To achieve a competitive edge over your competition, start by instilling a culture of attention to detail in your fitness facility. To do so, you will need to continuously coach and train staff to strive for perfection in all aspects of the business, including:
• Cleanliness. Every inch of your facility must be maintained immaculately. Every speck of litter must be removed promptly, including from your parking areas and grounds. Every surface must be wiped or mopped and sanitized regularly. This is especially true of studio floors, exercise equipment, mats, locker room counters, ledges, window frames, tables and chairs, toilets and showers. All carpets must be vacuumed and free of stains. All offices, storage areas and mechanical areas should be clean and tidy, too.
It does not cost any more to keep your facilities clean; you already are paying cleaning staff to be present at all hours of operation. You just need to instill an attention to detail in them and a sense of pride in their work.
• Condition of facilities. What do members or prospective members see when they drive by or onto your property? What is the condition of your signage and parking areas? What is the condition of your building’s exterior? What is the condition of your reception area? What is the condition of the walls, the floors and the counters? What is the condition of your locker rooms, showers, restrooms, steam room and hot tub? What is the condition of your exercise equipment? What is the condition of your studios?
To fully comprehend the importance of these details, consider how much more you would be willing to pay for a perfectly maintained, pre-owned automobile compared to the same brand and model that is beat up and poorly maintained. To many people, an older facility that is well-maintained is more appealing than a brand new facility because it proves the owners and staff are dedicated to quality on a long-term basis.
• Marketing and collateral sales tools. Whether you are creating a brochure, a newsletter or a print, radio or TV ad, attention to detail is critical to the image you present. Do all of your printed materials get quadruple-checked before pushing the “go” button to avoid grammatical or spelling errors? Everything, including the colors, fonts, images and text you choose for each message, either strengthens or detracts from your brand perception. Whether or not you like it, you already have a brand in the marketplace based upon the performance of your operation and your marketing messages to date. You should do everything possible to ensure that image is the correct one.
• Attitude of staff. Every day, your employees make contact with hundreds of your members and guests who call, drop in for a tour or check in to use your club’s facilities and services. These touch points can be positive or negative, depending on how the team member handles them. How do you ensure that all of these occasions are turned into positive experiences so that your clients come away as raving fans and your guests come back as members?
This point is probably the most challenging for any customer service business. You cannot possibly write policy for every scenario that your employees will face. Therefore, you must hire service-oriented people and provide them with the training and tools they need to consistently do the right thing each time they encounter a member or guest.
A warm welcome, whether in person or on the phone, is a major first step. A genuinely friendly tone of voice and body language make encounters more pleasant. Common-sense judgment calls enable all of your employees to solve most problems on the spot rather than waiting for a manager to respond.
Establishing a kind and caring culture in today’s stressed-out world can be a huge advantage for any business, but it starts at the top. The leaders in your organization must model this behavior in addition to coaching and training each individual staff member to do the same.
Little things make a big difference in the perceptions of your members and guests. Prioritize a heightened level of attention to these details, and your club will rise above the competition to differentiate itself in a way in which price will matter less.
Herb Lipsman is chief operating officer of Houston Oaks Country Club & Family Sports Retreat in Hockley, TX. He also has been a consultant in the industry specializing in design, development and operation of upscale facilities. He can be reached at Herb@houstonoaks.com.