4 Ways You Can Turn Your Facility Into A Summer Oasis

4 Ways You Can Turn Your Facility Into A Summer Oasis

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You’ve been there, walking in a world that’s basically the inside of an oven. And when the world is an oven, just about every place that’s cool is a refreshing break from the heat. With that in mind, turning your facility into a place to escape the heat can bring in a bit of summer profit.

So…how? Remember the second step in our Blog 5 Ways To Overcome Gym Membership Retention Challenges? That’s right, incentives and rewards. The simple act of giving a small gift can do member retention wonders and we’re going to revisit that idea but this time, under the lens of a summer season perspective.

Advertise your water

Water. Water. Water. It’s important more than ever to stay hydrated in the summer but still, we can often forget that. We go on trips without a beverage and we feel it just about everywhere in our body. When you’re craving water, you need it, now. If I was thirsty while walking in the summer heat, I’d run to the nearest water fountain or bottled water provider. In the season of scorching heat, a nice sign outside your center advertising water could very well drive some local joggers into your facility. Heck, you could do a free water period for members to encourage and reward your clients.

Summer Merch Sales

When summer is around, having an extra pair of everything is almost a necessity for anyone. There are two great experiments to try if you have merchandise to sell at your facility. The first is the opportunity for a sale on winter and fall items and the second is a tactic to increase audience engagement. The summer sale on winter merch is self-explanatory. Select which out of season products you wish to discount with the intent of retaining clients for the colder seasons now that they’ve bought workout clothes with your business on it as a reminder. There are endless approaches to a sale of course. You could even go a step further and attach discounted memberships for the fall/winter seasons if clients spend a select amount on your merchandise. Now the step to increasing audience engagement would be to make the summer sale accessible to members who sign up for a particular class or new members.

Free Giveaways Through Engagement

When it’s free, it’s got someone’s attention. Let’s say you have 100 t-shirts you’d like to get rid of. Put up a sign saying you’ll give them out for free to the first 100 people on a Monday. If they’re a member add a discount to upcoming classes along with the shirt. If they’re new, ask for their contact info in exchange for the free shirt . But let’s say only 50 people entered your facility on Monday so you still have 50 shirts left. Repeat your giveaway strategy to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but limit your supply of shirts to 10 each day. It is now Friday and you have 20 shirts left so you decide to raffle 10 to the your members and 10 to new members who previously gave their contact info. By the end of the week, you have no more t-shirts and a handful of leads to reach out to during the colder seasons.

Introduce an R&R Space

When your work out you’re not just thirsty. You’re hungry and tired and not every facility is going to have a café running inside it or a place to lounge for a few minutes. (If your facility does happen to have a café inside, share on social media #EZDoesIt and we’ll share it on our Twitter and Facebook pages!) However, the presence of a separate station for food and drink can boost the interest level among clients. If there’s no room in your facility to make a rest stop, advertise your facility as a delivery friendly location. (Sounds like the perfect time to team up with some of your local eateries near your facility!) Build a connection going and turn your spot into a place people go to workout and relax. When summer arrives, it can be quick—so there’s no time to lose! Be the first fit summer oasis spot in your town! Be the first fit summer oasis spot in your town! Check out more information about our sports facility management software.

The Ventriloquist, The Magician And The Right Magic For Your Business.

The Ventriloquist, The Magician And The Right Magic For Your Business. PDF Edition

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The following is an EZFacility blog that was printed in the National Fitness Trade Journal Spring 2017 edition.

Manager, Director, Leader. These are some titles you’ve earned before becoming the business owner. As the business owner, you have effectively attained the right to control your business identity, and every business owner of course, should have control.

The funny thing is though, clients want control too and in today’s digital environment there are many ways to pull off the ol’ smoke and mirrors trick to keep clients happy while still guiding the identity of your business.

But this is where we should stop.

A big aspect of your business identity is its relationship with your clients. Tricks should never be an approach to any relationship not the start of an honest business. It should also never become a last resort for any matter of business because then the business identity turns into The Ventriloquist, making clients “believe they are in charge” when they’re actually the dummy, thus increasing the risk of a fallout.

To read the full blog article in PDF format,please click this link or the image below

scanned Magazin article

5 Methods of Communication Due For A Comeback

5 Methods of Communication Due For A Comeback

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You need to contact a client and are considering between a phone call or an email. After a pause, you choose email. Ideally immediate results follow, the clients response is swift, and you move on now that your objective is complete….or is it? We all want to keep our clients happy and we all hope we are doing everything to ensure that they’re satisfied at the end of the day. Yes, we hope. But do we really know for certain this is true? Here are some methods of consistent engagement to utilize so you can ensure a healthy, happy client relationship to maintain.

1: Positive Body Language

Chances are you can remember this exact moment. Think of the last time you raised your hand for a high-five and received nothing in return. It certainly makes an impact and you probably remember the person. This is the power of a bad impression and it can be quite a powerful thing. So what can be done? You’ll be pleased to know the answer is practically effortless. Just like a good pre-workout stretch, opening up your body and standing up straight enables a confident atmosphere for both you and your client. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association , something as small as a firm handshake leaves an impression of extroversion-one of the utmost ideal traits of an entrepreneur. We also recommend keeping those arms unfolded and open for interaction to create an environment of approachability.

2: Handwritten Cards/Letters

Yes emails are easier, but Grandma still mails you birthday cards doesn’t she? And they’re signed in that unique penmanship that makes you think of her and her only? Maybe there’s also a little drawing or message attached. Something that becomes a symbol of them and their love. While we probably don’t want your client to love you like Grandma does, we can agree they should feel content at the mention of your name and or business. Of course like Grandma you should stick to about 1-2 cards a year maximum.

3: “Lets do Lunch”

Think of treating your client as you would a new friend. Recommend them locations of local parks and healthy eateries local to your business. Work these mentions between conversations with existing customers and make flyers for newcomers. A good way to remind clients that you care is to hand out coupons relevant to your suggestions. If a client declines these suggestions or offers-make note of it. Even if there’s no connection at the end of the conversation, there still was a takeaway moment to learn from the experience and in time, develop a different angle of approach.

4: Courtesy Calls

Try not to let “Goodbye,” be the last thing you hear from a client on a daily basis. Through follow up phone calls or emails- you can turn that “Goodbye” into a “Thank You!” or maybe even something better! If using a phone call follow up, use this opportunity to ask questions that flesh out your client as a person-“We’re doing a birthday checklist and noticed you’re not listed. Want to sign up?”. If your emailing, you can use this moment to attach a quick survey for feedback. On the off chance the follow-up proceeds to a negative response-this gives you a heads up to rectify and learn from the situation. An unsatisfied client that is willing to communicate is more than likely to be accommodated than one who chooses to suffer in silence. On the flip side however, initiating a follow up call or email gives the silent sufferer an opportunity to voice their opinion.

5. Asking More Questions!

It’s time to one up your client trivia by using EZFacility’s CMS where the most detailed account profiles are made possible. When you think about it, account profiles are absolutely everywhere from Panera Bread to AutoZone, but how personalized are they beyond a name and a birthday? How much easier would it be to add new programs to your business if you knew what activities your clients enjoyed the most? By using EZFacility’s CMS you can get started on your next move.

If you are wondering more about effective examples of gym management software, we recommend signing up for a free demonstration of one the most highly experienced, ranked, and trusted gym management software solutions.


Customer Service: One of the Most Important Features of a Software Solution

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For most fitness businesses that employ a comprehensive software solution, it’s impossible to imagine day-to-day operations without that solution. And these days, it’s almost impossible to imagine a fitness business that doesn’t use a software solution. Fitness facility management software allows for the optimization of resources; the streamlining of daily tasks; the automation of payments, reports, and communication; and the maintenance of member profiles and marketing efforts — among countless other benefits — to a degree that simply can’t be achieved without software. Yet, what good is any of that if the program you’re using fails in the customer service and support department?

Even if you’ve got the absolute best-performing software solution imaginable, if that solution doesn’t provide a top-quality customer service department for training, support, and troubleshooting, it’s ultimately not worth much. This is the case in all industries, but it’s especially key in the fitness industry, in which software solutions are so integral to the running of all aspects of a business that the customer service you provide depends on how well your software is running. If there’s a glitch, or if you just have a simple question, you have to know that troubleshooting is available immediately and efficiently.

How do you judge the quality of a software program’s customer service? First, check out the product’s website. The support feature should be prominent and available with a single click, and it should quickly and clearly explain how to reach a customer service representative. Ideally, it offers both a phone number to call and an online form you can submit. If you fill out an online form, you should receive an answer promptly. Both online and phone responses should be polite, friendly, and helpful, and the representative you’re dealing with should bend over backwards to make sure your questions are answered and your needs are fulfilled, and that you’re walking away a satisfied customer. If any of these elements are not in place — you can’t find the support page easily on the website, there’s no phone number to call, there’s a number but your call is handled incompetently, you submit an online request and do not hear back within 24 hours — you might be using the wrong software.

In addition, your software support team should offer training. There should be online courses that quickly, clearly, and effectively show you, the end user, how to optimize the product, and there should be opportunities for personalized training support. Again, if the product you use does not offer these customer service basics, you’re probably using the wrong one. After all, what good does your software do you if you don’t properly understand how to use it?

Ultimately, the management software solution you purchase should be backed by a company that employs an easily reachable team of dedicated, knowledgeable professionals who genuinely care about your business. If it’s lacking in that department, you would do well to seek out a software package that fulfills that most basic of business needs: help and support.

gym community

Creating Opportunities for Better Mental Health

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Philadelphia’s Drexel University recently installed a mental health kiosk in the lobby of its recreation center. Part of a pilot program initiated by the nonprofit organization Screening for Mental Health, Inc. and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services, the kiosk enables users to conduct quick, anonymous self-assessments to gauge their risk for mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders, and provides information about the next step to take if treatment seems warranted.

Gyms, health clubs, exercise boutiques, and sports centers could take a cue from Drexel. After all, creating opportunities for fitness is about more than just encouraging people to keep their bodies in great shape. And retaining members requires efforts above and beyond simply providing the equipment to help them meet their weight-loss or fitness goals. It’s also necessary to promote overall wellness, so that your members leave your facility recognizing the degree to which it enriches their lives. If the physical part of the wellness equation is taken care of but the mental part is ignored, then they won’t feel they’ve achieved true fitness.

So maybe it’s time to consider how your facility could help members and clients work on their mental health alongside their physical health. Installing a kiosk like Drexel’s is one way to go. When your members come in for a workout, they could stop by the kiosk and take a self-assessment to determine whether their mental wellbeing is at risk. If so, depending on their results, they could get specific guidance regarding helpful steps to take for prevention or healing. Another option might be hiring a full- or part-time psychotherapist or licensed social worker. It might sound strange, but if you conceive of your facility as one with a mission to provide a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, it makes good sense. After or before a workout, or after performing a self-assessment at the mental health kiosk, members could sit down with the onsite therapist to discuss what’s troubling them.

Can your facility accommodate a pet room? If so, consider taking on board a therapy dog; this, in fact, is another approach that Drexel has undertaken. Drawing on studies that have shown that playing with a therapy dog can reduce blood pressure and lower anxiety and depression, the university’s recreation center hosts its own therapy dog (Jersey), who is available for sessions to help students cope with stress.

Other possibilities: Invite speakers knowledgeable on mental-health topics to address an audience made up of your members (and prospectives) and answer questions they might have. Hold a mental health fair, inviting local agencies, mental health providers, and meditation experts to come set up booths where your clientele can explore options for mental health upkeep. Increase your yoga, meditation, and other mind-body offerings, explicitly pitching them to members as initiatives designed to help them identify and/or address mental health issues.

For several years now, as gyms, sports centers, and other fitness facilities have expanded their offerings and redefined the concept of the health club, colleges and universities have been similarly expanding the role of their campus recreation centers. The campus rec center model, with its focus on providing educational programming and activities that aim to introduce lifelong habits for a healthy lifestyle, might be a good one for the fitness industry to adapt. The better our members and clients feel, and the more attention we pay to their overall health, the more likely they are to retain their memberships. And that’s ultimately what we want: for them to feel good enough that they keep coming back and keep coming back.

Keeping Your Facility Germ-Free-- And Your Members Happy

Keeping Your Facility Germ-Free—and Your Members Happy

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In 2008, IHRSA published the Guide to Health Cleanliness, which highlighted the startling results of a survey: More than 90 percent of survey participants said they were more apt to renew their membership with a health club facility if the facility was clean. That might not be so surprising, but here’s the shocking part: Only slightly more than half said they would renew if the facility was not clean.

Keep in mind that this was six years ago, before the Ebola scare, before enterovirus D68, before super-strong strains of the flu were floating around. With these threats around us, and with media hype that frequently blows such threats out of proportion, it’s little wonder that health club and sports facility users are even more cautious than they used to be. Add to that the fact that we’re smack in the middle of cold season, and you’ve got potentially a lot of skittish members on your hands who want assurance that their health is protected when they’re using your facility.

What can you do to reassure them? First of all, make sure you’ve got a plan for keeping your place as clean as possible. Review your cleanliness policies and procedures. Are they up to date? Do they follow best practices? Are they generally in keeping with standards set by the Centers for Disease Controls (for example, wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or rub an alcohol-based sanitizer on hands for 15 seconds before and after workouts; shower after workouts; avoid walking barefoot across exercise floors and locker rooms)?

After you’ve polished up your policies, start thinking about your staff. Do they know the policies? Do they know what to do if they’re sick (best practices say they should stay home)? Do they know what tasks they should take responsibility for in order to help maintain the highest standard of cleanliness possible? Organize a mandatory staff meeting solely around these issues and make sure everyone is on board. Do frequent walkthroughs with a cleanliness checklist to make sure rules are being adhered to.

Finally, communicate directly and explicitly with your members about cleanliness in your facility. Send out an email explaining your concerns during the season, highlighting the steps your club is taking to stay as germ-free as possible, and asking members to remain aware of ways in which they can help contribute to a cleaner club environment. List specific tips, like the Centers for Disease Control standards shown above. A post on IHRSA’s blog describes an email Newtown Athletic Club recently sent to its members. Linda Mitchell, Newtown Athletic’s director of PR and Marketing, devised a letter with the subject line “Healthy Facilities Initiative.” She and her team carefully worded the letter, avoiding making any promises but being sure to explain procedures. They assured members that maintaining a clean facility is a top priority. Then they described new procedures being implemented and outlined member responsibilities. Mitchell told IHRSA that the email had an unheard-of 35 percent open rate—to her a clear indication that members were hungry for information about facility cleanliness.

Ultimately, you want to make your members feel secure, and you want them to know you welcome their questions and can answer them satisfactorily. Over and above that, you want to keep your facility as germ-free as possible — for your members’ sake, but also for your own and your staff’s. Provide a safe environment, clearly communicate the details about how you’ve done so, and keep everyone feeling strong and healthy all winter long.

Face Time

Face Time

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In this digital age, it’s possible to go for days without seeing another person and still be in constant contact with others. Texting, emailing, social media, video-chatting: All which create a level of communication unheard of in previous decades. But guess what? Health club members still prefer in-person interaction with staff than communication via technological device.
A study in the recently published IHRSA Member Retention Report, lays out the details on this topic. Conducted in partnership with The Retention People, IHRSA’s study draws on survey responses from more than 10,000 health and fitness members in the U.K., who answered questions about their exercise habits and membership behavior between July and September 2013. The survey showed that an overwhelming 87 percent of respondents value interactions with fitness staff. The clincher? Less than half—43 percent—of respondents feel they have such interactions.The other clincher? Despite everything you constantly hear about how crucial it is to have an effective social media campaign—to get out there on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to try to speak personably and familiarly with members via those platforms—only 34 percent of respondents said they value social media updates. Almost twice that number—65 percent—said they value receiving emails.
Considering the numbers, it’s worth devising a strategy for increasing face time between staff and members in your own health venue. This goes for sports facilities, too. The nature of the exercise business is interdependence—whether you’re talking gym, niche studio, or batting cages. Members depend on trainers, instructors, front desk folk, and support staff, and vice versa. So anything you can do to foster interdependence is going to result in a happier customer base—which, in the long run, means better retention, more word-of-mouth advertising, four-and-five star ratings on social media, and ultimately more members.
How do you make interactions between staff and members the norm at your facility? Make proactive interactions a requirement for the job: Staff should know, even before they’re hired, that you have high expectations for warm, interpersonal, and in-person communication with members on a daily basis. Have a greeter at the door, and give them a script that includes introducing him or herself by name, welcoming members, shaking their hands, and offering to help them with anything they need. Instruct front-desk staff to smile and to try to learn members’ names. Trainers and class leaders should also learn members’ names and should go out of their way to talk to members. In the weight room and cardio court, and on the ground at sports facilities, they should circulate and check in with members, ask how they’re doing and whether they need anything.
As for out-of-club communications, remember almost twice the number of survey respondents prefer email to social media interaction. Maybe it’s time to step back from your social media activity and refocus on effective emailing; the more personal the better. Consider a gym management software that allows for direct email blasts and the ability to group clients into categories. For example, create an email group called “New members” to track clients who have just signed up. Then, devise an email campaign where your staff sends a “checking in” email once a month for the first few critical months of the client’s membership.
Service of this sort takes your club or sports facility to the next level. If members feel you truly care about them, they’ll be coming back and telling their friends to do the same.

Making Your Facility Intimidation-Free

Making Your Facility Intimidation-Free

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Have you ever felt close to convincing an on-the-fence prospective member to join your facility, only to have them back away in the end because they’re afraid of being intimidated? In surveys, intimidation is one of the most common reasons people give for avoiding sports and fitness facilities—and we’ve all seen the Planet Fitness “No Gymtimidation” commercials. Of course, the people perceived as intimidating in your facility might have no intention of scaring others away—in fact, they’re probably among your best customers, and you don’t want to do anything to alienate them. But there might be one or two super-serious exercisers who get a kick out of flexing their muscle, literally and figuratively, and scaring others off what they think of as their turf. What can you do to help limit intimidation in your facility?
To begin with, foster a sense of community. If your place feels like a cooperative, supportive, noncompetitive, accepting one, you’re less likely to find yourself trying to manage bullies, or even just dealing with members who perceive others as intimidating. This, in fact, is what the Planet Fitness ads are all about: They’re a way of saying, “Everyone here is in this together; everyone is welcome.” To create an environment with a similar message, try posting signs that convey your facility’s inclusiveness. Come up with your own “No Gymtimidation” slogan and plaster it around. Make sure your staff, including front desk folks, sales people, trainers, and locker room attendants, infuse the place with friendliness and respect. Tolerate expressions of judgment from no one.
Also, if you’ve got a core group of intimidators (intentional or not), try to harness their excellence for the benefit of your facility. Maybe organize a “Masters Circle,” or something similar. Personally ask your most intense, serious, and possibly bullying members to join. Give the group workouts appropriate to their level—and give them a talk, asking them to be aware of members whose skill might not match theirs. Explain how new members, whether novices or experts, are crucial to the long-term health of your facility, and ask them to be a force for good within the facility, maybe offering to help less experienced members or generally just to project friendliness. In effect, you want them to be ambassadors to your sports or fitness center.
Another approach: Rely on your trainers and instructors to keep things fair. When a class is packed and there’s an aggressive push to get to the front row, a mindful instructor can choose to spend at least part of the class at the back of the room, turning the back row into the front. That way, everyone feels like they get fair exposure to the lessons being taught. Trainers can keep a watchful eye on exercise equipment and cardio room usage, making sure no one’s hogging a particular machine or staking out personal territory. Instructors and trainers often have direct access to clients and members in a way that other staff members do not — they see them regularly and often build up a rapport with them. They can use their familiarity and rapport to make sure everyone gets a fair shot, and intimidation is not a factor.
The bottom line is that your facility should feel like a fun, relaxing place for each person who uses it. If that’s the case, then everyone wins (including you). It’s worth spending time thinking about how to create the kind of environment that welcomes everyone, and how to make it clear to prospective members that “everyone” includes them.


Keep Your Clients Motivated

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Around this time of year, there’s a lot of motivation in the air. Even people who avoid making resolutions find themselves catching the New Year’s bug, and they and the resolution-makers alike launch fresh exercise schedules, re-dedicate themselves to weight-loss plans, research new fitness programs to try, and put their workout-related holiday gifts to use. All well and good, but by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around, a lot of that motivation fades away like a bouquet of old roses.

This means you have a tough job, because if you want to keep clients coming back to your facility and spreading the word about it, you have to help make sure the New Year’s bug sticks — that is, you have to keep your clients motivated. How do you do this? Three main strategies will give you a good start.

First, charm them into it. Your front-desk staff, trainers or coaches, and head administrators should have the charisma to make members and clients feel drawn to your facility. Any business is only as alluring as the people who make it run. Make sure your people are alluring: Do they smile and greet customers in a friendly way (preferably by name)? Do they go out of their way to establish a personal rapport with clients? Can they do what the best teachers do: make others desire their approval? If you have employees who make your members feel welcome, recognized, appreciated, and inspired, you’ll see high motivation levels all year round, and high motivation levels equal retention.

Also, hold your members and clients accountable. This is a strategy that works especially well with youth; if you run a sports facility that trains kids you’ll want to employ this one. We all perform better when we know someone is watching and when we feel someone is counting on us. Let your members know that you’re paying attention: If someone trains really hard, beats a personal record, or wins a competitive match, send an email — you, the owner or manager — to say you heard about the accomplishment and you feel proud to have that client on board (and make sure coaches, trainers, and other employees truly are paying attention so they can let you know about it). Make it clear that you consider their success your success. Motivation will come naturally as a sense of responsibility for the larger organization sets in.

Finally, make it fun. Some college professors are good at this one. They’ll bring donuts to class, hold a session outdoors, show a film, or have an entire seminar over for dinner one night. You don’t want to bring donuts to your spin class or baseball training, of course, but you can liven things up in other ways. Hire dynamic instructors and coaches who aren’t afraid to make jokes, smile, show clients that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Maybe there’s a music video or film clip your aerobics instructor could show; maybe he or she could surprise the whole gym by taking the class outside of the studio one day and having them run a lap around the facility. A coach could bring a pitcher full of smoothies to practice. The possibilities are endless, so encourage your staff to be creative.

The more fun they put into workouts and practices, the more likely your members and clients are to want to stick with you.

Helping Your Clients Through Injuries

Can Your Staff Adapt to Client Injuries?

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I had a nice little visit to the emergency room the other day. I injured my foot, and I wish I could say I did so while training for a marathon or participating in an Insanity workout or some such thing, but truthfully I was just racing my seven-year-old downhill, and I landed on it awkwardly.

Needless to say, the seven-year-old won. As for the injury, it’s thankfully only minor, but I still have to go easy on it for a few weeks. The first question I asked the doctor: Do I have to stop working out? She told me I could continue with my usual routine — as long as I put absolutely no pressure on the foot.

I had no idea how to do both things at once — continue with my usual routine and put no pressure on the foot. Thank goodness for my gym. That’s where I headed straight from the ER. First I asked to speak with the Fitness Concierge. She sat down with me right away while I explained that I injured my foot but I still wanted to work out and I wasn’t sure how to go about it. She offered me some water, cracked a few jokes, and did me a world of good just by listening. Then she squeezed me in for a consultation with a personal trainer who had experience dealing with injuries and with a physical therapist. The trainer gave me tips for adapting my workout. The physical therapist showed me simple stretches I could do to speed up my recovery (and made me promise to take it easy for a few days). I left the gym feeling like one very lucky patron.

What is it like at your facility? Do you offer such immediate, personalized care? Can your staff adapt to client injuries? Can you reassure an injured client and help him or her figure out how to push ahead with workout goals safely, despite the injury? Can you offer something we don’t usually expect from places of business — a sympathetic ear and a comforting presence? I can guarantee that if you do, you won’t ever have to worry much about member retention.

Retaining Members Effectively

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For many gyms, the end-of-summer push for new members is coming to a close; that effort won’t be ramped up again for another six months or so. So what do you concentrate on in the meantime? Retaining members, of course! As profitable as new sign-ups, or sometimes, with upselling, more profitable, retaining members is a goal all clubs have — but the goal is sometimes elusive. Here are a few refresher tips on retaining members effectively.

  1. Train Your Employees to Treat Each Member Like a V.I.P. – If you make your members feel important, no matter how big or small your facility, they’ll want to keep coming back. And the truth is, they are important — each one is someone whose loyalty is valuable to you. The trouble is that, as a manager or owner, you can’t be on the floor everyday, personally greeting members and doing whatever you can to make them happy. Showing them their importance starts with training your employees to treat them right — greet them with a smile, recognize them and address them by name (this can work wonders), and always be approachable. These are gold standards.
  2. Offer Something Special – During college application season, you sometimes hear the phrase “cookie-cutter” being tossed around. Schools are eager to make clear the fact that they are not “cookie-cutter” institutions — that is, that they’re not like all the rest. Don’t be a cookie-cutter facility. Find something that makes you stand out. Offer a service or a product that your competitors don’t; if your competitors start to offer it, move on to the next thing. Be the pioneer in discovering new offerings; your members and clients will stick around just to see what you come up with next.
  3. Cultivate Suspense – This is related to Number 2. A few months before your new offering, let your members know that something exciting will soon be revealed. Tease them a bit; mention it often in e-mails, on blogs and social media sites, and via posters and flyers in-house. Get them worked up about seeing what’s to come.
  4. Incentives – This one needs little explaining. We see it work all the time, because all successful businesses engage in it. Just as airlines, credit cards companies, banks, and other institutions keep their customers loyal by offering incentives — frequent-flyer miles, cash rewards, appliances or other products — gyms and health clubs must find incentives that keep members signing up again and again. A free month, a discounted session with a personal trainer, a discount at the facility store or juice bar — all these are viable options. If you’re not sure what kinds of incentives your members would be interested in, ask them. You can send out e-mails or, more effectively, have your front desk staff or trainers take an informal, in-person poll, and find a service (such as Perkville) to help automate the reward process.  Your members will appreciate the personal touch, and you’ll gain valuable information.

These are tried-and-true methods for keeping current members happy. If you haven’t given them a shot, begin doing so immediately — you’ll see results. And if the worst thing happens, if a member leaves, don’t give up on him or her. Pick up the phone and make it clear that you’ll do what it takes to get them to sign up again. Then offer whatever discounts you can to get them to come back, or figure out how to fix what was making them unhappy. If you can’t win them back, at least try to get them to tell you why they left — you’ll know what to fix for the next client.

Too Much of a Good Thing

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Having dedicated members is every fitness facility’s dream — the ones who come in regularly, several times a week, pushing themselves through a routine that leaves them feeling good about themselves and good about the place where they choose to work out. But what if members become not so much dedicated as compulsive? Is that good for them? And is it good for your facility?

Psychologists call people who can’t stop working out “obligatory exercisers.” Pushing themselves and their bodies through physical routines that carry them beyond the requirements for good health, such exercisers forget that physical activity can be fun. They sneak time from work, school, and relationships in order to work out. They exercise to get rid of feelings, and if they miss exercising they feel anxious, guilty, or empty. They also risk working out when injured or sick, and they tend to be fanatical about weight and diet.

What’s the problem with exercising too much? Is there really too much of a good thing when it comes to working out?  Some researchers point out that obligatory exercisers often come to resemble drug addicts. Like addicts, these exercisers find no pleasure in their primary activity. They report that working out has taken over their lives, and that it no longer feels like a free choice. Doing it provides temporary relief and feelings of euphoria, but not doing it leads to overwhelming anxiety that mirrors the experience of withdrawal. And the potential for physical pain is huge.

If you have obligatory exercisers at your facility, you probably know it. You see them everyday, maybe multiple times a day. They speak of nothing but their workouts, their training schedules, and their injuries. When injured, they take no time off; you might even see them exercising in casts. They’re clearly not having a good time doing what they’re doing, and they’re never satisfied with their achievements, even if those achievements seem significant or outstanding.

How do they affect your facility? First and foremost, there are safety issues: You want all your members working out in the safest way possible. If someone with an injury is pushing him or herself beyond where he or she should, then safety is being compromised. Also, you want happy members. You want to see them looking happy, and you want other clients to see them looking happy. Most of all, you want them to feel good about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it — and to feel good about where they’re doing it. If you’ve got compulsive exercisers who are in your facility because they feel like they must be, because exercising has taken over their lives and they have no choice, then you have people with a lot of negative emotions associated with your space.

You can help them. The most effective step might be to pair them with a personal trainer. Trainers can help obligatory exercisers set limits and stick to them. Just knowing that someone is paying attention, that someone cares about whether they push themselves too hard, could be enough to start turning an obligatory exerciser around. Also, make your members aware of the danger. Some might not realize that it’s a disease; they might feel alone in their subjection to exercising, not knowing that there are others like them — and that help is available.

Finally, train your employees. Help them understand the warning signs, and teach them how to reach out to sufferers. Your interventions could benefit your facility as much as it does your members.

What Kind of Happiness Can You Offer?

What Kind of Happiness Can You Offer?

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In this industry, there’s a lot of talk about happiness – as well there should be. In recent years, studies have suggested that the presence or absence of happiness affects us at a cellular level: When we’re happy, our tissues suffer less damage, our bodies have less inflammation, and our immune systems are stronger. Because we know that regular exercise contributes to greater happiness, we remind our clients that coming to the gym is good for them, that it’ll make them happier. But, in the light of a recent study, maybe we should wonder whether we’re giving happiness enough thought.

The study, led by Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, suggests that different kinds of happiness can have vastly different effects on physical well-being. It divides happiness into two types: hedonic and eudaimonic. Hedonic happiness comes from instant gratification, such as eating a piece of chocolate cake or buying a new pair of boots. Eudaimonic comes from working toward a goal that results in a sense of meaning or a contribution to a cause.

The gist of the study is this: For participants, hedonic happiness resulted in physical effects that look much like the effects of misery and stress. That is, it increased the expression of genes involved in inflammation and decreased antiviral responses. Eudaimonic happiness resulted in lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong antiviral and antibody gene expression. Or, to put it another way, happiness that came from working for some kind of greater good — some positive effect outside of and bigger than the self — led to a much more positive genetic impact, and therefore better health.

So, back to the gym: When encouraging clients to achieve happiness, which kind of happiness are you pushing them toward? Is it the instant gratification that comes with a single tough workout? Or is it the more powerful — and healthier — sort of happiness that comes from sustained effort toward the accomplishment of a larger goal? And is there a way to increase opportunities for that other, better happiness for your clients? Can you establish a program in which if a certain number of exercisers achieves a certain goal — losing ten pounds, say — by a certain time, then you’ll donate to a good cause? Or if a member comes to the gym twenty-five times in one month, you’ll give one month’s free membership to an economically disadvantaged person in the community?

Creating possibilities for your clients to help others or to achieve some kind of greater good through their workouts could boost the positive effects of exercising even more — and that, in turn, could keep your clients coming back. Which makes everyone happy. What kind of happiness can you offer?

Adapting to Functional-Fitness Trends

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Last week, the New York Times ran an article about the functional-fitness trend. “Vintage exercise machines have recently become the padded shoulders of the workout world,” the article states, “swept aside for a fresher look.” In other words, out with the leg presses, biceps curlers, and seated torso rotations, and in with the kettlebells, medicine balls, and weighted sleds. Anything that gets you working out in ways devised to help you perform daily activities, like lifting, bending, and climbing stairs, constitutes the latest trend, the article says.

To experience the trend for herself, the writer of the piece, Julia Lawlor, signed up for a class at the UXF (“ultimate fitness experience”) Training Zone in the New York Sports Club at 59th Street and Park Avenue, in Manhattan. The class started out with jumping jacks, frog jacks, walkouts, and mountain climbers, she says, in addition to speed and agility drills.

After that, participants were asked to cycle through six exercises: a backward lunge with a kettlebell, a squat thrust, a swinging of the kettlebell from one hand into the other, an upper-body exercise using bands suspended from metal frames, a sled-pulling exercise, and a rope movement drill.  “I was breathless, my throat burned, and I felt as if I were slogging through mud,” Lawlor writes “…UXF, I concluded, really stands for ‘utter exhaustion and fatigue’ zone.”

But the fact is that, no matter how exhausting clients like Lawlor might find a functional-fitness workout, they keep coming back for more. The International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) concurs with the article, stating that workouts like the one Lawlor describes are taking over as a trend. “Functional-fitness workouts are pushing other workouts into the corner of clubs, and even out the door,” IHRSA wrote recently in a blog post.

For health clubs, this means facing a need to adapt. In the fitness industry, perhaps more than in other industries, service providers have no choice but to incorporate the latest fads into their facilities; they have to offer the classes and regiments that will bring members in. But does this mean that old standbys like the machines listed at the beginning of this post should be tossed out?

Probably not. While adaptation is necessary and creating a supply to meet demand is only healthy business practice, it is also the case that tried-and-true methods — like common workout machines, plain free weights, and even simple aerobics classes — have their place. Some members will always prefer a routine they are used to, rather than a trend they might fear will disappear soon or could be discredited by future research. The ideal for any club, of course, is to make room for both. One thing is for sure, as Julia Lawlor discovered: Adapting to functional-fitness trends is a must.

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.

Want to Retain Your Clients? Motivate Them

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Back in the fall, when I joined my current gym, I signed up for a free training session. The trainer I was assigned, Cliff, was friendly, knowledgeable, kind, and encouraging. I met with him twice. I felt I could learn a lot from him — if nothing else, I found him motivating, and I knew I needed motivation — so I intended to meet with him again, but, somehow, I didn’t manage to. (As I’ve confessed before in this space, my gym-going became — I don’t want to say a complete fantasy, but it certainly didn’t happen too often.)

Recently, thanks to my gym’s cheerful and persistent fitness concierge, I worked up the courage to return to my old routine. On my first day back, I didn’t see Cliff. Honestly, I was a little worried about seeing him. Would he grill me about why I hadn’t been there for so long? Would he take it personally? Would he think badly of me, or judge me in some other way? On the other hand, he probably wouldn’t even recognize me. I’d met him only twice, and I hadn’t shown my face there in several months.

On my second day back, I walked in, and the first person I saw was Cliff. “Hello!” he said to me, grinning broadly. He came over and high-fived me. “I haven’t see you in a while!” “I know,” I said sheepishly, and I launched into some kind of pathetic excuse. “Aw, that’s all right,” Cliff said, chucking me on the shoulder. “You’re here now, right?” “Right,” I said. “Well, get to it!” Cliff said, tossing me another grin and leaving me to do my thing.

That was all I needed. I worked out harder that day than I had on my first day back. Now I notice that each time I go, if Cliff is there my workout is better (we usually give each other a little wave when I walk in). If he’s not there, I think about him, not even about what his expectations for me are, but about the fact that he has somehow become a partner in my success, someone who’s in it with me, and I find myself pushing harder.

This is what a good trainer does. He or she makes your clients feel like they’re not alone in their endeavors. It’s extraordinarily motivating to believe that someone cares about what you’re doing, cares and believes that you can do it (and will tell you, when you need to be told, to get to it). Finding motivation can be one of the hardest parts of sustaining an exercise routine — and your clients sustaining an exercise routine means your membership retention rates staying high. You can help them (and help yourself) by providing staff members who will inspire motivation in them — staff members like Cliff, or like my fitness concierge: smiling, caring, sympathetic, encouraging people who prod clients, spur them on, welcome them back (and even recognize them!). I’m pretty sure now that when my membership expires, my gym will find it’s had no problem retaining me.

Bottom line – if you want to retain your clients? Motivate them!

Matching Clients with Trainers

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Recently, the fitness concierge at my gym sent me an email to remind me that I still had one free orientation session to use. When I joined last year, I was given two. I used the first one right away but forgot about the second, and I appreciated the reminder, not only because I didn’t want to let such a gift go to waste, but also, embarrassingly, because it had been a while since I’d made it to the gym. I needed that refresher course.

The trainer assigned to my case was a sweet, older man who looked like he might be on the verge of retirement (or perhaps even past the typical age). He clearly knew his business, and yet I wondered whether I might not be better off with a trainer who “matched” me more than that one did. Would a woman, and one closer to me in age (let’s just say I’ll soon turn 39 — again) know more instinctively what kinds of exercises I’m most in need of? Would someone who is also the mother of a young child have a sense of the constraints I face and help me figure out a work-out plan accordingly? Would someone a little, er, rounder in the thighs (and elsewhere) have more specific experience that could push me to reach my goals more quickly?

Maybe not. But it got me thinking about how we choose trainers when a member or client calls and wants a consultation. At my gym, the process is random — you get whoever’s available during a given timeslot. A better way to do it might be to ask some questions before pairing a customer with a trainer: age, gender, height, weight, body type, health issues, goals, special concerns or considerations. I did fill out a questionnaire that elicited this sort of information — but only after I’d arrived at the gym for my session.

I liked my trainer, but I have to admit that when he gave me the hard sell at the end, trying to convince me that I should sign up for a three-session training package with him, I declined. Maybe if I’d filled out that questionnaire beforehand and been assigned to a trainer who was a better match for me, I would have shelled out the money. Honestly, I could really benefit from those sessions — just not, I think, with that sweet, older man. If you are interested in learning more about effective examples of personal trainer software, we recommend signing up for a free demonstration.

Don’t Let the Lovely Weather Get You Down

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After a debilitating hurricane in the fall and a seemingly endless winter, spring finally has arrived in New York City. The trees poking up from the sidewalk have fully let their green hair down; Central Park is overflowing with tulips, bluebells, pansies, and forsythia; and exercisers are out in droves. Yes, all those people who spent the long, inhospitable months of fall and winter in the gym are now donning their jogging shoes and mounting their bicycles. They want to feel the warmth of the sun as they work out. They want fresh air.

All well and good, but what does this mean for you and your business? Maybe you survive on year-long membership fees, and you don’t get so worried when people don’t show up to work out—they’ve already paid their dues, after all. But what if your mainstay is monthly fees or per-session fees? Even if your facility does have the security of long-term membership payments, what if, when it comes time to renew, all those enthusiastic lovers of the great outdoors remember how they didn’t really ever go to the gym from mid-April through mid-October? What if they don’t want to “waste” that money again?

It boils down, really, to one question: How do you keep people coming to your facility when glorious weather comes and the great outdoors beckons?

The answer is pretty simple: Give them what they can’t get out there. And what is it that they can’t get? In your facility, they can probably jog on a treadmill, ride a bike, use the Stairmaster. But they can jog, bike, and climb stairs outside. They can take free weights outside. These days, it’s even pretty easy to find any number of classes you can take outside. But there are two things they can’t get outside: machines and that one instructor or trainer you have who is a powerhouse of magnetism and charm, who gets everyone moving faster and forgetting their self-consciousness, who pays attention to each person in the room with a smile and a charisma that rival that warm sun in the sky.

Machines are easy: Offer people incentives to come and use them. Most people don’t have them at home—at least, not ones like the ones you have in your facility—and, if they did, they certainly couldn’t lug them outside. So give them extra reasons to use yours (a free session with a trainer? points toward an extra month of membership? a week’s worth of beverages from the juice bar?).

As for that one instructor or trainer who is a powerhouse etc., employ that person as much as possible. Don’t just put him or her in front of a Zumba class — station him or her in the cardio center. Have him shout out encouragement to everyone on the ellipticals and stationary bicycles. Tell her to turn her smile on to everyone who walks into the room. Have him or her learn members’ names — in short, let that person do his or her thing to the utmost of his or her ability. With any business, it’s the people who count, who instill loyalty, who make customers want to come back. If you don’t have an instructor or trainer who matches this description, find one, pronto. And then laugh when it’s a gorgeous, sunny, seventy-degree day, because your facility is going to be packed, regardless.

A Fitness Concierge Makes a Difference

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I have a friend in lower Manhattan who joined a gym in August. For a couple of months, she went regularly, and she found herself getting into a routine she liked. And then Hurricane Sandy struck. Her kids were suddenly out of school, and for a couple of weeks life was upended: no electricity, no running water, no public transportation. When things finally returned to normal, she was ready to resume her routine — but somehow she just couldn’t. Having been thrown off course, she found it impossible to pick up where she’d left off, no matter how much she wanted to.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, she received an email from her gym’s fitness concierge. “I didn’t know they had a fitness concierge,” she told me, “or even know what a fitness concierge is.”

The email was short and simple: “It looks like you have not checked into the facility for a little while, so I wanted to touch base and see how everything is going. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding your membership.”

The fitness concierge, it turned out, was there to help her establish and stick to a workout routine. She listened as my friend told her she felt blocked about returning to the gym. She strategized with her about how to fit a workout into her complicated routine, around child care duties, school schedules, part-time work, and a volunteer commitment. She picked out classes for my friend to try and even went with her to a spin class, giving her pointers and encouragement as she tried to find her feet again.

This changed everything for my friend. Even the email alone had a big effect. “Just feeling like someone there cared, like they were keeping an eye out for me and they wanted to help me, made a huge difference,” she said. “It’s a giant gym. Hundreds of people belong to it. But the concierge turned her attention to me. She listened to me. That somehow made it possible for me to make the decision to start again.”

It can be easy to forget, when fitness is your bread and butter, that going to the gym is hard for some people. All kinds of psychological, logistical, and emotional factors come in to play. Helping people who are having trouble getting there is sound business practice — those people will come back again and again, and they’ll tell their friends how great your facility is. But it’s also much more than just sound business practice. It’s bringing to the forefront the humanity behind the business. It’s the real reason for getting into this line of work in the first place. Does your facility have a fitness concierge? Is it time to think about hiring one?

BFF: Benefit From Friendships

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I’m reading a great book right now: Friendfluence, by journalist Carlin Flora. As the title suggests, the book examines the ways in which our friends influence us. From our personalities to our choices to our emotions, habits, and self-perceptions, friendship, argues Flora, strongly helps determine who we are.

Unsurprisingly, this holds true for physical fitness too. As Flora puts it, “We seek out health and weight-loss advice, but the most effective plan might be to hang out with fit friends. Not only do they make it easier for us to eat better and work out by setting an example and dragging us along on active outings, but they also provide the human connection that fosters robust physiological characteristics, such as lower blood pressure and increased immunity.”
Pick up almost any women’s magazine and you’ll find an article that offers you advice along those same lines: Want to lose weight? Find a friend! That’s because studies and surveys have shown that people are more likely to achieve their weight-loss goals, or at least to lose more weight, when they work out with others.

Even more significant, perhaps, is how similar to you your workout comrades are. Flora cites an experiment conducted by MIT, which found that people were more likely to start using a diet diary if others using the diary in their online network were similar to them. “That,” she argues, “indicates that having a workout or weight-loss buddy ‘just like you’ will motivate you to adopt better strategies.”

What do these facts mean for health clubs and fitness centers? Start thinking about how you can capitalize on friendship. Can you offer special “friendship deals”: classes half off for members and their friends, if they bring them? Or membership drives in which anyone who becomes a member by a certain date wins a month’s free membership for a friend? Or maybe a “Friday is Friend Day” initiative: bring a friend to the gym for free on Fridays. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. And the potential results? Members or clients who lose the weight they want to lose, or who meet other fitness goals, are likely to be happy, long-term members or clients. Plus, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a two-for-one deal: Your member’s friend might well decide to join herself. This, as Flora explains, is the power of friendfluence. It’s a power you can tap into.

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Staying Engaged With Customers Wherever They Are

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Building good relationships with your customers is less complicated when they’re right in front of you.  Sharing helpful tips and providing encouragement with a friendly smile are easy ways to build a personal connection with your clients.  What is more challenging is maintaining this connection when they are not in your presence.  Keeping your customers engaged and eager to come back requires a good plan, solid effort and commitment to your relationship.

Be Prolific

The more information you have about your customers, the more opportunities you have to engage them.  Everyone has an email address these days, so make sure that your registration form includes this critical detail.  Email announcements and newsletters are inexpensive to produce, and are a non-intrusive way to let your customers know what’s going on at your facility.  They’re also a great way to build interest from prospective clients – the more you can highlight programs that they want to attend, the more likely they are to become customers.

Be Social

Today, maintaining your facility’s presence on Social Networks (such as Facebook and Twitter) is just as important as having a website.  The key to an ambitious social media strategy is to provide a good incentive for your customers to like and follow you on a regular basis.  A good start is to make a strong Call To Action that gets your customers engaged if they haven’t already done so on their own; for example, running online-only promotions or rewarding social media mentions with Perks.  Not everything has to be as serious as a solicitation – posting regular “casual but relevant” messages of inspiration or humor will keep your customers interested in what you have to say without burning them out.  Finding your voice and the right mix of content for your audience is as much an art as a science, so experiment and find out what your customers want to hear.

Be Mobile

Many of your customers probably have a smartphone in their pocket right now.  If they have an App like MemberMe installed on their phone, you can send them instant Push Notifications about news, offers, and updates about your facility wherever they are.  With MemberMe, you can schedule announcements ahead of time, or send out a quick alert immediately after an opening becomes available.  That simple engagement can be the push they need to register for a session and keep your roster filled.  You should plan for regular updates with tips and advice, star performer recognition, and special offers to keep your customers interested and checking your app regularly.

Be Engaged

Thanks to Email, Social Networking, and Smartphone Apps like MemberMe, maintaining that important relationship with your customers is made easier than ever.  As with any relationship, commitment and dedication is the key.  If you are diligent and work hard to stay engaged with your customers, they will return the favor.

Helping Your Customers Adapt to Change

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One of the most challenging aspects of managing your relationship with customers is when you have to help them adapt to change.  Change can come in many forms.  Sometimes it’s positive, such as when you open a new sports facility location, add a new class to your gym schedule, or hire new staff for your personal training studio.  And sometimes…it’s not. Regardless of the “why”, there are a few things you can do to make the transition a positive one.

The Boy Scouts motto says it best: Be prepared.  A well thought-out plan of action is the best tool you can have.  Spend the time now to brainstorm about what changes you may encounter, both good and bad, and how you will need to deal with each.  Remember that adapting to change is a team effort, so make sure that everyone on your team knows their part in the plan.  Being prepared will give you and your team the confidence to guide your customers through the process.

Once you have a plan, open the lines of communication with your customers.  Don’t wait until the last minute to let them in on the news!  Dealing with change can be stressful, so the more time they have to prepare, the better their experience will be.  This is your chance to set and manage their expectations, so be proactive and follow up with reminders often.  It’s also important to remember that when speaking with customers about change, you want to stay positive but be realistic and prepare for some pushback.  Even if it’s a positive change, a customer’s first reaction might be to fight against it.  Be prepared to help them accept the change as necessary and how it will ultimately benefit them in the long run.  Here, a little empathy goes a long way.

Finally, fight the urge to turn back time.  Once there is an established routine, any change to that routine requires effort.  Adapting to change is your opportunity to improve your gym or sports facility, so just trying to go back to “the way it was” for the sake of avoiding change wastes both that effort and the opportunity.  Moving forward with confidence will send the message to your customers that you have the situation under control and will ease their uncertainty.

Because every sports or fitness business will eventually encounter the need to deal with change, it’s important to tackle those challenges head on.  If you prepare early, communicate effectively, and stay committed to your goals, you can lead customers to success no matter what comes your way.

Make Every Phone Call An Opportunity

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A phone call is not like an email that you can read at your convenience, proofread and spell check before responding.  It’s not as personal as a face-to-face conversation, where body language and eye contact can mean as much as the words spoken.  Fight the urge to hesitate – every phone call is an opportunity, so make it a positive one.
The first step to making every phone call a good experience is to answer with confidence.  Have your introduction memorized and nailed down, so that you speak it clearly and concisely. “Thanks for calling ‘My Business’, this is ‘My Name’, what can I do for you today?”  Try to avoid long, drawn out scripts that come off as corny, make your customers wait, and can become inconvenient tongue twisters.

Another good idea that works surprisingly well is to smile when you answer the phone.  This not only serves as a subconscious reminder to make the call a positive one, but it comes across in the tone of your voice and establishes a friendly rapport with the caller.

Next is to pause and listen to the customer identify themselves and the purpose of their call.  It really helps to keep a notepad handy to note these details, especially if the call ends up lasting longer than a minute or two.  Remembering the customer’s name and addressing them by it during the call makes the experience more personal and shows that you’re paying attention and care about their needs.  Furthermore, by keeping track of the types of calls you receive, you can identify ways to make your business more efficient.  For example, if you notice that you’re getting a lot of calls about your hours or location, having a solution like a mobile app for your business that answers these simple questions can save both you and your customers a lot of time.

You also need to be prepared for times when a call will be less than pleasant.  Managing a difficult call above all else requires two things: patience and empathy.  Think about a time when you’ve made a phone call while upset – perhaps an unknown charge appeared on a credit card statement or your cable went out right before a big game.  The person on the other end of the line wasn’t directly responsible for these events, but the urge to take it out on them is still there.  In this case, that person is now you.

Stay calm and let the customer speak.  It might be something as simple as a misunderstanding, or it might be a legitimate problem that will need to be worked out.  When speaking, talk calmly and slowly – we have an unconscious tendency to raise the pitch of our voice and speak faster when we get upset, and that comes across even more over the phone.  Remember to take notes, and if it’s a larger issue that can’t be handled in a minute or two, reassure the customer that you will deal with it after the call is over and get a call back number for where they can be reached. Last but not least, follow up afterwards, even if you are not the last person to deal with their situation.  Their feelings towards you and your business will be based on the last contact they have with you, so end on a high note and they’ll remember that more than whatever upset them in the first place.

Another useful tip is to end each call by asking if there’s anything else you can do for them.   It shows that you’re not rushing them off the phone, and can save a customer the inconvenience of making a second call because they might have forgotten to ask a follow-up question.  Before hanging up, you might even want to remind the customer about any upcoming programs or events they might be interested in.

So don’t be afraid when the phone rings – get excited!  If you’re prepared, maintain a positive attitude, and treat your customers with sincerity and respect, you can make every phone call an opportunity.

The key to achieving excellent customer success results

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No matter what your particular field of expertise, your primary focus as a business owner/manager should always be to help customers successfully achieve their goals. While this may seem fairly obvious, full workloads and hectic schedules can often lead to falling into a potentially harmful routine, especially when it comes to handling customers. This could lead to missed opportunities to help boost your client’s chances of success.

Every client is unique. Although many will be looking for similar results, they all have their own reasons and motivations for giving you their business. The more you know about their personal goals, the better chance you have of helping them succeed. Take the time to ask them questions, and be sure to listen carefully to their answers. Do your best to understand the impact the work you do with them will have on their lives, and be sure to follow up with them as they progress to be sure they remain committed to achieving their goals.

If a customer feels like a cog in a wheel or just another dollar in your pocket, the chances of them reaching their goals with you will decline dramatically. Be a partner in their progress, listen and understand their expectations, and you’ll be in a much better position to help them find success – and to help you keep them as a customer for the long-term.

Handling Difficult Customer Situations

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We’ve all had to deal with difficult customers at some time in our lives; it comes with the whole “running a business” responsibility. At some point you have to ask yourself if this difficult client is really worth having around. Are they mistreating your staff? It’s essential to keep your staff positive and uplifting, but having one truly bad client can cause the mood to go awry.

Before jumping to the conclusion of eliminating this client from your business, there’s a good chance you can solve the problem by having your staff get down to the root of it. So how do you empower your staff to handle difficult situations like this?

  • Set boundaries – tell staff exactly what they can or cannot do. Role playing for this particular situation can be helpful to get them used to different scenarios.
  • It isn’t personal – remind staff that the issue with the client isn’t personal. Relieving their self-doubt or impatience is one step towards enabling them to confidently take charge of the situation.
  • Coach your staff – let them know that listening to the client more so than speaking can lead to an easy way of turning the situation around. If the client feels like they are being listened to, it can set things back on track for the difficult customer.
  • Support them – ensuring your staff that you will support them in difficult situations with this client will in turn, empower them and give them the confidence to better deal with the client.

Once you give your staff the tools they need to deal with difficult customers, you may soon find that you don’t need to step in as often, and turning a fussy customer into a happy one will begin to happen more often.