We have convinced them of this through our radio and TV commercials. We spend money telling good people they won't fit in our exclusive world. Who would pay money to relive being the uncool kid in high school?

The quality of a member's experience is a key factor in retention. Working out in the health club is rewarding for those who love the act of the exercise itself. The gym can be like bitter medicine for those who only want trimmer thighs. Personal goals motivate people to become members and those who find the club experience rewarding will make it a lifestyle. Those who do not enjoy the experience will eventually fade away. The personal trainer can be especially helpful improving the experience and retention of all the club's members.

The intense one-on-one interaction involved in personal training makes the trainer a key player in the overall experience the member has at the club. Are your trainers interested in the clients they are working with, or are they answering their cell phones, looking at the televisions — or worse — at themselves in the mirror? The member needs to feel a personal involvement by the trainer. This personal and complete involvement is the essential minimum contribution the personal trainer provides to the rewarding member experience.

We need to match the message we promote to the experience we provide, make that experience focused on our members' desires and count on our personal trainers to be the primary expressions of that experience. Then we will expand our market share by attracting non-traditional new members and retaining more of them.

While experience is a personal and individual response to events and environments, clubs can design the members' experience by carefully creating the events they participate in when at the club — indeed, even as members before they decide to purchase personal training sessions. Experience design is focusing all of your resources on the final result. The final result is how the client feels about being a client, and about being a member in general. To design an experience you have to understand who you want as your customers and evaluate the kinds of experiences they desire. After deciding the experiences you wish to support, remove everything that could prevent the experience from occurring. For example, does your desk staff take phone calls while the member is asking about personal training? Does the kind of music you play compliment or distract from your goal? Does the view through your front window represent who you really want to be?

CREATE THE MEMBER EXPERIENCE

Personal trainers have an important role in creating the character of your club's overall experience and obtaining feedback about its effectiveness. If you are looking to create a no-pain no-gain experience a personal training staff of aggressive motivators like Vince Lombardi will lead the way. If you are a community-based, kid-friendly club you need trainers who are social and conversational. Making your trainers an expression of the experience you define will affect the experience your club creates more than any other single effort because of the power of personal interaction. When you focus all of your efforts on the experience of being a client, personal training sales and retention are merely byproducts.

Future articles will focus on specific applications using experience design to enhance the offerings of personal trainers in the health club industry.

Annette Lang can be reached at www.annettelang.com. Scott Lundberg can be reached at lundberg@makeinc.net.