In the current market of fierce competition and with every savvy shopper looking for a better deal, the level of customer service that you provide could mean the difference in bringing in customers and retaining them.

More often now, customers are demanding more for their hard-earned dollar. Not only do people want high-quality equipment and extra amenities included in their purchase, but they also expect unparalleled customer service; and if you don't provide it, your competition will.

What you do to provide an excellent level of customer service could mean the difference in earning new business and retaining it. When a company earns my business, I certainly do not want to feel like just another number. Customers should feel like their business is important; like it truly is appreciated. Exceptional customer service is vital in retaining the member base you currently have and in getting referrals from them.

Invest a little extra time each day in ensuring that your members are well taken care of. Make certain that your staff invests the extra time as well. In our industry, we need to take every opportunity that presents itself to offer service and make time for our members. Whatever your staff member's job title is, they need to believe that they are the person who will make the difference. The major dilemma that businesses encounter today is in believing that customer service is just one department's job. Customer service is each and everyone's responsibility, even though it may be someone else's “job.”

Here are some simple examples of things you and your staff can start doing immediately that would make a difference in the level of customer service your facility provides.

  • Does each new member receive a telephone inquiry a week or two after joining? This makes the client know that someone actually cares if they got off to a good start.

  • Does anyone follow up with members that have not used the facility over the past month?

  • When entering the club, are members referred to by name? For example, “Don, have a great workout.” or “Thanks, Sue, have fun.” You can't expect the front desk staff to memorize and remember the name of every client, so cheating is fine.

  • Does every staff member acknowledge members? A simple “hello,” a wave of the hand, a smile or nod of the head can go an exceptionally long way. Do you schedule time in your day to do nothing more than meet and greet members?

  • Say “thank you” often and mean it. Your customers want to know that their business is appreciated. Make it a point to tell them.

  • If providing exceptional customer service is as important to you as it is to me, than move it to the top of your priority list. Complete an audit of your current customer service guidelines or philosophy. Immediately correct obvious shortfalls in service levels and do not let them linger while working on a master plan. Then re-introduce the disciplines that create excellent service levels as opposed to the mediocre.

    Constant monitoring, evaluation and training will ensure that you and your staff are providing that exceptional level of customer service that will ensure new business and business retention. Go the extra mile now and make your customers feel like they are important and their business is valuable. Be a difference maker. I think we all know what we need to do. The question is, are we?

    Guy Caron has more than 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry and is managing director of Bare Associates International, a global mystery shopping company. Guy can be reached at 703-995-3107 or gcaron@baiservices.com.