One of the largest obstacles health club staffs must overcome is selling their product to people who may not like to exercise. This obstacle can be combated by paying close attention to your customer service and making sure you make your members' exercise experience as enjoyable as possible. Since we have a product that may not be the most enjoyable for some, we are in the business of ensuring our environment is enjoyable, our staff is friendly and our members feel good when they come to see us.

Statistics show that 80 percent of people who stop going to gyms and studios are new members. They might join with great intentions of coming regularly, and for whatever reason, we were not able to integrate them into our facility. They may have stopped coming because they didn’t feel comfortable, welcomed or didn’t enjoy their time with us. Ultimately, we did not deliver what they expected or needed.

These 10 commandments of exceptional customer service can help you keep your members at your facility and happy to be there:

1. Customers value friendliness above all else. Sixty-eight percent of customers decide to no longer do business with a particular organization because they perceive an attitude of indifference by the employees. Make sure to greet all clients warmly and by name. Let them know that you are happy to see them. Get to know all members and develop a relationship so they know you care about them and their well-being at your facility. If clients perceive that you could care less whether they show up or not, they will stop showing up.

Make a point of conversing with each member by offering a compliment on their consistency or their appearance, inquiring about their workout plans, inviting them to a new class, or informing and inviting them to an upcoming event. Call members when they don’t show up for workouts and let them know you missed them. Introduce members to each other and foster an environment where friendships are developed. People will be less likely to leave if they have a lot of friends at the gym. Ask members how their workout was and say goodbye to them as they leave.

2. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. When you are meeting members, make sure you smile and project a positive and upbeat attitude. Listen to what they are saying and paraphrase to demonstrate you’ve been listening. Address their needs, keep eye contact when speaking with them, introduce newcomers to other staff and members and always look for a common bond. Wear professional attire and name tags so they know they can turn to you for something. And, when they do turn to you, make sure to drop everything to help them.

3. Manage your moments of magic. Every moment has a potential for magic. Go the extra mile, and ask yourself what you can do for a member to make it easier, more convenient, or require less of their time. Do your due diligence to make the extra effort with clients by contacting physicians, coaches, researching information and providing educational materials. Take the time to call members on their birthday or send a card from your club. Do more than clients expect, and inspire them to participate in other activities and events that will create long-lasting, lifetime memories.

4. Give your member your undivided attention. Always keep eye contact with your members and listen when you are speaking with them. Demonstrate your undivided attention by paraphrasing their comments or concerns and taking notes.

5. Be customer-oriented, not task-oriented. I tell my staff: If we don’t have a client, then we don’t have a task. Your members are always the first priority. Make sure to drop everything, pay attention and focus when they approach. Make them feel special and important by demonstrating a serving attitude and asking members if you can get them anything, whether it is more water, a magazine or an apple. Use serving language like “absolutely,” “no problem,” “definitely,” “I’d love to do that for you” and “How can I help you?” Show enthusiasm in your voice when interacting with members.

Make sure every member of your staff is demonstrating this customer-oriented approach. Group fitness instructors should spend time walking around the room, spotting technique and making eye contact with members. Make sure they take the time to introduce themselves and members to each other. When trainers are not with a client, they should spend time on the floor talking with members and making sure everyone is exercising safely and effectively.

6. Master phone skills. Answer phones right away with appropriate greetings. Be prepared with phone scripts to help answer difficult questions. Call clients regularly and get back to them immediately if they call.

7. Offer high quality and never compromise. Keep your facility and programming cutting-edge by attending continuing education events. Offer educational articles, blogs and other resources to members. Continue doing business with the best companies that provide the best products. Continue paying attention to the small details such as locker room amenities, fruit in the lobby, special treats, and always keep the facility clean and organized.

8. Keep your promises and develop a sense of urgency. Own any client issue, problem, concern or suggestion, and don’t just pass it off. Always confirm that the matter was resolved, and be sure to follow up with the client. Keep good notes to make sure the client knows you are listening and take their comments seriously.

9. Solve every problem before you lose the client. Always make problems right in the clients’ eyes. In the event that we’ve upset a client, take the initiative to offer a gift to apologize for the mishap.

10. Have fun. Joke around with your co-workers and members in an appropriate manner. Have trainers and instructors incorporate fun drills that get members laughing, having fun and getting to know each other. By participating in client and staff events, we all get to know and like each other, and that will create an awesome work and working out environment for our members.

It is these little, consistent daily things that we can all do that will make a huge difference to how someone feels when they are working out with us. And if they love our customer service, they will come regularly. We all know that this consistency will help them to achieve their goals and will positively impact how they look, how they feel, and all other areas of their life. As fitness professionals, we must embrace that we are in a customer service industry, and all the little things we do or don’t do will ultimately determine our clients’ and our businesses’ success.

BIO

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc., has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 20 years and has received numerous industry awards, including the 2010 CanFitPro International Fitness Presenter of the year, the 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, the 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and the 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year – Runner Up. Her million-dollar training studios in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, have received Better Business Bureau Business of the Year recognition. McMillan is a fitness trainer, a fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals, a featured presenter in various fitness DVDs, an international fitness presenter, and a spokesperson for Nike, Nautilus, Twist Conditioning and PowerBar. She can be reached at www.nwfitnesseducation.com or www.businessofpt.com.