The Power of a Friendly Greeting

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Recently, IHRSA put forth an interesting argument in a blog post on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines website. It called, simply, for individuals to exercise in a way that makes them happy — as opposed to forcing themselves into one workout routine or another just because that routine is convenient or much talked about.

The suggestions for finding happy exercise are basic and sound: Work out with another person or other people, work out in an aesthetically pleasing environment. Because social engagement and beautiful spaces tend to increase happiness, IHRSA argues, designing an exercise routine that incorporates these elements might make people happier exercising, which in turn will keep them exercising.

But what really caught my attention was IHRSA’s third suggestion: As the blog post puts it, “Sometimes we want to go where everybody knows our name.” Besides cleverly working in a reference to the old T.V. show Cheers, this statement contains great truth. “The secret weapon of many successful health clubs is the friendly front-desk person who seems genuinely pleased to see you and greets you by name,” the post states. “It’s nice to feel welcomed and valued. That quick interaction makes us feel happy and more likely to seek out a similar interaction in the future.”

We’ve said similar things in this space before, but it really cannot be overstated: If you have a friendly staff, especially a friendly front desk staff, your members are going to walk away with positive impressions — even if it’s been a bad workout day, or if other elements of your facility do not meet their standards. And positive impressions become referrals. They become renewals. They become word-of-mouth praise. Their value is immense.

At my gym, unfortunately, the front desk staff is not overly friendly. They’re not mean, but they don’t smile automatically when they see a client walk in, they certainly don’t greet anyone by name, and they don’t thank anyone just for checking in. Forget any efforts to make small talk, or to get you to smile, or laugh, or generally just to relax and enjoy yourself. The towel attendants in the locker room are a different story. There’s one woman in particular, Asha, who smiles broadly each time someone walks in. “Welcome!” she says (and often that’s “Welcome, Marjorie!” or “Welcome, Maria!” or welcome any of the other seemingly hundreds of clients whose name she knows). She’ll ask how you’re doing; she’ll make a joke about the sweat-quotient in the gym that day; she’ll tell you you’re looking good and you better keep it up. I swear, some of my fellow gym-goers find the motivation to go only because Asha makes it seem like she’s waiting for them.

At any rate, IHRSA is right: It’s important for people to exercise in ways that make them happy. Your task is to find out those ways and incorporate them. Start with your front desk staff by teaching them how the power of a friendly greeting can make a difference; you’ll be happy you did.

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