One powerful measure of a fitness center's success hinges upon having a staff that recognizes the personalities of the membership. The staff must recognize, understand and work with members' needs, behaviors and communication styles. Members can be classified three ways: the quiet, independent member; the demanding dependent member; and the easygoing, customary member.

INDEPENDENT MEMBER

Independent members require little except exemplary service. A good example is a member that will come in quietly, change for a workout, run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, shower, change and leave.

Even though it is easy to keep these members content, the staff needs to be vigilant. Independent members expect a friendly, professional staff, and a clean, well-run facility with an environment conducive to exercise. Even if members are low profile their needs still need to be met.

DEPENDENT MEMBER

Dependent members are the most needy and demanding. They expect attention, service, and to be listened to. They often challenge the most patient and diplomatic staff. Yet, the wrong attitude can be detrimental to the member, staff and facility. For example, how often have you heard, “Here comes that member again?” Or, “They always ask me for help during their workouts and they ask the same questions.”

They may want, need or expect assistance. It is the role of the staff to provide the service that satisfies the most challenging members. If the staff doesn't know how to handle the situation they should find someone that does and learn from them. I had one member who always complained about the temperature, and some staff members were disturbed by her gruff delivery. I grew to appreciate her inquiries because she was never wrong. When she told me the locker room was cold, I believed her. I stopped whatever I was doing (if I could) and adjusted the temperature. Listening to the message delivered makes a big difference.

CUSTOMARY MEMBER

The majority of a club's membership falls within this category. This population possesses the qualities of the independent and dependent members to varying degrees. This group can be managed with an understanding of how to deal with the extremes in your club's population. I have found this group the easiest to work with, to be with, to listen to and to talk to.

These members typically will request an occasional spot or would like their form looked at on a particular exercise from time to time. They usually are the largest, most widely accepted group of members.

The fitness staff will have a leg up on membership retention if all members are recognized and properly addressed. The easiest members to communicate with are the independent and the customary members. Yet, if the most demanding, dependent members are kept content, you are one step closer to retaining all of your members and running a respectable and well-run facility.

Anything that a member says is important. We need to understand that the member's delivery may range from crass and emotional to polished. It is critical to recognize that there is a message behind the delivery. It is important to look beyond the delivery and guide the comments being made so a mutual understanding is reached. The best advice I was given by my mentor Jerry Fogel, a physical therapist and former owner of Back Technology of Miami was to “leave my ego outside” the situation I was in. In management this skill, if worked on and developed, will keep your members content, listened to and returning year after year. A content member is a retained member. It's that simple.

Frank Bentkowski is an industry veteran with experience in consulting, club layout and design, equipment sales and more. Contact Frank at www.bentkowski.com or at frank16e52@aol.com.