Customer service is the lubricant that oils every facet of your gym business. Just as the machines on the gym floor won’t operate smoothly unless they’re well lubricated, your gym sales, retention rates, referral numbers and level of customer satisfaction will be consistently disappointing unless your team gets customer service right every day. 

In this article, I’ll lay out 9 ways to deliver consistently great customer service to your members.

Before we delve in, here’s an overview of the 9 strategies:

  • Be a Fast Responder
  • Be A Creative Problem Solver
  • Provide Personalized Service
  • Know Your Product
  • Foster Positivity
  • Be Easy to Deal With
  • Listen to Your Members
  • Follow Through
  • Be Proactive

Be a Fast Responder

Most businesses are pretty slack in their speed of response to customers. As a result, people have become conditioned to wait. So, when you reply promptly to their inquiry, you have already set yourself apart. What you’re telling your customer when you reply straight away is that their problem is your problem, that you prioritize them as a customer, and that you take them seriously.

When you are dealing with a member inquiry or problem face to face in the gym, that issue needs to become your priority at that moment. Whatever else you are doing needs to be relegated – it can wait. Do not answer the phone when you’re helping the member and stay with the issue until it is resolved to their satisfaction.

When you’re responding to members through social media or over the internet, set yourself the goal of responding within 5 minutes. You want your member to be pleasantly surprised that you have gotten back to them so fast. They know how busy you are and the knowledge that you view their correspondence as being so important that you have responded to it immediately will produce a warm, fuzzy feeling inside of them that is the essence of good customer service.

Be A Creative Problem Solver

Great customer service happens when you, as the leader, foster an atmosphere of creativity and freedom to make decisions among your members. For example, if the person behind the desk has the ability to make instant decisions regarding membership requests, it makes the member feel like they are dealing with real people rather than with a corporate behemoth. If, however, every little decision has to wait on the bosses’ approval, you’ll be putting up a barrier between you and the member.

Of course, to be able to provide your members with the freedom to be creative and make unilateral decisions, you need to be able to trust them. That trust is built by sharing as much information about the business as you can with your staff and treating them as a stakeholder. 

An example of creativity when it comes to membership cancellation is giving the member the ability to transfer the membership to a friend or family member at no charge. This is a win-win for both parties. It isn’t going to cost you anything but it will replace the lost member for you. For the member, it helps them overcome the problem of breaking their contract and nourishes their relationship with the replacement member, as it saves them from having to pay an initiation fee. 

Provide Personalized Service

If you are providing great customer service, your members will view your gym as a destination of value, rather than simply as a place where they lease space to exercise. Many gms promote themselves as a club where everyone is part of the team but, at least in my experience, few of them actually pull this goal off. 

When a member enters the gym, they should feel as if they’re entering a place they belong. That starts with the person behind the desk knowing their name. With thousands of members, that may not be easy. But your staff have the benefit of the membership swipe card, which should produce their details on a screen. Use a system that allows you to add a tag that also shows what the member’s training goal is and any other points that allow the staff member to make a connection. 

You should make use of the data that you collect when a member joins your gym to deliver optimized service. Why not offer them a complimentary protein shake on their birthday and another on the anniversary of their membership? 

Email segmentation is another way to personalize your service to your members. You should send out inspiring and educational emails to your members but, unless you segment your email database, that can be a double-edged sword. 

Let’s say a member who is in a wheelchair receives an email with tips about how to better run on a treadmill. How do you think that member will feel? More than likely this experience will reinforce the view that your gym is a cold, impersonal corporation – the exact opposite to what you want to achieve. 

You can avoid this by categorizing your members according to certain traits or characteristics. Then you can send email messages to them that are specifically relevant to their situation. 

Know Your Product

The most fundamental precept of sales is to know your product. It also underpins great customer service. But what is your product in the gym business? Essentially, it is the delivery of an upbuilding, positive workout experience every time your member visits the gym. 

Within your staff, you will have people who are more skilled in different areas of fitness service delivery than others. Some will be knowledgeable about kinesiology while others will be certified personal trainers. The person behind the counter, may, by contrast, have quite a limited knowledge about fitness. But there is something that all of your staff should do …

They should all work out in the gym. And they should personally use every piece of equipment on the gym floor. In addition, every staff member, whether she’s a sales manager or a Kid’s club worker, should take every group fitness class at least once. Your staff should also have personal experience using the sauna, steam room, and wet facilities. By doing so, every staff member will have had a taste of the member experience. As a result, they will be able to better relate to the members. 

Don’t leave this to chance. Bring it up as an agenda item on your weekly staff meetings, explaining the rationale behind it and encouraging staff to experience the full gamut of fitness services that the gym provides. 

Foster Positivity

There are a lot of things to be negative about these days. Your members are exposed to them on a constant loop when they’re out living their lives. You want your gym to be a sanctuary from all of that. That atmosphere of positivity must come from the top. 

As the leader of your team, you need to be a solution seeker. Rather than getting dragged down by things that are beyond your control, such as Covid mandates, look for creative ways to make what you can do as exciting and optimistic as possible – both for your staff and your members. 

Don’t be a leader who is all smiles in front of the members and then turns into an ogre with your staff behind the scenes. The negative energy that you generate will seep out and affect the members. 

Be Easy to Deal With

As well as being slow to respond, most large businesses are frustratingly difficult to deal with. Just getting through to them can be a nightmare. We’ve already considered a couple of ways to set yourself apart from the crowd in this regard:

  • Give your staff the ability to make unilateral decisions
  • Respond quickly to customer inquiries and problems

Another way to make it easier for your members to communicate with you is to add a chatbox to your social media platforms. Simply by adding Facebook Messenger to Facebook, you will increase your dialogue with your members by as much as 80 percent. 

You should also have an open-door policy in your gym. Make it clear to your members that you and your staff are there to serve them and that they are more than welcome to knock on your door at any time.

Look for ways to simplify your systems, cut out red tape, and make it easy for your members to do everything connected with your business. 

Listen to Your Members

Too often, businesses give lip service to listening to the customer while they are actually pushing their agenda. You see it in retail all the time – a customer comes in looking for something but the salesperson tries to steer them to something else that is not going to solve their problem. Of course, you want the member to take some action that will increase your revenue, but the moment they get the sense that your goal is to sell them something rather than solve their problem, you will have lost them.

The solution here is to be an active listener and to seek first to solve the member’s problem. Active listeners listen without forming judgments. When you start to form judgments in your mind as the person is speaking to you, you lose your empathy. 

Empathy has been defined as ‘your pain in my heart’. It is conveyed in your eye contact, your attitude, and your body language. Do not multitask when you are having a conversation with your members. 

Ask questions to make sure that you fully understand what your member is telling you. Then restate what they have said. You could say …

So, what I think you’re telling me is that …. Is that correct?

Follow Through

Giving an assurance to a member and not following through on it is far worse than not promising them in the first place. Of course, you should never tell something to your members something that you have no intention of following through on. More than likely, the reason that you don’t deliver is that you either forget or there is a lack of communication between staff.

Put in place systems that prioritize any assurances that are given to members. Have a training session with your staff on the importance of following through with members. Introduce a policy that every promise, whether it’s for a complimentary shake or a membership transfer is recorded in a central database that is viewable by all staff members. 

Look for a gym membership software that allows you to add tags to the member data that comes up on the screen when they tag into the gym. Record the assurance on that tag. That way, if you send an email to a member who hasn’t been in for 6 weeks and promise them a free protein shake after their next workout, that assurance will show up when they tag in. Then, the front desk staff member will be able to remind them …

Don’t forget to grab your complimentary protein shake after your workout.

Be Proactive

While it is important to actively listen to your member’s queries, problems, and complaints, the reality is that most of your members will not approach you with their issues. Instead, they’ll silently stew on the problem. So, what can you do?

The answer is to be proactive with your members. Every quarter send them a “How are we doing?” questionnaire. As well as closed questions, provide room for the member to provide open-ended answers to questions like, “What are we slipping up on?” and “What can we do better?”

Set the goal for at least one staff member to have a meaningful engagement with a member a minimum of once every fourth visit. The staff member should ask how things are going and is there anything they need help with.

Summary

Customer service is the linchpin of a successful gym. Over the next week, undertake a customer service audit and assess your gym against the following factors …

  • Being a Fast Responder
  • Being A Creative Problem Solver
  • Provide Personalized Service
  • Knowing Your Product
  • Foster Positivity
  • Being Easy to Deal With
  • Listening to Your Members
  • Following Through
  • Being Proactive

Once you’ve identified your areas of weakness, set yourself a time goal to add them into your service policy, with the objective of having all 9 aspects solidly in place within 6 weeks. From that point on, use the 9 factors as your measuring stick and to inform your staff meetings. Do this consistently and your customer service will be the talk of the town.

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