April 3. What makes premium club premium?

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April 3, 2013

I wasn’t planning to write this post. But you never know what can happen to you, what you may hear or see in the next visit to your fitness club.

For those who don’t know – I belong to one of the premium clubs in NYC. People pay $187 per month for Passport Membership (19 clubs in Manhattan).

To be honest, I quite often happen to resort to good examples from the practices of this club, especially when it comes to marketing and branding. However, never about its staff or service. And that’s no coincidence.

Show me the money

Show me the money

Of course, as it usually goes, I got a lot of calls and emails after I’ve visited the club but didn’t join. Until I finally did.

Straight away I started receiving calls from their Fitness Manager. After the 3rd or 4th call I just very honestly told him: “Darling, I’m in fitness business myself, please don’t waist your time”. And he stopped.

There are 2 main sales people in this club (at least that I’ve seen).

About the club tour and their price presentation I won’t even write a word. Very predictable, very simple.

In my first visit I was smiling happily as I was approaching my sales person and I already had an answer for his upcoming question: “Hey Leila, how are you? Is this your first visit?”.

But all I actually got from him was an empty stare and not even a trace of a smile in return. There was no way he remembered me or my name.

At the reception they call me by my name every time I come to the gym and…. every time they swipe my card. I have never really expected them to remember my name. However, lets be honest: there are only few hundreds of people who are actually active members. They all visit the club in their particular preferred time slot. Is it so difficult to remember a name? Just talk to me!

That was always my way of remembering client’s name – I talk to him or to her. Ask how is his training going on, what is going on on his life, what are his expectations and so on. I automatically remember the name after such conversations.

And this is a premium club that is suppose to be very different from budget clubs. But unfortunately, it has the same level of service, as it turns out. The only difference is price price.

I’m in this club since October 2012. I have never been asked how I am doing and how is my training going on, what I have achieved so far and why I’m doing mainly cardio. Never!

They remember me only on the holidays, when they email me to to offer bring a friend.

Training is a key

Training is a key

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this post is actually one funny conversation that I had today at the club. I was in the female changing room and there was one of these 2 sales people (she signed me up). We were sharing the same bench.

She looked at me and said: “Hi! Mmmmm… Amanda?” I said: “No”. She mentioned a few more names and then asked: “OMG, what is your name? You just joined, right?”.

I was laughing in my head! “I’m Leila. I joined 6 months ago”.

I always teach my guys: be careful with the clients. What and how you say to them. Every single one of them might turn out to be some grumpy blog writer.

I recall my time working at Hyatt in Moscow. I used to manage Hyatt’s Fitness&Spa clubs. We were also selling club memberships. It was very expensive. Most of our clients were celebrities, because we had a very private environment, and usually they weren’t recognized by the hotel guests, since those were mainly foreigners.

Hyatt Moscow

Hyatt Moscow

Every Monday we had staff meeting where the General Manager was giving us the list of guests that were coming this week. Every guest had a profile with preferences. If these preferences were in the direction of spa and fitness I was suppose to brief my team about these guests.

I had data sheets at that club, with profiles for every club member and hotel guest with their picture on one side and their name & preferences on the other side. We had this game we played every staff meeting. That’s how I made my guys remember every clients name, their expectations and preferences.

I’m not saying that all other clubs should do the same. Our traffic is much higher and busier. But as soon as you call your club premium, please make sure you are premium in every level of your business. As an owner/investor/manager of the club you can’t just have very expensive equipment and call it premium. Our staff and team make our business, they make the club different from the competitors.

There is one funny story from my time at Hyatt.

One day I found out that amazing Daniel Craig is going to stay at the Hyatt. He came for his first

Daniel Craig "Mr. Johnson"

Daniel Craig “Mr. Johnson”

James Bond premiere, I think. Usually celebrities of such high status check in under nicknames. I don’t really remember what was his nickname was but let’s pretend it was Mr. Johnson. He booked a massage at our club.

I came to greet him after his treatment. And here he comes. Mr. Amazing. So handsome, in a long white spa robe.

“Hello Mr. Johnson, I said (I have to admit that we had a VERY detailed staff manual with all possible, and sometime impossible, scenarios of conversation with the guests). My name is Leila. How did you enjoy your treatment?”

It was so exciting, probably because it looked like we were playing a game that we were both aware of. Such a nice person…

Well, the main point of this post is the importance of staff training and coaching. And I believe that this is the ONLY tool of good customer service.

People think that US have a good service.

I would say that Americans are open and smily people by nature (not so much in NYC though). People who choose work in service environment will be sociable, people’s people by default. That’s why we often see staff that is smily, kind and helpful. But to be nice by nature is not enough. There must be a solid basis of training. Continued and regular.

When we see good service, a professional receptionist – what we’re actually looking at is a good and professional management, that is also, of course, combined with the good nature of the employee himself.

Российский позитив на IHRSA. Фото предоставлено www.onfit.ru.

Russian smiles at IHRSA /www.onfit.ru/

For us, Russians, it’s a bigger challenge. We were taught that smiling without a reason is a sign of stupidity. Seriously! That’s why it is always such hard work to train our people how to provide good and professional service with genuine smile because we actually happy to see our members.

However, I have to admit that in the last 3-4

Российский позитив на IHRSA. Фото предоставлено www.onfit.ru.

Russian smiles at IHRSA /www.onfit.ru/

years every time I visit Russia I see more often the new, younger generation that is happier and smilier than the one before. They are more open and adaptive for everything new. And I think it is a good sign!