“Now that's what I call great service!” If you're like most people, it's been a long time since those words passed through your lips on your way out the door of a business.

Does customer service really make a difference in today's fast-paced environment? You'd better believe it does! In fact, you may be surprised to know that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates states in his recent book, Business @ the Speed of Light: Succeeding in the Digital Economy, that nothing is more important to any organization than good old customer service. If it's that important to a “hands off” company like his, shouldn't it be considerably more important to health club staffers who work one-on-one with people to help change their lives?

THE CUSTOMER

Who is your customer anyway? Members immediately come to mind, of course. But what about Suppliers? Coworkers? Your staff?

The simple act of identifying the customer is a good start on the road to providing great customer service. And, just as physical posturing has a tremendous impact on the effective movement of the body, your “mental posturing” has an incredible effect on how you work with those around you.

Too often, we just go with our natural, reflexive response to those around us. Instead, we should try thinking about the impression we're leaving and the example we're setting.

THE SERVICE

Simply stated, customers want two things: good feelings and solutions to problems. Knowledge of technique and industry research goes a long way, but if your staff lacks “bedside manner” in working with different people, their overall effectiveness in meeting the customers' needs will be greatly limited.

Jeffrey Gitomer lays it on the table in the title of his exceptional book, Customer Service Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless. For so long, we've been attempting to “satisfy” customers. But what we've failed to realize is that simple “satisfaction” doesn't cut it. A “satisfied” customer walks out the door saying, “Well, that was okay; nothing went particularly wrong.” But a loyal customer is “wowed” and proceeds to tell everyone he or she meets about the virtues of your organization. Will a loyal customer bring other members into your facility? You bet! By comparison, the “satisfied” customer is unlikely to mention you to anyone, and may continue his membership only if you're the most convenient option.

THE PAYOFF

The results you can gain by addressing a problem effectively are incredible. According to statistics, fully 70 percent of initially dissatisfied customers will work with that staff person again if they solve the problem. Ninety-five percent will work with him or her again if solved on the spot. If they remain dissatisfied when they complete their business, however, the chances are they won't come back.

Brad Cooper, MBA, MSPT, MTC, ATC speaks nationally on the topics of “Organizational TLC” (Teamwork, Leadership and Customer Focus) and can be reached at (720) 981-9425 or at Results@wowspeak.com. He also has a Web site at www.wowspeak.com.

Ten Commandments

Almost everyday you or your staff may face clients who are less congenial than the average customer. When you do, keep these “Ten Commandments” in mind:

  • Don't be defensive.

  • Don't interrupt, even if you've heard it all “a million times” from other clients.

  • Don't ever say, “I know how you feel.” You don't.

  • Do address the client's emotional needs first.

  • Do stand up when the client approaches you.

  • Do try to make the client feel more comfortable by emulating him in subtle ways.

  • Do ask for permission to ask pertinent questions.

  • Do document all the information for follow-up.

  • Do repeat some of the information back as you're taking notes.

  • Do try to take at least some action immediately.