The importance of great customer service: Positive interactions leave positive impressions.

The importance of great customer service: Positive interactions leave positive impressions.

Customer service has earned a reputation for being a fickle industry to work within, your day can be greatly affected by interactions with customers, whether they be positive, or negative.

However, this goes both ways. Perceived service quality is a major contributor to customer satisfaction, member retention, and is a powerful antecedent towards word of mouth behavior–the most powerful channel for advertising your business, which greatly influences long term success.

While there are many ways your business can encourage word of mouth, the effectiveness of these methods all boils down to the customer’s perceptions of their interactions with your business. Therefore, service quality should be at the forefront of any business owner’s mind, especially those which rely on repeated or ongoing business with their clients – such the relationship which a gym has with its members. 

When it comes to customer service, it’s important that every consideration is taken into account when assessing the service quality provided to members. To do so, your business can use SERVQUAL, this is a reputable framework utilized by service marketing academics and practitioners all around the world to assess consumer expectations and perceptions of service along five dimensions representing service quality. These five dimensions are: Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, Responsiveness.

 

Here’s how a gym can satisfy each of the SERVQUAL requirements.

Reliability

Some components contributing to the reliability of your business are accuracy, maintaining records of customer interactions and purchases and ensuring all promises are honored.

Accuracy

Make sure tasks are done right the first time to avoid unmet expectations and service failure.  Create a “do it right the first time” mentality for yourself and your staff. Take the time to ensure member’s details are correctly stored in your membership management system during the sign-up process to avoid awkward encounters and inconveniences in the future.

Similarly, ensure advice given by personal trainers is sound and reflects the needs of the client to reach their goals, to do this you can create mock scenarios for trainers to create a plan for to test, or observe the trainer dealing with a client.

Information on your website should also be up-to-date and reflect what actually happens at your club. For example, your opening hours, contact information and class timetable should be always up-to-date. A gym management system can be utilized to ensure this, by linking information displayed on the website to your gym booking system.

Maintain Records

For future reference and to easily resolve disputes and provide personalized service to members it is important to maintain records of a member’s interactions with your business. This also will have positive implications upon business reporting and knowledge to enable you to make effective business decisions. Store records such as member visitation, booking check-ins, and staff hours worked alongside billing and transaction records for memberships or products sold through your point of sale. Many clubs utilize all-in-1 gym management software as a means to do this.

Honor promises

This ensures that customer expectations that have been intentionally set by your business (or sometimes unintentionally) are met.

Follow through on services or discounts offered to customers presented in any advertising material, on your website or other customer touchpoints. Sometimes information can also be misinterpreted by customers, in terms of customer service it is usually best practice to honor this where possible. 

Appointments are another promise made by your business, ensure that all bookings are followed up on and attended to on time. A gym scheduling system can help manage this. 

Assurance

Assurance comprises of elements such as communication, credibility and competence.

Communication

Communicate with members regularly and consistently, this is an area which many businesses fall short upon–yet is crucially important to keeping customers in the loop, providing consistent expectations, and building a strong customer relationship. As part of this, an appropriate level of personalization can also be beneficial. That is, ensuring that they don’t feel as though they’re “just another member” when reading a message you have sent them or when they walk through the doors. Members should feel valued and important. 

To do so, you could include their name at the top of gym emails like announcements, newsletters or billing receipts. If you have a membership management system, you could also create automated and personalized messages for members to receive on their birthday or after a certain amount of time being a member at your club.

As they enter your club you should also aim to greet them by name, which is made especially easy if you use gym access control that shows their details when swiping their keyfob upon entry.  

Credibility

This is important not only to encourage customers to sign up to your club, but also enabling them to trust guidance given by staff.

This can be achieved through a few key ways. At the club level, you might like to encourage customers to leave reviews on social media or on your gym website, prompting them to do this after a class is a good way to get responses. Word of mouth from other customers is more trustworthy and effective than you writing the same information online yourself.

At the staff and personal trainer level, consider displaying staff profiles on your website or around the club showing their level of certification and experience. This can make fitness advice and training offered by staff more credible in the eyes of potential clients.

Competence

Ensuring you don’t ‘drop the ball’ is important for assuring clients that you are the right gym for them to be doing business with and giving them assurance you can be trusted with their personal information. This means following up on prospects, keeping on top of administration, training staff on how to appropriately interact with clients, and managing billing efficiently and accurately. Competence is especially important as of late, with COVID-19 also making working out at fitness clubs a health concern for members, your ability to tackle the virus, and make members feel safe will be a strong indicator of competence. 

Tangibles

This essentially includes all physical touchpoints a member is exposed to during any interaction with your club such as:

The facility

Cleanliness of all areas, such as the car park, reception, workout area, and bathrooms. Weights are put in their appropriate place and there is a sufficient number of parking spaces to avoid inconveniencing members every time they work out during peak hours. Another important aspect of appearing as a competent and responsible business during COVID-19, ensuring your business is seen to be meticulously cleaning and sanitizing equipment will do wonders for your image (failure to do so may have the opposite effect).

Equipment

It should be well maintained and of a high quality where possible as this will reflect upon your brand. There should also be an appropriate number of each item, especially if they are popular with your members to avoid creating frustration from the associated long wait times between exercises. There should be adequate space between workout equipment, not only so members can work out freely but also to encourage safe physical distancing being practiced by members, this will help them feel safe when working out in the current circumstances.

Other tangibles

If you offer 24-hour access to your club through a 24/7 access control system, the key fobs are also another tangible item reflecting upon the member’s club experience. Custom printing can build your brand by increasing exposure as a result of non-members being exposed to them on members key rings, but also your members may appreciate this as a form of ‘badge’ which they can wear on their keys with pride for being a member. These can also make it easier for members to use the correct one if they have multiple on their keyring. 

If you have a kiosk for members to check-in, the quality of your kiosk app and the responsiveness of your device can also be influential – however, these are much less cumbersome than a paper-based system. Gym welcome packs given to new members upon sign up are also important to a good first impression and is a good opportunity to give members branded tangibles to take home with them and use in public.

Empathy

Courtesy

Staff should be friendly and approachable if a member has questions or queries related to your club and having someone always at-the-ready for when a new customer walks through the door is also important to increase the rate in which prospects are converted into paying customers.

Access

Convenient access for members to sign up for classes and personal trainer sessions can help improve their experience with your club, but also increase member engagement and attendance rates. As previously mentioned, a 24 hour gym system can let you keep your doors open for longer, making your club more accessible for members to work out around their busy schedule. 

Understanding

As with anything in life, things will come up and plans will be difficult to keep–especially in the current circumstances. This is why it’s important to have a bit of humility and flexibility when it comes to appointment cancellations and rescheduling, as it is better they cancel or reschedule than have staff turn up only for the member to not show. Members may also be anxious to work out given the circulating pandemic, it is can be considerably cheaper for you to encourage them to put their membership on hold for extended periods of time than to take a hardline approach, force them to pay, and have them cancel–as you will know it can be expensive to acquire new members. Members should also be handled differently in a way that suits their needs, for example, new members, especially those who have never set foot in a gym before will benefit from a complimentary onboarding session – whereas more seasoned members are often happy to find their own way.

Responsiveness

Reduce pain points as they arise

From signing up to regular day-to-day use, pain points should be eliminated as best as possible to ensure the most positive club experience as possible. For example, if you notice lines at the door of members waiting to check in for a class, consider employing a gym check-in system, or if you find your members dislike filling out long forms at the service desk look into providing online sign ups

Response time

Reply promptly to emails and contact form inquiries sent through your website, this will not only provide a better quality of service but also positively affect your lead conversion rate. Response time also relates to ensuring spare parts are available for equipment, this reduces downtime and keeps disruption to members at a minimum.

Personnel

Members should also be able to contact your club with queries in person at the club or other channels such as phone, email or social media when needed–staff should be trained on how to deal with common inquiries to improve the member experience. They should also be acutely aware of their role if any emergency or injury should occur while they are rostered to work within the club.

The points highlighted above are to give you a general idea of things to consider in your club and are definitely not an exhaustive list of ways to improve service quality at your club. Under each category, there are literally hundreds of ways in which your business can be affected. Be sure to take some time to brainstorm your own ideas.