Management expert, author and teacher Peter Drucker once said that the best managers and leaders were those who knew how to ask the right question, not those who were always trying to give the right answer.
As a big believer in organizations using their staff to create change, build new policy and envision what might be possible, I challenge you to do something radical that will build your staff’s strength and stamina for seeing what is possible and finding new ways to get things right for your customers.
I propose that you do a little exercise with your staff to help you differentiate your club from your competitors. The purpose of this exercise would be to discover the most impactful areas to boost your customers’ love for your company and their loyalty to it. Start by calling a staff meeting with a few of your key leaders and some of your frontline staff. In that meeting, tell your staff that you are going to switch every membership contract to a month-to-month and you will begin selling only month-to-month memberships that feature a 100 percent unconditional money-back guarantee in the first 30 days.
This change will likely scare many of the people in the room. Many of them may be thinking that members will begin leaving the club if this change is made. Ask for your staff’s thoughts. Then, ask them why they think people might leave the facility if you made this switch. To each answer, keep asking “why” until you find the root cause.
Once you get to that root cause, ask your staff what your organization would have to look like to be absolutely fearless about going to month-to-month contracts that have a guarantee.
These questions should reveal areas where you can innovate around customer needs. However, the essence of these questions is that people do not buy memberships—they buy solutions.
The gap between the fear of going to month-to-month memberships with a guarantee and the security and readiness to do so is a proxy for the degree to which you sell memberships as opposed to solutions. After all, a membership is only a solution for the most dedicated and advanced exerciser.
Now, organize your answers to these questions by measuring the urgency and the impact of each idea that came from the question about what your club would have to look like for your staff to be fearless about going month-to-month. Some of the information will have to do with plant and equipment, and some will identify processes and services. I suggest that you separate these and then rate each category. First, rate each item in both categories for urgency. You can simply give each a 1-10 rating with 10 being “most urgent.” When measuring for urgency, you usually will discover stuff that is already “on fire.”
Next, give each item a similar rating for impact. When measuring for impact, you are looking for what would affect the greatest number of customers.
New innovations usually fall under mid to low urgency but have high impact. For example, suppose one of the ideas is to create an end-to-end process to guide members that need help. Since it does not yet exist, it is not directly causing issues, so it has less urgency. But maybe it is such a good idea that it would be a game-changer for your business. That has a lot of impact. By comparison, a glaring hole in service and hospitality training usually falls under high urgency and high impact.
With these results, you can take action. If something is high impact but low urgency, create an initiative to build it out. Choose the items with the highest urgency and the highest impact to start addressing now. Create action plans with hard dates and crystal clear commitments.
Whether you actually intend to go to month-to-month with a guarantee is not relevant. Being able to do it without fear is.
This exercise was beneficial for my facilities when we did it years ago. I have taken other groups through this same exercise, and it is always an eye-opener. It is not for the faint-hearted and is only for operators who wish to focus on differentiation through the evolution of their business model.
Blair McHaney is president of Confluence Fitness Partners Inc., which operates two Gold’s Gyms in Washington. He previously served as president of the Gold’s Gym Franchisee Association and is an educator on customer experience management.