The fitness industry probably ranks at the top of most lists of least-trusted industries—right next to car dealerships and auto repair shops. This lack of trust in our industry probably goes back to the 1980s when high-pressure sales tactics and hard-closing techniques were employed. At that time, it was not uncommon for sales reps to say, “If you buy now, I can waive this $100 signup fee, but if you come tomorrow, I cannot.” As a business owner, these tactics make no sense to me. Consumers come to your facility looking for help and guidance with their health and fitness goals, and our sales tactics often can run them right out the door.
Not a week goes by that I don’t hear a story from a member or a potential member about the last club they belonged to. They say, “I canceled my membership at Joe’s Gym, and they billed my credit card for two more months. When I called to talk to the manager, they told me that it was the third-party billing company’s fault and that I had to speak with them.” Does this sound familiar? I hope you do not run a facility like this. If you do, you need to make some changes. It is difficult enough to convince people to place their health and fitness needs in our hands with all of the other competitors out there. This competition, coupled with the fact that they think we are going to overcharge them, makes it challenging to earn a client's trust.
Rotary clubs have what is called the four-way test. If you are unfamiliar with it, I urge you to take a minute and become acquainted with it. The four-way test is applicable to everyone, whether it be in their personal life or in their business. The four-way test involves asking these four questions:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
So how does the four-way test apply to your fitness center?
- Is what you tell the consumer at the time of the sale what you truly honor, or did you tell them what they wanted to hear to make the sale without planning on following through?
- Is overcharging or making it difficult to cancel memberships fair to the consumer and your company?
- How will your company's reputation suffer if you do not honor your word and instead take advantage of the customer?
- Are the decisions you make beneficial to your company, your employees and your members? Would you want to be treated this way?
Next time you are in a situation where a member has been overcharged or wants to cancel their membership, consider the four-way test. It is hard to build a good reputation, but it is easy to destroy it. It is better to keep a good reputation than keep charging a member $39 for a couple of extra months. And remember, these angry members will tell all their friends how angry they are with your club.
Nic DeCaire is the owner and founder of Fusion Fitness Center in Newark, DE. He is a graduate of Wilmington College. DeCaire is an IFPA-certified personal trainer with 12 years of experience in the Newark area. He started working the front counter at a local fitness center at age 14, and his success and passion for fitness have grown since then. A former competitive bodybuilder and power lifter, DeCaire has won many awards in the sport. He is the chairman of the Main Street Mile, serves on the board of Kids with Confidence and is a member of the Newark Morning Rotary Club. DeCaire can be contacted at 302-738-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.