Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: http://www.fmconsulting.net.

The people aspect of the health club business is really what it is all about. Think of your club members and guests as individuals. Once we think that way, we realize our health club is our member -- not the features of the facility.

Keeping those individual members in mind, here are some tips for keeping your health club member coming back for more.

1. The quality of member service can never exceed the quality of the people who provide it. Regardless of circumstances, do you still think you can get by paying the lowest wage, giving the fewest benefits, doing the least training for your health club staff? It will show in the end result. Health clubs don’t help members, people do. It’s important to view your club staff as your most valuable asset.

2. The staff at your health club will treat your members the way they are treated. Club employees take their cue from club management. Do you greet your employees enthusiastically each day? Are you encouraging in your dealings with them? Do you try to listen to their opinions? Consistent poor member service is a reflection on both the club employee and a club’s management.

3. Know who your members are. If a regular member came in to your health club, would you recognize them? Could you call them by name? All of us like to feel important. Calling someone by name is a simple way to do it and lets them know you value them as members of your club.

4. Do your members know who you are? If they see you, would they recognize you? Could they call you by name? A visible health club management team is an asset. Management should be easily accessible, and there should be no doubt about who’s in charge. Get out of that office.

5. Go the extra mile. Include a thank-you note in a member’s new membership package, send a birthday card, clip the article when you see a member’s name or photo in print, write a congratulatory note when they get a promotion, etc. There are all sorts of ways for you to keep in touch with your members.

6. Greet your members within 30 seconds upon entering. Is it possible a member could come in the club, look around and go out without ever having their presence acknowledged? Front desk technology is a great thing, but don’t let it replace the continuous interaction with your members.

7. Give members the benefit of the doubt. Proving to members why they are wrong and you are right isn’t worth losing a member over. You will never win an argument with a member, and you should never, ever put a member in that position.

8. When a member makes a request for something special, do everything you can to say “yes.” The fact that a member cared enough to ask is all you need to know in trying to accommodate them. It may be an exception from your policy, but try to do it. Remember, you are just making one exception for one valued member, not making a new policy for the entire club.

9. Train your employees on how to handle a member complaint or difficult situation. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make. Give your staff members guidelines for what to say and do in every conceivable situation. Role-play with your front desk staff. People on the frontline of your health club play the most critical role in your members’ experience. Make sure they know what to do and say to make members’ experience a positive and pleasant one.

10. Get feedback. Compose a “How Are We Doing?” card, and leave it at the front desk. Keep it short and simple. Ask what they like, what they don’t like, what they would change, what you could do better, etc.

Remember that the big money isn’t as much in winning new members as in keeping existing members. Each individual member’s perception of your health club will determine how well you do this.

Your techniques and attitude toward your members can make or break your sales success. Choose the system or technique that works comfortably and effectively for you, and stick with it. The right methods will not only increase potential members, but they will also help you grow your health club.