Recently, I added a new client group to my mix of clients: active aging retirement communities (AARC). This group’s mission is to create a high quality of life for those who want to age actively. I help my clients with sales, service and management training, but unlike the majority of the health and wellness industry, this group is not as interested in sales training. Instead, they are ravenous for service training for all staff. They want to create a deep culture of welcome, which will then create a differentiating experience for their customers.
The AARCs know that because they sell an investment with an average cost of $4,000 per month (some AARCs cost quite a bit more), they cannot make the sale based on the facility, no matter how beautiful it may be. Instead, they must draw people into their facilities and retain them with a high level of service that makes residents feel engaged, nurtured and a part of the community. In essence, they are selling a community that makes people feel comfortable, one where they would want to stay for years.
The health and wellness industry is selling the same thing, but we do not sell it that way. Instead, most fitness facility staff members sell the facility, equipment and programs. You might think that you trained your staff differently so that they do not sell this way—and perhaps that is true—but I have worked with enough clubs to know that managers at most clubs have trained their sales staff to sell features rather than training them on how to emphasize engagement, nurturing and community.
Case in point, most sales managers track revenue every day, but few track service experiences every day with staff. What is compelling about this is that if we tracked the balance of both revenue and service experiences, we would create higher member loyalty and higher profitability.
Now back to engagement, nurturing and community. You may say, “Yes, Karen, but the average age for someone purchasing into an active adult retirement community is much older than our members. Do our members really need to feel engaged, nurtured and part of a community?” Perhaps some do not, but the concept of engaging, nurturing and community are pretty attractive to many of the people who are and who are not yet your members. On some level, we know this, but we do not always strive to provide this. Instead, we try to create loyalty somehow with low prices, but that does not create loyalty.
Claes Fornell, the founder of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, says: “Companies with highly satisfied customers generate superior returns because customer satisfaction is critical for repeat business, and that type of business is usually very profitable. That is, loyal customers tend to be highly profitable as long as their loyalty comes from their satisfaction and not because prices are low.”
The leaders of AARCs know that service sells, and they want to invest in creating a consistent depth of experience that allows them to get and keep more residents. They know the importance of sales training, especially for a higher-priced investment in a competitive business (sound familiar?), but they are investing in a balance of service and sales training. That emphasis on the balance of training is what I encourage you to assess for your organization.
Consider the following tips to assess and create that balance in your organization:
• If you want your staff to connect with members, you as management/leadership need to connect with them.
• Create a chief experience officer position.
• Make it easy to do business with you.
• Take away negative cues.
• Increase opportunities for staff to say yes and decrease opportunities for staff to say no.
• Guard against bad bosses.
• Ensure you manage by walking around the club daily for accountability.
In my next article, I will detail the above points. Until then, do not wait to assess your organization for service excellence. Waiting only makes it worse and increases opportunity costs. Procrastination is one of the most expensive invisible costs of business.
Karen Woodard-Chavez is president of Premium Performance Training in Boulder, CO, and Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico. She has owned and operated clubs since 1985 and now consults with and trains club staff throughout the world.