A professionally run front desk will greatly contribute to the smooth running of a fitness club. If a front desk operation is professional and effective it will further enhance the ability to obtain new members, as well as to satisfy and retain existing members.

An extremely critical entity of a fitness club is the front desk operation. The staff is the eyes and ears of the center. The staff is the interface between the fitness club and the public both in person and on the phone. A strong front desk staff projects and embodies the fitness club image that must be portrayed. The front desk is, in most instances, the nerve center of the club. When everything at the front desk runs smoothly, membership satisfaction becomes more manageable and there will be greater control over membership retention.

It is critical that both members and non-members alike are made to feel welcome as they enter, interact and leave the fitness club. It is a manager's responsibility to ensure this occurs. How this occurs should be and will be specific to each club. Nevertheless, its level of significance should always be a priority.

The entry into the front desk area should be seen as a vital “transition area,” states Stefan Schwarze, owner of Evolution Fitness Club in Mahopac, NY. It is an area where a member's “mindset is set for the gym,” furthers Stefan, and channeled away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Passing through the front desk area should be a welcoming experience, regardless of whether a club member may be coming or going. Schwarze likes this transition area to have a soothing ambiance with a pleasant, bright, sharp, neatly dressed and uniformed staff, fresh flowers, and even special lighting.

Of course, choosing the right people to work behind the front desk is critical for membership retention. Special people need to be selected for the position. Recognize that personalities span the gamut and it may be challenging to find the perfect front desk person. With the right direction almost all employees will do well in the position. They should be a genuinely good person that you can trust. They should also show an interest in your club and its members. They should know when to snap to attention to appropriately greet or dismiss coming and going members and should conversely be relaxed enough to know when to ease up and talk with club members. As the front desk staff engages with all that pass by the front desk it is important that they pay attention to their surroundings, smile and have good eye contact with each person. They should know when to work during down times and when it is time to focus on the membership, membership inquiries and phone calls. All personal items like magazines, homework, etc. should not be visible and personal telephone calls should be shunned. Schwarze encourages his staff to remember member names and to notice something different about individuals each day. It is critical that front desk staff show a genuine interest in the club's membership.

If management carefully chooses and trains the right front desk staff there will always be a professional front desk operation. When there is a smoothly run front desk, overall member and non-member club satisfaction improves. Be meticulous about how a front desk is staffed and operated and all that enter your club will know they are welcome in your fitness club.

Frank Bentkowski is manager of Exude Inc. He can be reached at frank@exude.com or on the web at www.exude.com.