“Two important things are to have a genuine interest in people and to be kind to them. Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything.” – Isaac Bashevis Singer, Author
Customer service is loosely defined as advice provided by a business to those who use or buy their services and products. Broadly, it seems that a smile, a handshake, and knowledge of your craft would cover every client-based industry.
What we find as we hone in on more specific industries – in our case, the incredibly diverse and uniquely intimate community of fitness – is that there is more to it than that. This is not merely a transaction of something monetary like cash, food, or clothing. Fitness demands a deeper, more personal client experience than just “grab and go.” In dealing with the very health of the human body, relationship deepening is a pivotal part of cultivating a homely feel in your gym.
Your clients are not just customers: they each have their own stories which bring them through your doors. How will you make it worth their time?
Customer Service and You
What makes your favorite restaurant your favorite restaurant? I’m not talking about that place you frequently and impersonally take food home from, I am talking about your spot. Be it an old diner, a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, or your barber of the past 10 years, what brings you back? Routine is sparked by comfort, and something about these places made you, the customer, feel comfortable enough to make it your spot.
Learning from your own experiences being served can greatly increase your wisdom in serving others. You can master a craft, and so can someone else, and someone else after that, and so on, but no one can be you. Your barber gave you a great haircut when you first wandered into his shop, but that isn’t what brought you back the following week, it was the great conversation, the lengths he went to get to know you, the advice he gave you on your new job. It was the clean workspace, the uniformity, the sincere effort that comforted you into making it a part of your routine. Understanding that we as human beings work this way is key in understanding how to cultivate this in your business.
How the Fitness Industry Demands Unique Client Care
How does the fitness industry differ from others? I will say that there are some that bear similarities, like barber shops, nail salons, and other client services that deal with the appearance of their customer, and like fitness, they function to serve an isolated aspect of humanity: our physical appearance (which in most cases is the subject of our insecurities as people). Even so, the fitness industry takes the role of dealing with the rated #1 insecurity among most people – our weight.
According to an article by BestLife, YouGov conducted a survey among 2,242 U.S. adults on what they disliked about themselves. 51% of the respondents answered to show the #1 thing they disliked about themselves is their weight. This lines up with a 1990 article from the Los Angeles Times that read “42% of Americans consider themselves overweight.”
Every industry has a specific service they provide for their clients. The fitness industry provides not only a means to become physically fit, but to heal these insecurities as well. How do we do that? By having a genuine interest in people and treating them with sincere kindness.
5 Tips to Give Your Staff on Customer Service
#1: Learn to Talk
There is no customer service without customer interaction. There are a number of qualities a person might be drawn to when approaching a potential authority figure, and one of the most potent is confidence. For some, confidence comes easy. Some are raised around confident people, some have a profound experience that changes them overnight, and some learn as they grow in a new environment. A gym is that new environment for many of the people that come through the door, and one of the most assuring things they can experience upon their first conversation is confidence.
Confidence is an attitude that comes from knowing that your skills and abilities are worth sharing. There are many different lifts and exercises that can be learned, and it should be mandatory that your staff can assist clients with this kind of information. They should not only be knowledgeable, they should be willing to walk clients through it. Confidence is not to be confused with pompousness, the staff ought to be assured in their knowledge, yet understanding in their delivery. Eye contact, a firm handshake, proper posture, and other social cues are important, of course, and they all stem from confidence.
#2 Cultivate the Environment
A gym can be an intimidating place. It’s a melting pot of cultures, attitudes, goals, body types, and experience levels, and thus the environment demands proper cultivation. If customers are going to keep coming back, they need a welcoming environment to come back to. A dirty, antisocial, unsafe gym is not the ideal spot for a weekly workout routine, whereas a well–kept, friendly, professional fitness environment is.
Instruct your staff to treat their clients to an environment they themselves would comfortable coming to every day. This means more than just a clean gym, it means employees having clean speech, a clean look, clean clothing, all of these aesthetic details give testimony to how serious someone takes their professionalism. Employees and their colleagues are the faces of the gym, and thus they are walking billboards for what that environment produces.
#3: Lead by Example
The highest level of authority in a given business is subconsciously looked to as the representative of the business by consumers. There is a reason someone always wants to speak to the manager in the event of a complaint. Gym managers who lead by example not only fulfill our first point, they also influence and provide accountability for their employee’s attitudes and behaviors.
Encouraging employees to follow the example of the manager accomplishes the same effect, in that now the manager has accountability.
Instruct your staff (and manager, if available) to maintain a level understanding of the high standard, and for each one to lead by example. If there is an opportunity to improve the environment, help a client, or any other positive work that can better serve those who walk in the gym, don’t wait around for one of your colleagues to take charge, lead by example.
#3: Be Consistent
A good reminder for your staff is this: forming relationships with people shares a similarity with forming a relationship with a healthy lifestyle: consistency is key. Maintaining an unwavering enthusiasm and care for each client regardless of whatever differences they may have makes for an inviting environment. Remember – a gym is a melting pot, so whatever goes into the pot becomes a part of the melt. Be consistent with each client.
Put yourself in the shoes of a newcomer to a gym. You go to the manager and request some information, and though you get your information, it was carried by a monotonous and disinterested attitude. You observe later in your workout that another customer – one who is a regular – is met with enthusiasm and willingness to help. Naturally, you may now feel a bit hesitant to form relationships with the people at this gym, and that is how the seeds of inconsistency start to plant in what you hoped would be your newfound routine. Consistency with each client promotes not only unbiased enthusiasm for each client, but this gives an example for how each client ought to treat each other. Behavior trickles from the top down.
Role models embody the desires of their followers. If a nutritionist was eating McDonalds every day, you would be able to see it, and their hypocritical appearance would turn clients away. The fitness industry sells the environment in which people improve their health, and the employees are the billboard. You can walk into some gyms and see that the employees are out of shape either in being overweight or underweight, and all this shows the potential clients that there are more serious gyms out there. It’s like having a doctor that smokes cigarettes or a dentist with yellow teeth.
I would go as far to say that your staff should participate in the gym as if it is a part of their job. Customers want to be encouraged in their goals, and being able to relate to their soreness both internally and externally helps build camaraderie. The best leaders get in the fight with their followers, and there is no exception with your staff. If employees act as if they are all equally important appendages in the same body working as if for the fitness of the workplace, then the clients will be encouraged and inspired as a result.
Customer service is all about enthusiasm and intentional kindness. In an industry as uniquely revealing and intimate as the fitness world, clients will not waste their time with anything short of a genuinely inviting environment.
If a gym and its staff maintain a high standard of client-based excellence by cultivating an attractive environment both personally and atmospherically, leading by example in all things, and remaining consistent in their treatment of others, it will see a higher rate of retention due to its strong foundations in customer service. Remembering that each client has a unique story can motivate you to make this chapter of their lives a powerful one through your inspired efforts in cultivating a welcoming, motivating, relationship deepening environment.
These people took time out of their day to walk through your doors. How will you make it worth their time?