Experts have long agreed that a common trait in most successful business ventures is careful attention to customer service. In the health and fitness industry, it's interesting that attention to service basics that can spell bottom-line success is often undervalued or just plain overlooked.

Let's look at some of the basic customer service elements that will benefit your business.

  • Good service practices are part and parcel of a concrete business philosophy and solid business plan. If you don't have a vision or mission you need to get one. Standing firm on your principles is what will separate you from businesses that are in it for the money and don't care about service. Your business plan should include attention to customer service details.

  • We shouldn't have to be reminded, but good communication is key to the success of any business. You will find that consistent communications efforts in your marketing, newsletters, staff updates and regular staff meetings, will reap benefits for your organization. Everyone will be on the same page and your clients will appreciate it.

  • Whether it's customer service, cleanliness, phone etiquette, etc. consistency is key when working to attract and retain clients. On again, off again service is the first step to the demise of any well-intentioned business.

  • Be conscious of your response time when serving your existing or potential clients. Whether it's an inquiry waiting for a mailer or a community organization waiting for your participation, being conscious of their time constraints will either garner respect or frustration. Whatever the need, if someone is counting on a response in a timely matter, be conscious of their expectations and exceed them at all costs.

  • Clients like to do business with intelligent people who ooze success. What's a bigger turn off than making a phone call or “dropping-in” to a club or studio in search of information and encountering someone who isn't informed and excited about the prospect of working with you?

  • It's important that you pay attention to convenience in all aspects of your business, from your location to the layout of your club, and availability of staff. From the get-go, a client does not want to have to go through all kinds of red tape to find you, get an answer about an immediate question or figure out your facility. Keeping things simple can make the difference between losing a client out of frustration or keeping a client because you are readily available when they need you.

  • The biggest reason people don't visit a health club is because they often find the staff intimidating. Make a real effort to understand your client's needs, goals and objectives. Break the stereotype and provide current and potential clients with staff that is passionate about client success. Often times, a genuinely caring staff is led by a passionate business owner/manager. When potential clients walk through the door provide them with a comfortable environment and a service-oriented staff that makes them want to come back and work with you. Know your clients by name and make it mandatory that everyone in your facility does the same. Make sure that you handle each client as an individual.

  • Do you keep abreast of all that is new in the health and fitness industry? Your clients will be the ultimate winners if you are because you will be implementing the latest methods in your gym and studio offerings. You will earn credibility if you become involved in industry associations, and you will find that you are energized by the peer contacts you make.

There is a huge population in dire need of health and fitness education. As professionals we need to redouble our efforts to serve this need by making our product user-friendly through basic customer service tenets. Bottom line: quality customer service paves the road for your clients' success and yours.

Nicki Anderson has owned and operated Reality Fitness Inc. since 1993. She is the author of Reality Fitness, Inspiration for Your Health and Well-being (New World Library, March 2000). Nicki presents motivational seminars across the country. She is the founder of Nicki Anderson's Real Life Weight Loss Inc. and the health and fitness columnist for the Daily Herald Newspaper in Chicago.