Karen Woodard-Chavez is president of Premium Performance Training in Boulder, CO, and Ixtapa, Mexico. She has owned and operated clubs since 1985 and now consults with and trains club staff throughout the world. She provides her services on-site, online, by phone and through her books, CDs, DVDs and manuals. She can be contacted at 303-417-0653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In February, I attended the Abierto Mexicano (Mexican Open) in Acapulco. It is a lovely small tennis tournament. The organizers have aspirations to make it the fifth Grand Slam. Although I enjoyed my experience at the tournament, I want to share with you the superior customer service I experienced at the Fairmont Pierre Marques hotel, which was next door to the tournament, and how that can translate to the club environment.
One evening, I ate by myself at the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant, Tabachin. When I walked in, the captain of the restaurant recognized me from earlier in the day (when he had an opportunity to introduce himself and get my name), remembered my name and greeted me with “Buenas noches, Senora Chavez.” I immediately felt welcomed and included in this beautiful restaurant. He asked me if I wanted to dine inside or outside, and I chose outside. He took me to my table, and within one minute, his lovely young assistant came to my table with a beautiful travel magazine. She greeted me with “Buenas noches, Senora Chavez. Would you like something to read while you dine?” How thoughtful was that? She was anticipative and attentive to my possible needs as a lone diner and took care of me with something simple and unexpected. A very nice touch.
A few minutes later, a waiter arrived with a plate of olives, hummus and bread. He greeted me with “Buenas noches, Senora Chavez. This selection of olives, hummus and bread are compliments of the house.” Shortly after that, I had a pesky mosquito bothering me, and another waiter (Fernando) came to my table with bug spray and said, “Senora Chavez, would you like some insect repellent?” Obviously well-trained, he had anticipated my need.
Another waiter appeared a few moments later with “Buenas noches, Senora Chavez. Would you like something to drink?” I opted for a single glass of wine. Yet another waiter appeared to tell me about special plates for the evening and to take my order. He also greeted me by name.
I engaged with five staff members during the course of my evening. Each one took the time to greet me by name, demonstrate attention to detail, make me feel welcomed and made me feel like I was their purpose for being there that evening. This was not an isolated situation. They did this with every guest. Rather than socializing with co-workers and missing opportunities to provide stellar service, the entire staff was attentive and paid attention to the overall experience of each and every guest.
Did I stay a little longer than I would have in another restaurant that might not have paid attention to such detail? Yes. Did I have an extra glass of wine? Yes. Did I tip more generously than I would have in another restaurant? Yes. Did I tell everyone I knew about my experience? Yes. Will I go back to the hotel? Without question, yes.
Aren’t these the same questions you want your members to say “yes” to about their experience in your club? Of course they are. So how do you accomplish that outcome?
Consider the following points as a brief guideline:
1. Write down and state clearly to your staff the type of experience that you want your members to have. Have this statement as part of the manifesto for your business.
2. Explain to your staff members about their primary and secondary purpose. (I’ve noted these in past columns.)
3. Define the behaviors that staff must do consistently to provide that experience.
4. Define what qualities each staff member must possess to do the job successfully, and hire people with those qualities.
5. Train staff to deliver the experience and recognize that training is not a one-time thing; it is ongoing.
6. Follow up every day to make sure that the experience happens consistently.
Let me give you an example of point five. I saw a man every day throughout my stay in various parts of the hotel—at the pool, walking through the restaurants, on the shuttle to the tennis tournament, in the lobby of the hotel, etc. This man, who was dressed casually but professionally, never introduced himself, remaining a subtle observer.
On the last day of my stay, when I asked to see the general manager so I could tell him what a fabulous experience I had at the hotel, I found out that this man was the general manager, Patricio Camaioni. When he approached me and greeted me with “Buenos dias, Senora Chavez,” I chuckled to myself because he was the classic example of a manager who was clear about his expectations with his staff, trained his staff well and followed through to make sure his staff created the experience he wanted. We discussed these elements, and he stressed the importance of always observing and listening to interactions between staff and customers to ensure that the quality of the experience is consistent as promised by the brand.
When I teach my management programs, I consistently emphasize the need for MBWA (management by wandering around), and that is precisely what Camaioni was doing.
These points are so easily transferable to your fitness facility. The fact that the staff knew and used my name was impressive and easy to implement. When one person learned my name, they communicated it to other staff members who would be serving me. You can train your staff to share the names of members and guests with each other. Better yet, train and require them to introduce themselves to everyone they do not know. Then you, as the manager, need to watch to ensure your staff members follow through with it. If you were to implement the points from this article, you would increase the sense of inclusion and welcome feeling that your members and guests experience. In turn, that could only positively affect your retention and bottom line.