In order to retain your members, you need a clear vision of your club — and you need staff buy-in of that vision to help you carry it out. The process for garnering staff buy-in can be daunting. Moreover, the larger your organization and the greater the delta between where you are and where you want to be, the greater your challenge.
It starts with your core beliefs, vision, mission and values. For now, let's assume that your beliefs about being in business have to do with taking care of people and that your personal standard about customer care sets the bar high. Let's also assume that you struggle with getting your market-facing people to imprint to the level of service for which you strive.
An effective way to get buy-in is to let your staff write your service standards for you and use that feedback to create service charters. They will come up with better standards, they will be specific and they will likely insist that you hold people to those standards.
The process is to move through each department, engage every employee within that department and have them defineperfect customer service. If you have a large operation, you can do this with your key staff members or with the staff from one gym. When finished, you codify their input into a service charter for their department.
The hidden benefits and the greater effect are an improved staff attitude and the team building that occurs. Delivering great service is much easier when all employees have a “we” agenda as opposed to a “me” agenda. The service charter process creates the we agenda and uncovers those with a me agenda. Pay attention to each person's input, how timely they respond, their seriousness about the process and how involved they are in the final approval of the charter. By doing so, you'll know who is going to support it and who is going to be a detriment to your team — and consequently to your vision and goals.
For example, ask your personal trainers to respond to a question: How would you define perfect customer service for a personal training department from the customer's perspective?
Once you get the answers, you aren't necessarily done with this question. You often need to dig deeper. For example, you may get a response that reads, “The trainer is on time, prepared and dressed appropriately.” What you want to know is, what does this person mean by “prepared and dressed appropriately?” You need to ask them to clarify. With each answer, you are looking for questions you can ask to get crystal clear definitions.
Once every trainer has responded, draft a document that lists their input in bullet-point fashion. Circulate the document to all trainers and ask them to review it closely and respond whether they agree or disagree with every bullet point. Your objective at this stage is to find disagreements and bring the debate out into the open in order to get consensus. This can be a long process, but once it's finalized, your new service charter will be powerful and will have the full buy-in of its creators — your staff.
We took four months to finish this process for personal training, group exercise, day care and the front desk. Once we had their input and finalized the documents, we “socialized” them as fast as possible. Each service charter now had the power of being created and endorsed by the very staff expected to deliver on the promise. Moreover, each charter represented a bulleted list of crystal clear training topics for training new employees.
Once created, these documents should not sit on the shelf and collect dust. Every staff member should sign the charter, new staff members should be taught the charter and the topics should be used to create deeper training.
Once you learn to use your staff to help create policies, procedures and standards, you unleash a tremendous amount of loyalty and involvement. Recently, a few staff members pointed out inconsistencies in our staff membership and day care benefits. They formed a committee, we gave them a brief outline of things to consider, then we left them alone to create a plan. We got back a thorough recommendation that was fair, easy to manage and aligned with our values. We now have the additional benefit of releasing a policy created by the very people that it will affect. That is powerful. That creates teams that care, which translates to better service and better retention.
Blair McHaney is CEO of Confluence Fitness Partners Inc., which does business as Gold's Gym of the Wenatchee Valley in Wenatchee, WA. He also is president of the Gold's Gym Franchisee Association.