Some of your customers call me. Some of them e-mail me. Some of them simply post comments on our website. Most of them have a complaint of some sort — about you. They typically contact me directly because they want your attention and they haven't been able to get it through any other means.
Usually, I ask the e-mailers whether I can forward their messages to someone in upper management at the company in question. Almost all of them have said yes.
One of the more recent e-mails involved a member not being able to find a phone number beyond a customer service number on his club's website. He was unsatisfied with the company's customer service, and he wanted to complain to someone at the company's headquarters after not being able to resolve the situation with the general manager. With his permission, I forwarded his message to the company's CEO, who forwarded his complaint to someone else in management who could deal with it.
Even though I later learned that the issue wasn't resolved the way the member wanted it resolved, the man seemed appreciative that he was heard by someone at “the top.” Most of the time, that's all people want. They've become frustrated by something at your club, and they want their complaint heard by the person at the highest level in the company.
In this age of social media, people are used to reaching out to anyone and everyone through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites. If they can get back in touch with their former high school crush on Facebook and feel like they know Ashton Kutcher intimately through his daily tweets, it seems almost incomprehensible to most people that they couldn't also just pick up the phone and talk to the owner or CEO of their health club — or at least e-mail them directly.
With social media, the world has become smaller and more intimate. Because of that, owners, presidents, CEOs and others in upper-level management at fitness companies must be more accessible.
You no longer can hide out in your office or keep yourself off your company website. Instead, you should be the smiling face that your members see when they go to the “about us” or “contact us” page on your website. (And if you don't have an “about us” or “contact us” page on your website, you'd better get one quickly.)
People want to see who owns the company that is getting their money. They want to know about you, so put your bio on your website with an e-mail address. You likely don't have time to open all the e-mails you may get, let alone answer all of them. But it would be worth hiring a trusted assistant who can open and respond to most of the e-mails, sending you only the most important or tricky ones to handle.
The end result will be that your members see that you are an owner or CEO whom they can reach out to and know that you are involved in every aspect of your business. They'll see that you care about your company and about them. If you are not visible and they can't easily gain access to you, they may wonder if you have a reason to hide.
Being open and showing that you are the person behind their club goes a long way in building a connection with your members that will make it harder for them to leave. After all, who wants to leave a company that their new and trusted friend owns?