During my stay earlier this year at the Fairmont Pierre Marques hotel in Acapulco, Mexico, I experienced a level of customer service unmatched by almost any other place I've stayed. And I couldn't help but wish that more health clubs would offer a similar level of service.

While dining alone at the hotel's restaurant, I engaged with five staff members. Each one took the time to greet me by name. They also demonstrated superb attention to detail by offering me a travel magazine to read, appetizers while I waited for my meal and mosquito repellent when a mosquito became a pest. In addition, they made me feel welcome and made me feel like I was their purpose for being there that evening. Rather than socializing with coworkers 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 didn't pay 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 that 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. Make this statement a part of the manifesto for your business.

  2. Explain to your staff members about their primary and secondary purposes. (I've noted these in past columns.)

  3. Define the behaviors that staff members must do consistently to provide that experience.

  4. Define which 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 make that training ongoing.

  6. Follow up every day to make sure that the experience happens consistently.

Let me give you an example of point six. I saw a man every day in various parts of the hotel throughout my stay — at the pool, walking through the restaurants, on the shuttle to the tennis tournament and in the lobby of the hotel. This man, who was dressed casually but professionally, never introduced himself. He remained 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 members and customers to ensure that the quality of the experience was consistent as promised by the brand. Camaioni did exactly what I promote doing: MBWA (management by wandering around).

These points are so easily transferable to your fitness facility. The fact that the staff knew and used my name was impressive. 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 that your members and guests experience. In turn, that would positively affect your retention and bottom line.

Editor's note: For more examples of the customer service provided at the Fairmont Pierre Marques, view the longer version of this article online at www.clubindustry.com/stepbystep/retention.

BIO

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 members throughout the world.