminate the hassle and stress from their decisions. Cross training helps to do that.

FILLING IN

Occasionally, an employee may be late to work. Your members will still need this employee's services. We experienced a problem similar to this a few months ago; the manager of the café had car problems and could not make it to the club before the lunchtime rush. Since our staff was cross trained in that area another staff member was able to run the café until that manager could get transportation to work. If we had not cross-trained our employees there would have been several hungry and frustrated members.

When we first introduced cross training, our employees were hesitant to accept the idea. They felt it was too time consuming, but once they started doing it, they realized that they enjoyed learning about the other departments. Everyone on staff now respects each other and their positions even more after going through the program.

When employees begin at the club, they are first trained within their own departments. Once they have grasped their daily duties then cross training can begin.

Cross training gives the staff an understanding and knowledge of the club. The more the staff knows about the club, the more confident they will be and the better equipped to help the members. This program is one way that we teach our staff how to provide a level of customer service that exceeds the expectations of the member each and every time.

Since we have implemented the cross training program, the feedback from staff and members has been positive. Not only have our members been happy with the service, but our employee retention is higher as well.

Dana Naegele is the general manager of Lakeshore Athletic Club/Downtown. Dana has been working in the health and fitness industry for 13 years.