Have you ever wondered how your staff is treating your prospective members, what other people are saying about your club, and if members are happy? Have you questioned why that potential member did not sign up? Was it the club, or something you did or did not say? These questions are being asked on a daily basis by club owners and managers just like you.

Those in the health and fitness industry realize and understand that health clubs are competing to attract members to their facilities on a daily basis. They also recognize that members demand the best and if it is not provided they will not stick around.

Mystery shopping can assist you in ensuring that your members receive the best. Most health clubs are finding it necessary to offer and do more to attract and keep members. Clubs are using mystery-shopping services as a means of separating themselves from the competition.

Did you know that 96 percent of unhappy customers do not complain when dissatisfied. Instead, they do more damage by telling others. One unhappy member will tell nine to 10 others of their bad experience and then these people will tell more than 20 others. In addition, it costs five times more to find a new member than to keep an existing one. These are a few of the reasons why mystery shopping is becoming increasingly popular in the health and fitness industry.

The benefits of implementing a mystery-shopping program at your club are endless. Once a program is put into place, it will motivate employees to provide excellent customer service at all times to all members. Because your staff never knows when they will be evaluated, shopping ensures objective and authentic analysis of employee performance and allows you to identify your top achievers.

Mystery shopping evaluations allow you to measure the quality of your customer service and evaluate employee performance from the front desk to fitness trainers, to housekeeping to your sales staff. The results will provide the information required to improve employee training, troubleshoot problem areas and positively reinforce the real performers throughout your facility.

Analyzing the data that is collected allows for comparisons of each individual club location to company averages and standards. Once baselines are established, clubs can be shopped on schedules based upon need. If they meet or exceed expected targets, clubs can be reduced to a monitor-only level. When problems are observed, the club can be put on a more frequent program to measure improvement. In addition, you can shop your competition to know what you're up against and to compare your success.

MYSTERY SHOPPING IN MOTION

Before you implement a mystery-shopping program, you must have a clear idea of what you are looking for. The better defined the objectives, the better quality the results. Once the objectives of the mystery-shopping program are established, you will want to determine the specific criteria to be measured. These criteria might include essentials of the front desk, sales process, fitness assessment, customer service, employee availability, general attitude, and much more. You will then need to weigh them in relative importance to each other, so you can achieve a quantitative representation of a customer's experience at your clubs. Mystery shops can be statistically scored to allow for true benchmarking that can track your trends over time, by location, region and/or company. This information will challenge both staff and management to continually strive to raise the level of customer satisfaction.

So now that you know what mystery shopping is and what the endless benefits for you and your health club are; you have no reason to continue questioning if your members are really happy, how your sales staff is treating potential members, and why you did not get that sale. Executing a mystery-shopping program into your health clubs will not only be rewarding, but you will find it cost-effective as well.

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